FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Most athletes prefer Wheaties, “The Breakfast of Champions.”
New York Jets kicker Nick Folk, however, would rather start his day off with something a little more apropos.
Fresh off his game-winning 32-yard field goal with no time remaining that gave the Jets a stunning 17-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon in their wildcard matchup, Folk made a special cameo appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” Monday night -- and generated some laughs serving as the new pitch man for his favorite cereal: Kix
“I have a box of these before every game,” Folk said during his cameo. “And it hasn’t let me down yet. Kix. Kid tested, mother approved. Folkinator, out.”
“It was fun,” Folk said after Tuesday’s practice as Gang Green prepares for Sunday’s divisional playoff showdown with the rival New England Patriots. “Just a little skit we had called. And we had a little fun with it.”
It wasn’t all fun and games as Folk waited to step onto the field Sunday afternoon with his team’s season hanging in the balance. But once he was called upon, Folk connected, drilling the ball through the uprights. He was mobbed by his teammates. And all of a sudden a new hero was born.
A “Folk Hero.”
“I really wasn’t thinking much,” Folk said after the game. “I was just trying to go out there and make it look like an extra point.”
Exuding a confidence he lacked last season when he was released by the Dallas Cowboys with two games remaining after missing a 23-yard try against the New Orleans Saints, Folk made it look easy. Just as he once had when he was selected to the Pro Bowl after putting together a phenomenal rookie year in 2007.
“You just keep pushing through,” said Folk, who connected on just 18 of 28 field goal tries in 2009, but rebounded to go 30-for-39 this season. “It felt good. I always knew I could do it. I had a little injury problem coming off of my third year. Then that got fixed, and this year I think I’ve had a solid year.”
Of course, there were some blips on Folk’s radar. He went 2-for-5 against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 14 and then split a pair against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thanksgiving, prompting the Jets to bring in veteran Kris Brown for some competition. But ever since, Folk has hit nine of his last 10 attempts.
“I knew 100 percent he was gonna make it, baring some type of catastrophe,” Folk’s holder, punter Steve Weatherford said. “He’s been kicking great the last four to five weeks. I’ve got all the confidence in the world with him. I was more worried about hitting the spot and getting the laces out than him making the kick honestly.”
“I’m a confident person,” Folk said. “Even after a couple of misses, I’ll still be the same guy. I was confident going in and I’ll have fun and see what happens on Sunday.”
It’s one thing to be confident. It’s another to be cocky. And that’s something Folk said he’s going to have to balance in Foxborough, where he missed a 53-yarder in the Jets’ 45-3 shellacking at the hands of the Patriots back on Dec. 6.
“I’m not gonna turn down a kick,” Folk said. “But at the same time I have to be smart about it. And I think we’ve done that recently after that New England game. In Pittsburgh we had a 50-yarder [we could’ve tried], but I told Mike [Pettine] and Rex [Ryan], it’s better if we punted here. We did and it led to a safety. We’ve been smart with it.”
Folk knows it’s going to be a daunting task kicking there again on Sunday, but that’s fine with him.
“It’s a tough place,” Folk said. “But I have to kick there, so does Shayne Graham, so does Steve. So does their punter. We all have to perform. It’ll be fun.”
Weatherford has been impressed by the way Folk has performed after being given an opportunity to resurrect his career with the Jets -- as has some of their teammates.
“We’ve all been there as specialists,” Weatherford said. “I’ve been fired twice. I would say 80 percent of the guys in this room have been fired from a job in the NFL. That just says a lot about our team. A lot of these guys on our team Rex has given them a second chance at their career, like L.T. [LaDainian Tomlinson]. Not that he’s been fired, but he’s getting a second chance at his career and taking full advantage of it. A lot of us are underdogs. But at the same time it’s a lot of guys that people have given up on.”
Said Folk: “All these guys in the locker room have put their trust in me for the whole year. I feel comfortable here.”