ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri Western was a must stop for NFL special teams coaches this spring. Everyone wanted a close look at the kicker who made 21 field goals in a row, nine of them from midfield or beyond.
The Vikings put Greg Zuerlein high on their shopping list. The Texans, made the trip to St. Joseph, Mo., too. Rams special teams coach John Fassel showed up twice.
It's no surprise to his college coaches that Zuerlein has made the jump from Division II to the pros with panache.
Jay White, the kicking coach at Missouri Western, moonlights on the sidelines at Kansas City Chiefs home games. He predicted the kid who hit the occasional 70-yarder in warmups and has enough power to make a 50-yarder with a one-step approach would fit right in.
"Last year, I would be on the field at Arrowhead Stadium around the kickers and say 'My guy yesterday did a better job,'" White said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. "When Greg hits the ball, you can hear it. Feel it, too."
Head coach Jerry Partridge thought last year the only kicker anywhere that was better was the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski.
"Look now," Partridge. "Who's better?"
Zuerlein broke the Rams franchise record with a 58-yarder in the first quarter Sunday against the Seahawks, then topped it with a 60-yarder in the second half. He's perfect on 12 field goal attempts for St. Louis (2-2), and he's the first player in NFL history to make a 60-yard field goal and a 50-plus yarder in the same game.
After beating the Seahawks without an offensive touchdown but with four field goals from Zuerlein plus a fake field goal for a TD pass, running back Steven Jackson proclaimed Zuerlein the Rams' MVP.
Quarterback Sam Bradford said this is the first time he's been on a team where the kicker is the most popular player. He was shocked when the Rams called for the 60-yarder, just 3 yards shy of the NFL record.
"I was like 'What?'" Bradford said. "But sure enough, he's been awesome. You can't ask for much more in a kicker and I'm sure he's going to continue to play great for us."
Zuerlein's plenty confident lining up kicks and has no concerns about playing in prime time on Thursday night against the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals.
"Honestly, it's going to feel the same as any other game. It doesn't matter how many people are watching, you just go out there play the game."
Zuerlein has not forgotten his roots. He wore a bright yellow Missouri Western T-shirt after the game.
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