Sept. 24, 2012
- 2012 Hawkeye Football Game Day Central
- Hawkeyes in the NFL
- 2012 UI Fall Football Camp Central
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Nate Kaeding, the all-time leading scorer in University of Iowa football history, knows how to put a career-threatening injury in the rearview mirror.
Kaeding is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, and even an ACL reconstruction to his left knee less than a year ago, was not going to deter his season-opening effort Monday, Sept. 10. Kaeding was 5-for-5 on field goals and made his only PAT attempt for 16 points as San Diego defeated Oakland, 22-14, at O.co Coliseum.
“It was great,” Kaeding said. “From a team standpoint, the first game of every NFL season is always a big one, especially when you go on the road against a divisional opponent.”
In Week 2 on Sept. 16, Kaeding made a 26-yard field goal and was 5-for-5 on PATs for eight points in San Diego’s 38-10 win against Tennessee. Yesterday he made his only field goal attempt during a 27-3 loss to Atlanta.
But it was more than a season-opening victory for the AFC West-leading Chargers and Kaeding in particular. In the first game of the 2011 regular season, Kaeding injured his left knee attempting a tackle of Minnesota’s Percy Harvin on the opening kick. He missed the entire season.
“It has been a long, challenging calendar year for me,” Kaeding said. “It was challenging physically, mentally and emotionally having to sit and not being able to be out there and play. That was a challenge, but it made Monday night that much sweeter for me, and served as a time to close that chapter of my story with the comeback. I had to put that part of it behind me, and now it’s just a matter of going back out and playing football again.”
In the opening Monday night game of 2012, Kaeding matched a career high with field goals of 23, 28, 19, 41 and 45 yards.
“He has worked hard, it doesn’t just happen,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. “He has worked awfully hard to get back to being himself, and maybe even better than he was, because he looks very strong right now.”
“The biggest takeaway (from the injury) is a reminder of how fragile this business is. You’re one play, one game, away from it being your last. I’m 30 years old, and I’ve been doing this for nine years. I understand I’m on the back nine of my career as a professional athlete. It made me savor the good moments like Monday night. Before, you would move on immediately to the next game; this time I sat back and counted my blessings a little bit.”
San Diego Chargers
Kaeding is in his ninth professional season after being selected by the Chargers in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft. Kaeding has made 349-of-351 extra points and 180-of-207 field goals, with a long of 57 yards. He was selected to Pro Bowls in 2006 and 2009.
“The biggest takeaway (from the injury) is a reminder of how fragile this business is,” Kaeding said. “You’re one play, one game, away from it being your last. I’m 30 years old, and I’ve been doing this for nine years. I understand I’m on the back nine of my career as a professional athlete. It made me savor the good moments like Monday night. Before, you would move on immediately to the next game; this time I sat back and counted my blessings a little bit.”
The only other injury in Kaeding’s athletic career came after his Iowa City West High School team–coached by current UI defensive line coach Reese Morgan–capped its second consecutive 13-0 season with a 28-21 overtime win against Cedar Falls in the 1999 Class 4A state championship.
“We had an interception on the last play, a big pile, and I had the unfortunate position of being on the bottom of that pile, and I broke my collarbone,” Kaeding said.
A three-sport athlete, he was forced to miss the first few weeks of basketball season. But he had never had surgery until the ACL repair.
“It made me a more patient person overall,” Kaeding said. “It reminded me that sometimes in life there are going to be things that happen to you that are out of your control. I think it will serve me well later in life; it made me more of a well-rounded person.”
Kaeding played at the UI from 2000-03, making 166 PATs, 67 field goals and scoring a touchdown. His career point total is 83 more than another UI kicker, Rob Houghtlin, who scored 290 from 1985-87. One of Kaeding’s most memorable feats in college was kicking a 47-yard field goal with 44 seconds to play, giving the Hawkeyes a 19-16 victory against Texas Tech in the 2001 Alamo Bowl. It was his fourth field goal of the game.
The following year (his junior season), Kaeding was named first-team All-America and won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker. He was a consensus All-American in 2003.
Kaeding is in the final year of a contract with the Chargers, but he isn’t ready to hang up the cleats, despite having a third child on the way in November.
“If I’m fortunate enough to put together a good season, I would like to keep playing another few years down the road,” he said. “I think I still have a few years left in the leg, but I have a lot of other interests in life, too. I love Iowa City, Iowa, and the University of Iowa. My real passion is teaching and coaching, so I have my eye toward the future, and I look forward to coming back and serving the community, serving others, and parting a little of my wisdom to the youth in Iowa.”
Even with all his experience, Kaeding was anxious during the first preseason game Aug. 9 against Green Bay.
“I had butterflies,” he said. “On that first kickoff I was having cold sweats and flashbacks.”
The butterflies, cold sweats and flashbacks are gone. What has returned is Kaeding, still the most accurate kicker in NFL history.