Havard Rugland, affectionately known as “Kickalicious,” created a cult following with his Youtube trick-kick video and bid to make the Detroit Lions’ roster as a replacement for retired Jason Hanson.
Rugland, 28, displayed a strong leg and was impressive throughout training camp, but he couldn’t compete with David Akers’ 15 years of NFL experience.
Kickalicious was released Tuesday by the Lions, several hours before the team was required to trim its roster down to 75 with one preseason game remaining.
The left-footed Norwegian performed well, making all three field-goal attempts in preseason games.
He even drilled 49- and 50-yarders in the exhibition opener, the first time the soccer player had ever appeared in a football game anywhere.
After that game, Rugland said, “Eleven months ago, I usually kicked with my dog in Norway. It’s a pretty big difference. I guess that says it all.”
Kickalicious left a lasting impression on many of his teammates.
“He always had a smile on his face,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “To be honest, I think he’s a NFL-caliber kicker. Hopefully, he’ll get an opportunity somewhere.”
Despite their competition, Akers, 38, became a mentor in recent weeks to Rugland.
”His favorite word was Püh-fect,” Akers said. “I’d say, ‘Hey, man, great kick.’ ‘Yeah, püh-fect.’ ‘Let’s go out and grab a bite to eat.’ ‘Püh-fect.’ I’d like to get a shirt made that said, ‘Püh-fect’ on it.
“Even as big as the media thing got with him, he never had an ego. He just enjoys life, has a good time at what he’s doing, tried to learn a lot. He just kind of ate up every moment of it.”
Akers is healthy and appears ready to rebound from the worst season in his NFL career. He made just 29 of 42 attempts with San Francisco last year while nowhere near full strength after undergoing hernia surgery.
But he’s come back to make 6 of 7 in the preseason for the Lions and has been kicking extremely well in practice, both with accuracy and distance.
“(Rugland) had a good camp, but I think when it was all said and done, Akers was a clear-cut winner,” coach Jim Schwartz said.
This isn’t necessarily the end of the Kickalicious dream. He showed enough in a short period of time that it’s realistic to think he could have a future somewhere in the NFL in the right situation and with some more experience.
“What the future holds, I don’t know,” Schwartz said. “He improved from the beginning until the end. He has good ability. Like a lot of young kickers, he needs to work on consistency.”
Said Akers: “His form changes a lot. Some people probably will want to see more of that. I felt like he gave it everything he could. He’s got a lot of talent.
“Experience plays a lot in this league. If he can continue to try to get preseason-type games in and just get more consistent with form, the sky’s the limit. His attitude is so great.”
ZIGGY STILL OUT
Rookie defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, the No. 5 pick overall in the NFL draft, missed practice for the third straight day amid speculation he suffered a concussion in Saturday’s practice.
Ansah hasn’t been seen around practice since Sunday, when he left the field shortly after the warm-up began with a towel over his head.
Schwartz refuses to confirm or deny any injury information at this time, citing “competitive-advantage” issues so close to the regular-season opener on Sept. 8.
Per NFL rules, the Lions will have to release an official injury update beginning next Wednesday.
Other players not practicing again Tuesday included receiver Calvin Johnson (bruised knee), defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (believed to be upper-body injury) and safety Louis Delmas (knees).
The Lions announced they also released tight ends Cameron Morrah and Matt Veldman, cornerback DeQuan Menzie and receiver Terrence Austin to reach Tuesday’s 75-man limit.
The final cuts to settle on a 53-man roster for the opening week must be made by Saturday at 6 p.m.