Greg Zuerlein
refer to caption
Zuerlein with the Cowboys in 2020
No. 9 – New York Jets
Position:Placekicker
Personal information
Born: (1987-12-27) December 27, 1987 (age 36)
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
Height:6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight:187 lb (85 kg)
Career information
High school:Pius X (Lincoln, Nebraska)
College:Nebraska–Omaha (2006–2010)
Missouri Western (2011)
NFL draft:2012 / Round: 6 / Pick: 171
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 18, 2023
Field goals made:329
Field goals attempted:396
Field goal %:83.1
Longest field goal:61
Touchbacks:640
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Gregory Zuerlein ZURR-line;[1] (born December 27, 1987) is an American football placekicker for the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, he played college football at Nebraska-Omaha and Missouri Western. He previously played for the St. Louis / Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys.

Early years

Zuerlein was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, and graduated from Lincoln Pius X in 2006. As a junior in 2004, Zuerlein set a Nebraska state record for field goals in a season, converting 12-of-16 attempts with a long of 52 yards.

His successful play would earn him Nebraska All-State and All-Class honors as a junior and senior.[2]

He also practiced soccer and was a 2005 Sports Illustrated preseason high school All-American.

College career

Zuerlein accepted a football scholarship from the NCAA Division II University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO). As a sophomore in 2008, he set a school record with 61 consecutive extra points made.

As a junior in 2009, he set school records with 17 field goals in a single-season (17-for-23) extra points in a career with 131. He made a career-long 52-yard field goal against West Texas A&M University in the Kanza Bowl. He finished the season 9 field goals shy of the school all-time career record of 45.

As a senior in 2010, he was given a medical redshirt with a hip injury.

In 2011, UNO canceled its football program, and Zuerlein was forced to transfer to another Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association school, Missouri Western State University.[3] There, he set the NCAA Division II record of 21 consecutive field goals, nine of which were beyond 50 yards. He set the school record with a 58-yard field goal against Northwest Missouri State University twice. He had a .952 field goal percentage, making 23 of 24 attempts, which was the highest of any NCAA player in any division with 12 or more attempts in 2011, as he averaged 10.7 points per game.[4][5]

Professional career

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash
6 ft 0 in
(1.83 m)
187 lb
(85 kg)
29+58 in
(0.75 m)
9 in
(0.23 m)
4.85 s
Sources:[6][7][8]

St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams

Zuerlein was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the sixth round (171st overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft.[9] He was the first non-Football Bowl Subdivision kicker to be drafted since Stephen Gostkowski in 2006, and the first below the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision since Paul Ernster in 2005. The Rams cut their primary kicker Josh Brown, who was in the final year of his $14.5 million five-year deal, the same weekend they drafted Zuerlein.[5][10]

2012: Rookie season

Zuerlein during Rams training camp in 2012

Zuerlein made his NFL debut in the season opener against the Detroit Lions and converted two extra point attempts and three field goal attempts in the 27–23 loss.[11] In Week 3, against the Chicago Bears, he made a 56-yard field goal, the longest at Soldier Field.[12] In Week 4, he hit a 60-yard field goal against the Seattle Seahawks, which beat the franchise record of 58 yards, set by Zuerlein earlier in the same game.[13] The kick broke Jeff Wilkins' 14-year record.[13] He became the first player in NFL history to make a 60-yard field goal and a 50-plus yarder in the same game.[14] He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his effort against the Seahawks.[15] In Week 6, Zuerlein missed three field goals wide left, the first two from 37 and 52 yards, and the final one at 66 yards to tie the game against the Miami Dolphins.[16] In Week 13, Zuerlein made a 54-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Rams a 16–13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome. It was the second longest successful field goal in NFL overtime history, three yards short of the NFL overtime record, which is held by Sebastian Janikowski.[17] He earned another NFC Special Teams player of the Week award for his game against the 49ers.[18] In 2012, he attempted 13 field goals of 50 yards or longer, converting seven. Overall, in his rookie season, he converted all 26 extra point attempts and 23 of 31 field goal attempts.[19]

2013 season

Zuerlein started the 2013 season off converting all four field goal attempts and one extra point attempt in the 27–24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.[20] The 13 points he scored in the season opener was his highest scoring in one game on the season. Overall, he was a reliable kicker when called upon, converting all 34 extra point attempts and 26 of 28 field goal attempts in the 2013 season as the Rams finished with a 7–9 record.[21][22]

2014 season

In Week 2, Zuerlein converted four field goal attempts and one extra point to help provide the difference in the 19–17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[23] In Week 11, against the Denver Broncos, he converted all five field goal attempts and one extra point in the 22–7 victory.[24] He earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time in his career.[25] Overall, he finished the 2014 season converting 34 of 35 extra points and 24 of 30 field goal attempts.[26]

