Succop stops the laughter about kickers

by Gary Shelton on February 6, 2021

in general

Succop has had a strong season for the Bucs./ Photo By Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thursday, 4 a.m.

They were the joke within the joke. Even on the funniest days, through the funniest punchlines, the kickers of the Tampa Bay Bucs were always there.

Usually, they were wide left.

They were the Stooges. They were the Keystone Cops. They were Monty Python and the Faltering Feet. Hey, even the Bucs' quarterbacks, a sad lot themselves, could make fun of the Bucs' kickers. If the rest of the franchise hadn't been so pitiful, these guys would have been legend.

And quietly, Ryan Succop has stopped the laughter.

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Who would have thought it would be this guy, a two-time loser in the NFL, a guy who kicked around the league for 11 years before becoming an overnight success? A guy who took the drama out of the extra point.

Yeah, him.

With Succop, there are usually points at the end of every drive. He has put dependability in the offense. He has put the gravy on Bruce Arians' biscuit. He has made Jason Licht, the guy who drafted Roberto Aguayo and Matt Gay in attempts to solve the Bucs' kicking woes, look smarter.

This year, Succop has hit 28 of 31 kicks, a 90.38 percentage, the highest of his career. Add in that he's eight-for-eight in the post-season, and his success rate is 92.3. He's proven that a good short game is preferable to a long driving champion.

"It's been an amazing year," said Succop on Tuesday, "I'm very blessed to be here, obviously. Some of things I went through last year in Tennessee were really difficult. There was certainly some adversity. Any time you try to come back from an injury and you don't come back the way that you want to, it can be frustrating. Probably one of the cool things of that is that, often times in my life or in football, when you go through some adversity a lot of times you grow as a person."

Oh, kickers travel. Succop spent a career in Kansas City (five years) and another in Tennessee (six years). A knee injury led to his exit from the Titans.

"It's a tremendous honor to play in the Super Bowl," said Succop. "That's something that you dream about ever since you start playing football. I'm very, very thankful for that opportunity. It will be neat to play against my former team; I still have some friends on that team that I'm close with and I still know some of the coaches. I had a great experience in Kansas City. I had a great first five years of my career there, I'm very thankful for that time and it will be good to see some of those guys.

"After 12 years this is my first time getting to play in the big game and that's something I feel very blessed to be able to do."

Succop, in short, has been the kicker the Bucs' wanted when they drafted Gay, or when they drafted Roberto Aguayo.

"He's a true professional," said Bucs' special teams' coach Larry Armstrong. "You can't ask for more. He's committed, he's a true pro, he brings all the other guys along with him and it's not with his mouth – it's by demonstration. He's a true leader and he's a serious guy. [He] takes his profession very seriously [and] he's a pleasure because he's the same guy every day. A true pro [and] he's a pleasure to be around."

Gee. No one ever said that about a Bucs' kicker before. Did they?

It has been a clown show with small shoes, the Bucs' kickers. Weird guys and bad kicks and awful gambles.

This is pme of my favorite of the Bucs' stories.

They started with Mirro Roder, a qualified bricklayer.He lasted two games. He didn't score. He missed all three of his kicks.

There was Peter Rajecki, who once said that head coach John McKay made him nervous when he watched. McKay responded that he intended to go to all the games.

There was Bill Capece, who McKay once said "was kaput."

There was Allen Leavitt, who led the Bucs in scoring in 1977...with 20 points.

There was Dave Green, who was actually a punter.

There was George Yarno, who had one point.

There was Aguayo, taken in the second round, and Gay, taken in the fifth. There was Kyle Brimdza. There was free agent Mike Nugent, who the Bucs wanted so badly they cut Matt Bryant. Bryant kicked for the Falcons for years; Nugent lasted four games with the Bucs.

Yeah, there were some good ones. Martin Gramatica, for instance. But Gramatica missed a kick in Green Bay that would have given the Bucs a first-round bye in the playoffs. Instead they had to go to Philadelphia (and lost). There was Steve Christie, who promised not to go anywhere if the Bucs wrote him a check. They did, but Christie left anyway. There was Mike Husted and Connor Barth.

But more often than not, there has been a coach looking at the ground after another big miss.

Succop stopped all of that. He has been money in the bank.

But if you still get nervous over the sight of a Bucs' kicker lining up for a field goal, well, you have earned it.

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