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Dallas Cowboys: Dan Bailey's near-perfect flight to an NFL kicking job

DAN BAILEY — The kid who started kicking for an eight-man team in Yukon is now the Dallas Cowboys' kicker. And all it took was four-game winners and not missing for two months.
By MIKE BALDWIN Published: September 3, 2012

photo - Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (5) celebrates after making a 19-yard field goal in overtime to beat the San Francisco 49ers 27-24 in an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar) ORG XMIT: CAJC124
Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (5) celebrates after making a 19-yard field goal in overtime to beat the San Francisco 49ers 27-24 in an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar) ORG XMIT: CAJC124

He entered the NFL as one of five kickers in Dallas Cowboys' training camp.

A year later, Dan Bailey, the kid who got his start for an eight-man team at Southwest Covenant Schools in Yukon, stands alone.

That's what hitting four game-winning field goals and going more than two months without a miss will do for you.

“A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time where a team needs a kicker,” Bailey said. “It's definitely a tough business. You have to be on top of your game every game, every practice. Hopefully you can get in there and show them what you can do.”

Bailey, an Oklahoma State All-American who won the 2010 Lou Groza Award for college football's best kicker, showed them by making 32 of 37 field-goal attempts.

At one point, he made 26 straight.

“Dan made so many big kicks for us at the end of games last year,” said Dallas coach Jason Garrett. “He won games as time was expiring, in overtime and all that stuff. He's mature beyond his years.”

Bailey's defining moment was the Cowboys' second game at San Francisco. He missed a 21-yard chip shot early, but nailed a 48-yarder to tie as time expired, and won it in overtime.

His kicks also beat Miami and Washington (twice).

“If you don't enjoy that a little bit at this position then you're probably not in the right profession,” Bailey said. “Yeah, there are nerves involved with it. Sometimes there's a little anxiety. To me that's part of it. I enjoy that.

“Sometimes you're going to miss. Just having the opportunity to help your team in that situation is pretty exciting.”


Bailey went more than two months without a miss. He was six-of-six against Washington, producing all of Dallas' points in an 18-16 win.

“It got to the point our expectations were, we don't have to watch the field goal,” said linebacker Sean Lee. “We know he's going to make it.”

The streak lasted 77 days.

“I wouldn't say it was surprising, but I wouldn't say I was expecting it either,” Bailey said. “It just kind of happened. One kick led to another and I just started kind of stringing them together. I was focused on making the next kick. I was a rookie just trying to keep my job week in and week out.”

Dallas veterans were impressed by their rookie kicker.

“To have a guy you're so confident in, someone you know can knock through a game-winner is huge for our team,” Lee said. “He has a great demeanor. He's a hard worker. It's fun to watch how poised and smooth he is. It's not a big deal. He just goes out and knocks it through.

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NFL kickers: Career field-goal percentage breakdown

Most NFL place kickers have a career field-goal percentage 80 percent or higher. Here's a look at each kicker's career percentage:

Career FG percentage

Pct. Player, team

89.5 Alex Henery, Philadelphia

86.5 Dan Bailey, Dallas

86.4 Nate Kaeding, San Diego

86.3 Rob Bironas, Tennessee

85.9 Shayne Graham, Houston

85.8 Robbie Gould, Chicago

84.4 Stephen Gostkowski, New England

84.0 Matt Bryant, Atlanta

83.9 Connor Barth, Tampa Bay

83.1 Phil Dawson, Cleveland

82.9 Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis

82.2 David Akers, San Francisco

82.0 Jay Feely, Arizona

82.0 Dan Carpenter, Miami

81.9 Jason Hanson, Detroit

81.9 John Kasay, New Orleans

81.2 Ryan Succop, Kansas City

80.9 Mike Nugent, Cincinnati

80.9 Rian Lindell, Buffalo

80.9 Lawrence Tynes, N.Y. Giants

79.6 Seb. Janikowki, Oakland

79.5 Shawn Suisham, Pittsburgh

79.0 Nick Folk, N.Y. Jets

78.8 Josh Scobee, Jacksonville

78.4 Matt Prater, Denver

78.8 St. Hauschska, St. Louis

77.4 Mason Crosby, Green Bay

76.7 Billy Cundiff, Washington


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