2015 season

In the 2015 season opener against the Seahawks, Zuerlein converted all four extra point attempts and both field goal attempts in the 34–31 overtime victory.[27] In Week 5, against the Green Bay Packers, he converted one of four field goal attempts in the 24–10 loss, the first time since his rookie season that he missed three in a single game.[28] In Week 9, against the Minnesota Vikings, he converted four of five field goal attempts for a season-high 12 points scored in the 21–18 loss.[29] Zuerlein missed two games due to a groin injury.[30] Overall, he finished the 2015 season with 26 of 28 extra points converted and 20 of 30 field goals converted.[31]

2016 season

Zuerlein in 2016

The Rams made the decision to move from St. Louis to Los Angeles prior to the 2016 season.[32] On April 15, 2016, Zuerlein signed a one-year contract to return to the Los Angeles Rams.[33] After the Rams were shut out against the 49ers in Week 1, Zuerlein provided all the scoring in the 9–3 victory over the Seahawks in Week 2.[34][35] In Week 5, against the Buffalo Bills, he converted all four field goal attempts and one extra point in the 30–19 loss.[36] Overall, he finished the 2016 season converting all 23 extra point attempts and 19 of 22 field goal attempts.[37] The Rams' offense did not provide a lot of opportunities for Zuerlein compared to the past and he scored a career-low 80 points on the 4–12 season.[38]

2017 season

On March 14, 2017, Zuerlein signed a three-year contract extension with the Rams.[39]

On September 10, 2017, in the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, Zuerlein converted three field goals and five extra points in a 46–9 home victory.[40] He tied with Oakland Raiders' kicker Giorgio Tavecchio for the most points scored by a kicker in Week 1 with 14.[41] On October 1, 2017, Zuerlein broke the Rams record for the most field goals in a game going 7 for 7 (surpassing Jeff Wilkins in 2006) against the Dallas Cowboys in the Rams 35–30 upset win, earning him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the fourth time in his career.[42] On November 2, 2017, Zuerlein received the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month award for his strong performances in October.[43] In Week 10, Zuerlein converted all four field goals, including a 50-yarder in a 33–7 win over the Houston Texans, earning him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in the 2017 season.[44] On December 20, 2017, Zuerlein was placed on injured reserve due to a back injury.[45] This news came a day after it was announced the Zuerlein was named to his first Pro Bowl.[46] In addition, he earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November.[47] He was later named as a First-team All-Pro.[48] He finished the season leading the league in scoring with 158 points and 11.3 points per game.[49]

2018 season

In the 2018 season opener, Zuerlein converted all three extra point attempts and converted four of five field goal attempts, including a 55-yarder in a 33–13 win over the Raiders on Monday Night Football, earning him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the sixth time in his career.[50] He suffered a groin injury in pregame warmups before the Week 2 game against the Cardinals.[51] He returned to action in Week 7 against the 49ers, converting four extra point attempts and three field goal attempts in the 39–10 victory.[52] In Week 11, against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football, he converted six of seven extra point attempts and three field goal attempts in the historic 54–51 victory.[53] In the regular season finale against the 49ers, he converted all six extra point attempts and both field goal attempts in the 48–32 victory.[54] Overall, he finished the 2018 season converting 35 of 36 extra point attempts and 27 of 31 field goal attempts.[55] The Rams won the NFC West and earned the #2-seed in the NFC Playoffs.[56]

In the Divisional Round against the Cowboys, he converted three extra-point attempts and three of four field-goal attempts in the 30–22 victory.[57] In the 2019 NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints, Zuerlein was instrumental in the Rams' overtime win, hitting all four of his field-goal attempts.[58] This included a 48-yard field goal near the end of regulation to send the game into overtime, and then a 57-yard field goal to win the game in sudden death overtime, sending his team to the Super Bowl LIII. The winning kick tied the record for the longest successful field goal in NFL overtime history.[59] In Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots, Zuerlein made a 53-yard field goal late in the third quarter to score the first Rams’ points and tie the game at 3–3. With 8 seconds left in the game and his team down 13–3, he missed a 48-yard field goal that would’ve set up his team for a desperation attempt to tie or win the game with an ensuing onside kick recovery and a Hail Mary pass. The Rams lost 13–3.[60]

2019 season

In the 2019 season, Zuerlein converted 24 of 33 field goal attempts and all 42 extra point attempts.[61]

Dallas Cowboys

2020 season

On March 30, 2020, the Cowboys signed Zuerlein to a three-year, $7.5 million contract.[62] The signing reunited him with former Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel.

In the season opener, he made a 33-yard field goal, but also had a 53-yard miss in the second quarter of the 17–20 loss against the Los Angeles Rams.

In the second game, Zuerlein was still struggling from a lack of consistency and missed 2 additional field goals, before capping off a historic comeback over the Atlanta Falcons, by kicking a 46-yard field goal to win it 40–39 as time expired. The Cowboys were down 20–0 at the end of the first quarter and 29–10 at halftime. With 1:49 minutes left to play in a 37–39 ball game, Zuerlein kicked an onside kick which the Cowboys recovered, giving them the opportunity to have the final winning drive.[63] The style of kick he used, would later come to be known as the "Watermelon Kick".[64]

In the twelfth game against the Baltimore Ravens, he connected on his first field goal attempt, but missed the next three in a 17–34 loss.

