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Kicked around: Inside football's loneliest position.

Video
Former Redskins great Mark Moseley, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff and the University of Maryland's Travis Baltz explain the unique mentality it takes to succeed as a kicker.

He won the job but lasted only one season in Philadelphia. Cut during the 1971 preseason, he failed in a tryout in New Orleans and then was off to Houston, where he lasted two seasons. Released again, he found himself with no tryout invitations anywhere. He found himself in jobs that included servicing septic tanks, and was out of football for most of two seasons. Just as he was beginning to conclude he might never have an NFL opportunity again, he received an invitation to attend the Redskins' 1974 training camp and compete for a job. On his first day, he recalls, head coach George Allen asked him if he knew why he was there.

"I'm here to win a job as the kicker, Coach," Moseley dutifully replied.

There was more to it than that, said Allen, who explained that Moseley was there because the team required a kicker especially reliable on the Redskins' notoriously soggy home turf.

Back in 1971, when you were with the Oilers, you kicked two field goals against my Redskins at RFK Stadium in a rainstorm, Mosley remembers Allen saying. "I need a kicker I can depend on, in any kind of conditions. I think you're the man for the job. Now, all you have to do is beat out those other 12 kickers we've put on the roster, and the job is yours."

The 62-year-old Mosley leans back in an office, where he works as a Five Guys Burgers & Fries director of franchising, and sighs with amazement over all he survived. By the time he was finished in Washington, he was recognized as the Redskins' greatest kicker ever, renowned for game-winning field goals and streaks of flawlessness. During the strike-shortened season of 1982, he made 21 consecutive field goal attempts, then an NFL record, en route to winning the league's Most Valuable Player award, the only time a kicker has taken home the prize. Several of the Redskins' victories that year resulted from critical Moseley field goals, making possible a playoff run that culminated with a Super Bowl victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Still, Moseley's career was not devoid of slumps. "In 1980, I think I missed 10 of my first 14 kicks," he recalls. "Nowadays, I'd been gone with those misses. Gone. ... But I tell people: That's kicking."

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After Cundiff's release by the Cowboys, suitors were fickle. Tampa Bay signed him before the 2006 preseason but cut him long before training camp, when the club re-signed its regular kicker. New Orleans signed him late that year but turned to him to handle kickoff chores only.

By the end of the season, New Orleans had said goodbye to him, too. Over the next two years, he had 15 unsuccessful tryouts with NFL teams. Eventually, he couldn't even bring himself to watch games on TV.

He and Nicole had moved to Phoenix, and Cundiff occupied himself by taking MBA courses at Arizona State and working for a venture capital firm. Only in his late 20s, he wondered whether he had already been pegged as washed up. Then while working out on a football field at a community college in 2008, he exchanged hellos with a well-known local kicking instructor named Gary Zauner.

A former special teams coordinator for the Vikings, Ravens and Arizona Cardinals, Zauner had built his reputation as a kicking consultant for a half-dozen teams. As he puts it: "Golfers have swing coaches -- kickers need swing coaches, too; they get out of whack sometimes, all of 'em, even the best."

The Wisconsin transplant had declared an end to his coaching days, happy to bask with his wife in the Arizona heat and to give lessons to young dreamers and struggling veterans alike. On the side, Zauner ran annual kicking combines, or showcases, for NFL rookie and free agent kickers, who paid him for the privilege of competing. The combines gave the kickers a chance to show off their skills and provided scouts an opportunity to size up new and old talent.


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