Sun, Apr 21, 2019 - Page 11 News List

What are Harry Kane’s chances of NFL success?

The Guardian

When veteran New Orleans Saints special teams coach Mike Westhoff was told that Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane was interested in pursuing a job as a kicker in the NFL after retiring from soccer, Westhoff replied: “I’d have no problem looking at him if it were me.”

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, Kane is only 25 and made it clear in an interview with ESPN that he plans to play soccer for another 10 to 12 years, and Westhoff already has a lethal 24-year-old kicker, Wil Lutz, who was also a high-school soccer star.

However, special teams coaches learn to never rule out an aspiring NFL kicker until they actually see them kick a football.

So the first thing Westhoff would do is invite him to a workout.

“I’d put a ball down and say: ‘Kick it,’” Westhoff said.

Sounds simple, but here Westhoff waves a red flag: It is not that easy.

Westhoff has coached kickers who were good soccer players, but they were football players at the same time.

Westhoff has discovered that soccer players who want to become football kickers do not tend to do that well.

He remembered inviting two “very accomplished soccer players” to the Miami Dolphins’ compound for a workout.

“Neither did very well,” Westhoff said. “There was a little bit there, but there was more work to do with them than I’d want to take on. They were not very efficient.”

Such transitions are actually rare. Tony Meola, the US goalkeeper at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, was signed that summer by the New York Jets in the hopes of making him a kickoff specialist.

However, Meola had never kicked a football competitively or off a tee, and he was unable to generate all-important hang time on his kickoffs. He also hooked his kicks. Meola was cut after the third pre-season game.

Although kicking is a vital part of soccer and football, the sports are quite different.

The first challenge for a placekicker in football is to kick the ball under a heavy rush in 1.3 seconds — 1.25 seconds for the very good kickers, Westhoff said.

Soccer players can control the ball very well in congested areas, but in an extra point or a field goal, “you’ve got to do it right now. No hesitation,” he said.

Although it is about 6 feet wider than a pair of NFL goal posts, a soccer goal presents a much tighter target, because the goal is only 8 feet high.

However, kickers must be able to give the football lift to be able to kick the ball with enough power and height that it can reach the seats, Westhoff said.

Reaching the seats, of course, is not the idea in soccer.

Suppose that an aspiring soccer-player-turned-football-kicker impresses Westhoff after a little tryout. That would only be the beginning of a long process. Westhoff would have the kicker try extra points and field goals with a long snapper and a holder. Kickoffs would come next.

“If he’s doing all these things at a high level of proficiency, then we invite him back to do it again,” Westhoff said.

Kane is an unabashed NFL fan. He was in Atlanta, Georgia, to watch the New England Patriots win Super Bowl LIII. Kane especially likes New England quarterback Tom Brady.

When Tottenham were in the US two summers ago for a series of exhibition games, Kane dropped by the New York Giants practice facility and drilled a 50-yard field goal — albeit off a tee, under no rush and with no crowd.

However, Kane’s success for the Spurs and England would be an asset, Westhoff said, as would his enthusiasm for football and determination to figure out how to fit his skills into another sport.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top