Kickers are normally the last line of defense on kickoffs. By the time a returner reaches the kicker, he is usually either too slow, too weak or too out of position to make the tackle. When kickers do make a tackle, it is usually a lucky trip-up or a desperate shoelace tackle. That’s why when a kicker stops a returner from taking one to the house, it can be an embarrassing moment for the returner.
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Even rarer and more humiliating than a kicker making a tackle on a returner is a kicker absolutely destroying him. But it does happen occasionally and when it does, it’s very entertaining for the fans. We ranked the top five biggest hits made by kickers.
5. Neil Rackers
Neil Rackers was drafted 169th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. He had a long and successful career, including a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2005 with the Arizona Cardinals. During his last season, when he was with the Houston Texans, the 6-foot, 200-pound kicker laid down the boomstick. The Texans were beating the Tennessee Titans and Rackers made it worse.
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You see the returner running into a group of players and you hear a loud thud. Then you see the returner on his back and Rackers getting pumped up, because he just laid someone out.
4. Stephen Gostkowski
Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots has been one of the best kickers in the NFL since he came into the league in 2006. The four-time Pro Bowler not only has a powerful leg, but he also wields a powerful hitstick. During a game against the Tennessee Titans in 2012, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound kicker squared up with the returner and sent him flying out of bounds.
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What’s even more impressive than the hit itself is that the returner knew Gostkowski was coming and lowered his shoulder in an attempt to truck him. Clearly, that didn’t work.
3. Pat McAfee
Indianapolis Colts kicker/punter Pat McAfee is known for his big leg. But the one-time Pro Bowler is also a comedian, and he’s very outgoing on Twitter
. The 5-foot-11, 228-pounder
is also known for delivering a big hit every now and then. His most famous one was against the Denver Broncos in 2013, when he destroyed a returner who was flying down the sideline. The Broncos player didn’t know whether to celebrate his big return—all because McAfee took him down so well.
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2. Joey Julius
Penn State’s sophomore kicker Joey Julius has taken college football by storm this season. Besides his unusual size for a kicker—he stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 258 pounds—he can lower the boom. His first big hit came against Kent State, when he dropped his shoulder and made the returner fly backwards.
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That was not the only time Julius crushed a returner. During the game against Michigan, he flew downfield and annihilated the returner. He’s not a big fan of being the last line of defense.
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1. Carey Spear
The No. 1 spot belongs to unsigned NFL free agent Carey Spear. The 24-year-old isn’t currently on a team, and his big hits came when he was at Vanderbilt. The hits he delivered were so hard that he received the nickname “Murderleg.” The 5-foot-10, 190-pound kicker would sprint down after kicking the ball and throw all of his weight into the returner.
His first huge hit was against Wake Forest when he ran down the field and took out the returner’s legs, making him do a front flip.
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In this second hit, Spear goes head to head with a Tennessee returner and is slow to get up. That might be because of the helmet-to-helmet contact or because the was 6-foot-2, 215-pound Cordarrelle Patterson
, who is now the playmaker for the Minnesota Vikings.
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