What is a Kicker In Football? NFL Placekickers

Football has numerous positions, and we have covered many of them. In this section, we define the kicker position in terms of its function and purpose on a football team.

You may have noticed that during NFL games, a player is sometimes directed to kick the ball. This player’s major role is kicker, hence the nickname.

They are also called placekickers in some settings, however, this is irrelevant to other duties. Let’s get started by going over all you need to know about NFL kickers.

Who Are Placekickers In Football?

Placekickers in football are another member of the special team unit in American football. As the name suggests, their primary role in a team is to kick the ball, which could be a kickoff, field goal, or extra point.

Kickers, or placekickers, as they are also referred to, are represented by the abbreviation K or PK. Kickers are known to have good legs, and being part of the special team in football, they are only called onto the field when the ball needs to be “kicked”.

In the NFL, kickers are expected to have a heightened level of accuracy in power and directional control of their shots. Sometimes, kickers in football come from soccer, where they are trained on how to kick the ball.

What Do Kickers Do In Football?

Placekickers (kickers) have three major roles, which necessitate that they be called up to the field. These roles include taking kickoffs, field goals, and extra points.


A kickoff is a moment in football taken or call during the resumption of a game and at the beginning of each half. It is also called prior to touchdown, point after touchdown attempt (PAT attempt), or successful field goal.

For a kickoff, every player on each team positions themselves at a point between the restraining line and inbound lines on their side of the field. Then the kicker places the ball on a tee and takes a few steps backward before shooting it up far into the side of the opposing team.

Field Goal

Field goals are one event that makes use of the special teams: long snapper, holder, and kicker. For field goals, the ball is first shot to the holder by the long snapper. The next sequence of action after this is for the holder to catch the ball and align it perfectly for the finishing of the kicker, who sends it flying between or above the uprights.

When a field goal is successful, the team of the kicker who made the successful kick is awarded 3 points.

Extra Points

Extra points in football are a means by which teams can earn an extra point. After a touchdown, the scoring team is given an attempt to score one point. This is called a point-after-touchdown attempt (PAT).

It is taken by the kicker 17 yards away from the goalpost.

KickoffsField GoalsExtra Points (PAT)
Point Worth0 points3 points 1 points
Taken Fromtaken from between the restraining line and the inbound line7 Yards behind the line of scrimmage (37 yards from goalline)15-yard line
AimKick the ball as far as possible into the opposing team’s side of the fieldScoring an extra point after a touchdownScoring an extra point after touchdown

How Many Kickers Are On A Football Team?

On every NFL team, there is a roster spot for one specialized kicker. This kicker trains for every type of kicking attempt, be it a kickoff, field goal, or PAT. There are almost no teams without a specialized kicker on their roster.

The fact that NFL teams have only one kicker does not mean they are limited to one. NFL teams can have numerous kickers, but this would reduce their ability to add other significant players to their 53-player roster.

How Do Placekickers Kick The Ball?

The type of method used to kick the ball in football is similar to the method used in soccer. It is for the same reason that former soccer players who have been professionally trained on how to kick the spherical soccer ball are called to be kickers.

However, since the American football ball is not round like the soccer ball, even though it is to be kicked using the same technique, it still needs to be modified.

Initially, a special type of shoe called the “Square Toe Kicking Shoe” was used to kick the ball. It had a flat-toe box, unlike the curved outsole in regular cleats. This was used when kickers kicked the ball with the tip of their toe.

Can NHL Kickers Kick Barefoot?

It is common to see some occasions where kickers take off their cleats when they are about to hit the ball. This is done so their foot will have greater contact with the ball and also get more ball angle control.

This is within the rules of the game and does not incur any penalty to the player or the team.

Do Kickers Play Other Positions In Football?

On some occasions, kickers can take on the role of a punter. Since their roles are quite similar, a specialized kicker can be called to take the punt.

Aside from this, kickers do not play any other role in a football game. This is because teams can’t afford a kicker getting injured while playing a position. This is because it reduces the assurance of a successful kick and can impact a team’s game success.

Roles of a Placekicker

Role of a Kicker

In American football, kickers are in charge of several duties. Let’s examine each of their duties in detail:

  • Field Goals:
    Kicking field goals is one of the most well-known duties of a kicker. Field goals are attempted when the offense has failed to score a touchdown but is sufficiently close to the opposition’s end zone to try a kick, and they are worth three points. To score a field goal, the kicker must place the ball through the opponent’s goalposts.
  • Extra Points:
    If a team scores a touchdown, it may choose to try to kick the ball through the goalposts for an extra point. The winning team receives one point. Although kicking extra points may seem simple, kickers need to be reliable and accurate for their team to score these significant points.
  • Kickoffs:
    Kickoffs are also carried out by kickers at the start of each half and following a touchdown by a team. In order to make the opponent begin their offensive possession far inside of their own territory, kickoffs include the kicker kicking the ball as far down the field as they can.

Kicker vs Punter

Kickers vs Punters

Placekickers and punters are the two main categories that involve kicking in American football. Even though both roles include kicking the ball, there are some significant distinctions in their duties and methods.


Field goals and extra points must be made by placekicks. Because they don’t play for the team’s offensive or defensive units, they are frequently referred to as “special teams players”.