Overall, Zuerlein converted 34 of a league leading and career-high 41 field goal attempts (82.9%) and went 33-of-36 (91.7%) on extra point attempts.[65] Six of his seven misses were on attempts from over 50 yards, as he only made 3 of his 9 attempts beyond that mark.

2021 season

Zuerlein had back surgery during the offseason, which forced him to rest and only kick one field goal attempt (56-yard miss) in the preseason, with Hunter Niswander and Lirim Hajrullahu handling the kicking and kickoff duties. On August 25, 2021, he was taken off the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP).[66]

In the season opener, even though Zuerlein made three field goals, he also missed a field goal and an extra point, which included a 60-yard field goal near the end of the first half of the 29–31 loss to the Buccaneers.[67]

In Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers, although he was facing scrutiny in the press for his performance, he was able to make a 56-yard field goal as time expired, to close a 20–17 win.[68]

In Week 6, he made a 49-yard field goal in the rain against the Patriots, to force overtime in an eventual 35–29 win.[69]

In Week 8, he missed a 43-yard field goal early in the game against the Vikings, but also made two field goals in the 20–16 win.

On November 9, 2021, he was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.[70] He was replaced with Hajrullahu for the Week 10 game against the Falcons.

In Week 12 on Thanksgiving day, he missed a 59-yard field goal and an extra point attempt, forcing him to make a 45-yard field goal in the final seconds to reach overtime against the Las Vegas Raiders, although the team eventually lost 33–36.

In Week 16 against the Washington Football Team, he converted a career-high eight extra point attempts.[71]

In Week 17, he missed a 43-yard field goal in the first quarter, which ended being the difference in a 22–25 loss against the Cardinals.

Overall, Zuerlein was 29–of–35 (82.9%) on field goal attempts and 42–of–48 (87.5%) on extra-point attempts.[72] He missed 6 field goals (three were over 50 yards) and 6 extra points (led the NFL). He also missed at least one field goal in three of the team's five regular-season losses.

On March 11, 2022, Zuerlein was released by the Cowboys in a salary cap move.[73] Zuerlein played in 32 regular-season games for the Cowboys and missed either a field goal or an extra point in 15 of them (47%).

New York Jets

2022 season

On March 26, 2022, Zuerlein signed a one-year contract with the New York Jets.[74] He beat out Eddy Pineiro for the placekicker job in the preseason.[75]

In both Week 2 and Week 12, he tied a club record by making a 57-yard field goal. In Week 13 against the Vikings, he set the franchise record for the longest field goal made (60 yards).[76]

In his first year with the team, Zuerlein became the first Jet to make three 50+ yard field goals in two consecutive games (Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns and Week 3 against the Bengals.) In Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals, he became the third Jet to make two 50+ yard field goals in a single game.

He finished the season with 30-of-37 field goals (81.1%) and 28-of-29 extra points (96.6%).[77]

2023 season

On March 16, 2023, Zuerlein re-signed with the Jets on another one-year contract.[78] In Week 5 after going 5-for-5 in field goals against the Broncos, Zuerlein was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.[79] In the 2023 season, he converted 15 of 16 extra point attempts and 35 of 38 field goal attempts.[80]

NFL career statistics

Legend
Led the league
Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team GP Overall FGs PATs Kickoffs Points
Lng FGM FGA Pct XPM XPA Pct KO Avg TB
2012 STL 16 60 23 31 74.2 26 26 100.0 67 65.5 37 95
2013 STL 16 54 26 28 92.9 34 34 100.0 78 65.3 52 112
2014 STL 16 56 24 30 80.0 34 35 97.1 73 66.6 38 106
2015 STL 14 61 20 30 66.7 26 28 92.9 64 65.1 38 86
2016 LAR 16 54 19 22 86.4 23 23 100.0 59 64.3 36 80
2017 LAR 14 56 38 40 95.0 44 46 95.7 95 63.9 73 158
2018 LAR 11 56 27 31 87.1 35 36 97.2 75 64.6 57 116
2019 LAR 16 58 24 33 72.7 42 42 100.0 83 63.6 64 114
2020 DAL 16 59 34 41 82.9 33 36 91.7 90 62.1 60 135
2021 DAL 16 56 29 35 82.9 42 48 87.5 100 64.2 80 129
2022 NYJ 17 60 30 37 81.1 28 29 96.6 56 64.1 47 118
2023 NYJ 16 55 35 38 92.1 15 16 93.8 64 64.8 58 120
Career 184 61 329 396 83.1 382 399 95.7 904 64.4 640 1,369

NFL records and honors

Personal life

Zuerlein and his wife Megan are devout Catholics,[82][83] and have five children together.[84][better source needed]

For his kicking ability, Zuerlein has been nicknamed "The Leg” (commonly referred to as 'Greg The Leg') and "Legatron” since his rookie season.[85]

References

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