Folk Hero: Former Arizona Wildcats kicker notches yet another game-winner in NFL

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RELATED LINKS:
— Former Arizona Daily Star reporter Patrick Finley, now with the Chicago Sun-Times, reported that ex-UA linebacker Lance Briggs handed new Bears coach Jim Trestman the game ball after Chicago’s 24-21 win over Cincinnati yesterday
— The Fresno Bee recently ran a feature on former Fresno-area standout and UA cornerback Robert Golden, who is in his second season in the NFL with the Steelers

Former Arizona placekicker Nick Folk has a knack for kicking game-winning field goals in season openers.

He made a 48-yard field goal with one second left in 2006 to give Arizona a 16-13 win over BYU at Arizona Stadium. He lined up from 48 yards again yesterday and drilled the kick with two seconds remaining to give the New York Jets an 18-17 victory over Tampa Bay.

Folk, the second-most accurate NFL kicker since 1991 in the fourth quarter, also beat the Cowboys with his 50-yard kick on opening day 2011.

He faced a significant challenge to keep his job during the preseason. He obviously can withstand pressure.

NFL veteran Billy Cundiff competed against Folk during the preseason but was cut last week. Folk validated his spot on the Jets’ roster yesterday by making two fourth-quarter field goals.

Folk made a 30-yard field goal with 5:05 remaining for a 15-14 lead, and then his 48-yard field goal with two seconds left. The placement of the 48-yarder was aided by a personal foul on Tampa Bay’s Lavonte David, who pushed quarterback Geno Smith as he ran out of bounds.

Otherwise, Folk would have tried a 63-yarder or New York coach Rex Ryan could have elected for a Hail Mary pass.

“When you go from 63 to 48, you can … I don’t want to say change your mechanics, but I can slow myself down,” Folk was quoted as saying by ESPN.com. “I can make it nice and smooth, as opposed to getting after a long one. When you’re that far, you have tendency to let it fly. From 48, you can hit it like an extra point. That’s when I told myself when I went out there: It’s like an extra point.”

Folk’s game-winning kicks in the NFL also include his 32-yarder in the playoffs against the Colts in 2011 and 33-yarder against Miami last September. The kick against the Dolphins was made in overtime. Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com ran a list of Folk’s game-winners in his blog.

“I like the situation,” Folk told The Journal News yesterday. “I don’t find it intimidating and I just face the pressure.”

This site will run statistic updates on former Wildcats who are active in the NFL throughout the season. Here are the stats from Week One (quarterback Nick Foles may play for Philadelphia tonight, and nose tackle Earl Mitchell and linebacker Brooks Reed will likely play for Houston):

FIELD GOAL STATISTICS

Player (Years at UA) Team 1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+
Nick Folk (2003-06) N.Y. Jets 0-0 0-0 1-1 2-2 0-0

PASSING STATISTICS
Player (Years at UA) Team Att Comp Yds Comp% Yds/Att TD Int
Nick Foles (2009-11) Philadelphia

RUSHING STATISTICS
Player (Years at UA) Team Pos. Att Yds Yds/Att Long TD
Nick Foles (2009-11) Philadelphia QB

RECEIVING STATISTICS
Player (Years at UA) Team Pos. Rec Yards Yds/Rec Long TD
Juron Criner* (2008-11) Oakland WR 0 0 0.0 0 0

DEFENSIVE STATISTICS
Player (Years at UA) Team Pos Tackles Solo Assist Sacks FRec
Lance Briggs (1999-02) Chicago LB 7 4 3 0 0
Robert Golden (2008-11) Pittsburgh S 2 2 0 0 0
Antoine Cason (2004-07) Arizona CB 1 1 0 0 0
Earl Mitchell (2006-09) Houston NT
Brooks Reed (2007-10) Houston LB

* — Criner was listed as inactive in Oakland’s season-opener against Indianapolis yesterday

An overall list of UA players active in the NFL:

Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago Bears
Eben Britton, G, Chicago Bears
Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona Cardinals
Juron Criner, WR, Oakland Raiders
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Folk, PK, New York Jets
Robert Golden, S, Pittsburgh Steelers
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Earl Mitchell, NT, Houston Texans
Brooks Reed, LB, Houston Texans

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.

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