Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals’ new kicker was perfect in team’s most troubled area

The Bengals drafted a kicker who excelled at one of the things they missed most last year. Jake Elliott was perfect on extra points during his career at Memphis, a remarkable feat given the vagaries in the college game.

He showed up for the start of rookie minicamp on Friday knowing he’s a perfect fit.

Cincinnati took him in the fifth round of the NFL draft last weekend, making him the first kicker chosen overall. Elliott immediately became the favorite in a competition to fill a job that had a big impact on the Bengals’ 6-9-1 finish.

The Bengals stuck with Mike Nugent for most of last season even though he was in the deepest slump of his career. They released him in December after he missed five of nine extra-point attempts and several field goals during one stretch. Randy Bullock kicked in the last three games, missed a potential winning field goal, and was signed to a two-year extension.

Elliott became the first kicker drafted during Marvin Lewis’ 15 years in Cincinnati, an indication they think he’ll fix their problems.

“I hope that’s the case, but it’s not like the job’s going to be handed to me,” he said on Friday.

A few years ago, he never imagined being in this situation.

Elliott played tennis, baseball and basketball in high school — Lleyton Hewitt was a favorite — and had no intention of playing football. At a pep rally for homecoming, he was randomly selected from the crowd to participate in a field goal competition. He made one from 30 yards, showed good form, and was invited to kick for the football team the following season.

He had to make a decision: which sport?

“I went home and thought it over,” he said. “I played and ended up having a good season.”

Elliott made a 52-yard field goal that opened a lot of eyes and showed consistency throughout his high school career. He went to Memphis and was perfect on extra points, making all 202 during his four-year career — a remarkable feat, given how holders and snappers change in college.

“That’s the whole mental toughness thing,” he said. “It goes back to not approaching any kick like it’s a ‘gimme,’ but approaching it like it’s a 40-yard or 50-yard field goal.”

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