Carpenter gets a kick out of Pro Bowl attention

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Fans in Buffalo know the story about Rory Fitzpatrick.

He's a journeyman hockey player, a very good minor-league defenseman who filled out rosters at the NHL level. He's a classy guy I got to know while covering the Buffalo Sabres.

He also left the team as a goat, having been infamously unable to find the puck even though it was between his feet on a play that helped the Carolina Hurricanes defeat the Sabres in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

As a joke, some fans began an Internet campaign the next season to get Fitzpatrick voted into the NHL All-Star game. The stunt nearly worked.

"The big thing, Rory, if you're watching, they're not laughing with you, they're laughing at you," analyst Don Cherry said on a "Hockey Night in Canada" telecast.

Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter seems to be benefiting from a similar campaign to send him to the Pro Bowl.

Carpenter is having an impressive rookie season. On Thursday he was named the AFC's special-teams player of the month for November (he made all eight field goals to extend his streak to 11), but the Pro Bowl is a stretch.

The undrafted rookie from Montana bolted to the front of the line in fan balloting for AFC kickers this week. Two weeks ago he wasn't in the top five. A week ago he was fifth and way behind vote leader Rob Bironas of the Tennessee Titans.

In the past week, however, Carpenter generated 65 percent of his 143,174 total votes.

He amassed 92,381 fan votes. By comparison, Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the most popular defensive player in fan balloting and an MVP candidate, pulled in 50,472 votes in the past week.

"It's kind of exciting," Carpenter told MiamiDolphins.com writer Andy Kent. "I was surprised. There are a lot of great kickers around this league, and I guess to be recognized by quite a few people that you might be one of them, whether it might be my family or friends back home voting as many times as possible or Montana fans, is special.

"I don't think my family's that big, but it's exciting to be considered and to be one of the top guys in the league."

All Fitzpatrick had to do was finish in the top two in fan balloting, and he would have played in the NHL All-Star game. He finished third.

Even if Carpenter wins the fan vote, he'll still need to impress his peers and other NFL coaches to be picked for Honolulu. Fan voting ends Dec. 9, but that's only one-third of the process. Players and coaches will cast their votes from Dec. 9-12.