FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's not often that NFL kickers receive much in the way of fanfare. It's even less common for a rookie kicker to earn a national spotlight, but that's precisely what has happened in St. Louis, where sixth-round draft choice Greg Zuerlein has turned heads for mostly the right reasons.
Taken 171st overall out of Missouri Western State, Zuerlein quickly made a name for himself by hitting a 56-yard field goal in Week 3 at Soldier Field in Chicago, the longest in stadium history.
The following week, he twice set a Rams franchise record for the longest successful field goal, drilling a 58-yard field goal and later a 60-yarder. That performance made him the first kicker in NFL history to hit a 50-plus and 60-plus yard field goal in the same game, and earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
The strong performance has led to the cultivation of a number of nicknames for Zuerlein as well, which have included "Greg the Leg" and "Legatron."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick discussed both Zuerlein and fellow rookie John Hekker, the Rams punter.
"Oh absolutely," he said of Zuerlein being an X factor. "Big leg. [John] Hekker too, both of them. They have two big legs, both the punter and kicker. They can change field positions. Zuerlein has had a lot of touchbacks and obviously has great range on field goals. He’s been impressive. They have good, strong legs in their specialists."
Zuerlein has made 17 of his 20 field goal attempts this year, with the only hiccups coming in a 2-for-5 performance against the Miami Dolphins in Week 6.
Last week, the Patriots made their biggest special teams play of the season on a 104-yard kickoff return by Devin McCourty for a touchdown. With Zuerlein, Hekker and solid coverage teams in St. Louis, special teams will once again be an area of focus in Week 8.