Catanzaro out to prove he's NFL caliber

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There were times throughout his four-month battle with Jay Feely for the Arizona Cardinals' kicking job that rookie Chandler Catanzaro sensed he was the favorite to be the last kicker standing this week.

During a team meeting Monday morning, Catanzaro found out his intuition was right.

Feely was cut Monday, leaving the rookie as Arizona's lone kicker heading into Thursday night's preseason finale at San Diego. His job isn't a lock for the rest of the season -- especially as a kicker, and even more so as a rookie -- but Monday night was a chance for Catanzaro to celebrate with a dinner at a Phoenix steakhouse.

"I teared up a little bit," he said. "It's just a lifelong dream come true for me.

"I know I got to earn my right to be here but for now I'm celebrating a little bit."

Catanzaro was back to work Tuesday, the first time all preseason competition wasn't lingering in the locker room. The distance and height of his kicks won't be dissected every day and then compared.

Thursday will be the beginning of a new chapter for Catanzaro. He can start proving he's capable of hanging around the NFL, not just making a team.

"Now I can just kinda focus on being the best me I can be," he said. "I'm not focused on competing against anybody else anymore. Compete against myself and trying to get better each day so I can help this team win some games this year. I'm excited about it."

Despite kicking off just five times at Clemson, Catanzaro's confidence in his leg has grown since he started working on kickoffs following the Orange Bowl in January. He's worked with former NFL kickers Morten Andersen and Dan Orner, and Jamie Kohl, a former prolific college kicker who runs camps throughout the country.

Together, they built up his leg, designed an approach and fine tuned his mental game.

"I just liked the strength of his leg for a young guy," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "Has a very good demeanor about him."

He was kicking well enough to land a contract with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in May but Catanzaro said he's improved since then. He won the job with booming kickoffs and consistent field goals. Most importantly, however, Catanzaro showed he was able to bounce back from rough outings.

"I went to every resource I could use," Catanzaro said. "I knew I had it in me. I just had to rep it and rep it the right way and I knew I had that bomb in me. I'm very excited about where my kickoffs are right now."

Kickers face pressure that other positions don't. Their feet are responsible for winning games and championships, and in some cases, keeping -- or losing -- a coach's job. He hit a game-winning field goal in a bowl game.

The circumstances of a kick, the location, how many fans are in the crowd, how loud they are, none of it matters to Catanzaro.

In college, he said he'd get in a zone and block it out.

Catanzaro doesn't expect that to change now that the stakes are higher.

"Pressure's pressure," he said. "I don't really think of it as pressure. I just take every kick and zone in."

Catanzaro has one more week to convince Arians and general manager Steve Keim that they don't need to look on the waiver wire for a veteran kicker. He'll do it with touchbacks and field goals that keep ascending.

"You just go out there and bring your ‘A' game," Catanzaro said. "That's what I tried to do. Try to take every kick like it was a kick in the game, a game winner. Try to zone in on every kick like that."