Ryan Succop has gone from the last player drafted to one of the best kickers in the NFL
By JEFFREY FLANAGAN FS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs kicker
Ryan Succop may soon become known as the most relevant Mr. Irrelevant in NFL draft history.
Succop, taken with the 256th and final pick of the 2009 draft, thus earning the moniker Mr. Irrelevant, continues to elevate himself toward the NFL's elite status.
Succup is a perfect 10 for 10 on kicks inside 50 this season, and has been making his way into the Chiefs' record books. He set a franchise record last season by kicking six field goals in a game in the upset win over the Saints. The year before, he tied a franchise record held by Pete Stoyanovich by nailing 22 straight field goals.
"And the sky's the limit for him," Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub says. "He's got all the tools and the mental makeup. He keeps getting better."
But even Succop knows he will always carry with him the tag of Mr. Irrelevant.
"I still hear that," he says, smiling. "That's a name I don't think I'll ever live down. And I'm perfectly OK with that. Certainly I had some humble beginnings.
"I think some people looked at me and said ‘Oh, he's the last pick in the draft. He's got no chance.' But I looked at it as an opportunity to pursue my lifetime goal to kick in the NFL. And here I am."
Here he is, indeed. As kickers throughout the league come and go, Succop has become a staple in Kansas City in his fifth season. His career field-goal percentage is 82 percent and he has not missed an extra point in 125 tries.
In 2011, the Chiefs rewarded him with a $14 million, five-year extension.
"I just feel I've been blessed," he says. "I'm very fortunate to have been placed in this situation."
Good fortune may have gotten Succop to Kansas City -- hard work has kept him here.
"I thought I had a good career (at South Carolina)," he says. "But I know that kickers don't get drafted that often so I felt lucky there. And I was grateful for the chance. I wasn't going to waste that opportunity."
Succop hasn't, and appears to be improving each season. The biggest improvement appears to be in leg strength. Last year, he had just 27 touchbacks on 58 kickoffs. He already has 23 touchbacks this season in 34 tries.
"That is the area that's getting better," he says. "And I'm hoping it will get even better."
As for his 10 for 10 streak inside 50 yards this season, Succop shrugs his shoulders.
"I don't really think about grading myself," he says. "We can add it all up at the end of the season. The main thing is to get better each week. Things can change pretty quickly in this league so you always have to work on improving yourself."
Things can change pretty quickly when kicking at Arrowhead, too. It is a place known for its swirling winds inside the stadium bowl.
"It's a tough place to kick," he concedes. "Arrowhead is hard because of the swirling winds. It's never quite what it appears so you always have to gauge it in practice. Then, of course, it gets cold later in the season and that makes the ground tough. But I obviously love kicking here. It's a great stadium and the fans are the greatest."
Succop doesn't expect any extra gratitude for having to kick outside, as opposed to the cushy confines some kickers enjoy inside a dome.
"I think people understand the challenges of kicking in outdoor stadiums and cold weather," he says. "I don't really look at it as getting credit for this or that. You just go out and do your job. If you don't, you won't last in this league."
And doing the job means coming through in the clutch, too, something that's always in the back of the minds of most kickers. It is a job remarkably similar in terms of pressure to being a closer in baseball.
"But I really don't look at it that way," he says. "From the outside people perceive it that way. But I don't look at it as pressure. The truth is, a kick in the first quarter is just as important as the one in the fourth.
"Games are decided by seven points or less all the time in this league so every kick has importance. I try to approach each one the same.
"That's my philosophy. It has worked so far."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at firstname.lastname@example.org