Punters have a duty of punting the ball as far as they can on fourth down. They strive to pin the opponent far inside their own zone to make scoring more difficult.

Punters are also responsible for kicking the ball out of bounds on kickoffs to prevent the opposition team from regaining possession.

Furthermore, punters kick the ball differently than placekickers. They take a few steps backward and forward before approaching the ball and kicking it.

The goal is to kick the ball as high and as far as possible while remaining on course.

Skills Required to Play a Kicker

Skills Required to play a Kicker

It’s not easy to work as an American football kicker. Success in this role necessitates a particular set of abilities. The following are some essential abilities that a kicker has to have.

  • Leg Strength:
    Leg strength is a key attribute for a kicker. Kickers must be able to create substantial force in order to travel vast distances with the ball accurately. They must also be able to adjust their power in response to external factors like wind and precipitation.
  • Kick Accuracy:
    Kickers must be extremely accurate in addition to having powerful legs. They must be able to kick the ball through there because the distance between the two goalposts is only 18 feet, 6 inches. The ability to consistently kick the ball precisely distinguishes exceptional kickers from the rest.
  • Mental toughness:
    While kicking under stress can be difficult, the best kickers are those who can remain calm in such conditions. A kicker must be able to block out crowd noise and other distractions while remaining focused on the task at hand.
  • Adaptability:
    Kickers must be able to adapt as the game’s kicking conditions vary. They must be able to modify their kicking technique in reaction to wind, rain, or other meteorological circumstances that may impact the flight path of the ball.
  • Team Player:
    Finally, but not least, kickers must be team players. To ensure that the kick is done correctly, they must collaborate closely with their holders and long snapper.

Techniques Used by a Kicker

Techniques used by a Kicker

Good kicks in American football require the proper technique to generate the required force and accuracy. The following are the primary methods used by an American football kicker:

  • Approach:
    The approach is the first stage in kicking the football. A kicker normally takes two or three steps backward and then a few feet to the side before reaching the ball. The purpose of having a good approach on a kicker’s way to the ball is to create speed while leaving enough area for the kicker to swing their leg.
  • Plant Foot Placement:
    As soon as the kicker approaches the ball, they must plant their non-kicking foot firmly on the ground while pointing toward the goal. The plant foot’s location is critical because it provides a stable platform for the kicker to achieve power and accuracy.
  • Contact Point:
    The contact point is the point at which the kicker makes contact with the ball with their foot. The contact point is the center of the ball, and it must be struck squarely to provide the right flight path and accuracy.

Top Kickers in NFL History

Top Kickers in NFL History

Kickers have always been important players in the NFL, and several of them have stood out over the years.  The exceptional kickers in history are the individuals who have consistently delivered high-scoring percentages

According to statistics, honors, and expert judgment, these are the top five kickers in NFL history. 

1. Adam Vinatieri

Adam Vinatieri, the legendary kicker, is regarded as one of the most important players in NFL history. He played for 24 seasons, scoring 238 points to become the postseason’s all-time leading scorer.

While with the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, Vinatieri won four Super Bowls. Furthermore, he is the only player in NFL history to score 1,000 points while playing for two different teams.

Finally, Vinatieri finished his career with a career goal success percentage of 83.8 percent, having made 599 field goals.

2. Morten Andersen

Morten Andersen owns the NFL record for most points scored with 2,544 in 25 seasons of play.

As part of his career feats, Andersen was selected to seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. Also, he was the first kicker in history to score 2,000 points in a career.

Andersen was the first kicker to make more than 500 extra points and the first to hit 40 field goals in a single season.

3. Jan Stenerud

Jan Stenerud, who was born in Norway, played in the NFL for 19 seasons. He was the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first pure kicker to be inducted, making 373 field goals during the course of his career.

Stenerud was named to three Pro Bowls and twice to the All-Pro team during his career. He also played on the NFL’s 75th and 100th-anniversary squads in 1994 and 2019, respectively.

4. George Blanda

George Blanda, who played in the NFL for the longest period of time ever, is renowned for his remarkable 26-year career. With 2,002 points at the end of his career, he is fourth all-time.

Blanda was chosen for the All-Pro team twice during his career and for the Pro Bowl three times.

Blanda was also well known for his valiant deeds, such as a contest in 1970. During the competition, he completed three touchdown passes in addition to kicking the game-winning field goal.

5. Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson spent his entire 21-year career with the Detroit Lions and presently holds 52 NFL records, including the most field goals of 50 yards or more.

Over the period of his career, he was named to two Pro Bowls and twice to the All-Pro team. Hanson also finished his career with a field goal success percentage of 82.4 percent after making 495 field goals.

Players with The Most Field Goals in NFL History

RankPlayerCareer Field Goals
1Adam Vinatieri599
2Morten Andersen565
3Gary Andersen538
4Jason Hanson495
5John Carney478
6Matt Stover471
7John Kasay461
8Robbie Gould447
9Phil Dawson441
10Jason Elam
Sebastian Janikowski
Data collected from pro-football-reference.com


Folks, there you have it: kickers in American football are more than just individuals with a thing for object-kicking. They contribute significantly to the game by kicking important field goals and extra points.

On some occasions, they even score the game-winning kick! So don’t underestimate the value of these excellent toe-tappers the next time you’re watching a game.

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