Nov. 20, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Former South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop was given the traditional "Mr. Irrelevant" label when he was the final selection in the 2009 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Now he's "Mr. Clutch" and "Mr. Consistent" after recently setting an NFL record for the most consecutive field goals made from inside 50 yards.
"I felt very humbled and very blessed to have been able to do that," said Succop, who is now in his fourth year with the Tennessee Titans after five with the Chiefs. "It's a credit to our team. They have to do a great job blocking for me upfront. Beau and Brett, our snapper and holder, do such a great job to make that all possible. It was really an amazing feeling."
His record string of field goals from inside 50 ran up to 56 straight before missing a 48-yard attempt in Week 10 against the Bengals. The streak included five field goals against the Colts in Week 6 and four against the Browns in Week 7 in a 12-9 win after kicking the game-winner from 47 yards in overtime. After nine pro seasons, he hasn't lost his touch.
"I've been very blessed to work with a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches," Succop said. "You have to have an attitude of always trying to get better and not ever getting comfortable or feeling complacent. I'm always trying to get my body a little bit better and my technique a little bit better. I just have that drive to keep trying to improve, and I think that's really benefitted me."
After playing several sports growing up, the Hickory, N.C., native had opportunities to play soccer and maybe golf at some smaller colleges, but he chose football and the SEC. Who could blame him?
"My best opportunity was always football," Succop said. "I'm very blessed to play this game and provide for my family. I just have a lot of fun doing it."
His football career began in high school when his soccer coach suggested he try out on the gridiron. The rest is history.
"I had one plan to play other sports, and God kind of had a different plan, so it's kind of cool how that all worked out," Succop said.
Succop earned Second Team All-SEC honors during his career and was a semi-finalist for the Groza Award, which is given to the nation's top kicker. He was also South Carolina's punter as a junior.
"I remember beating Clemson up in Death Valley one year," Succop recalled. "I had a field goal late in the game that I think gave us the lead. That was pretty special."
I don't think it matters how long you've been doing it, you always get those nerves going a little bit.
After being taken in the seventh round by the Chiefs and earning the "Mr. Irrelevant" tag that is bestowed on the final pick in the draft each year, Succop took it all in stride.
"I think people hear `Mr. Irrelevant,' and that can have sort of a negative connotation to it," Succop said. "For me, I always looked at it like it was an opportunity to play in the NFL. It was an opportunity to pursue my dream. I always looked at it as a blessing. I think people can look at it and see that I'm still doing it nine years later, and maybe some people can use that as encouragement and give some hope."
Succop noted that everyone just calls him Ryan now.
His foot has certainly done the talking. He finished his first season tying an NFL record for highest field goal percentage by a rookie at 86.2%. He also passed NFL Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud for most field goals made by a rookie in Chiefs history. He was awarded the Mack Lee Hill Award by the Chiefs in 2009, and led the team in scoring. He scored more points (104) than any other rookie in the NFL that year.
After being waived in a salary-cap move in 2014, he was picked up by the Titans where he continues to make history. His first game for the Titans was against his former team, making all four of his field goal attempts and converting both extra points as the Titans beat the Chiefs 26-10. Two years later, he became the first player in NFL history to hit a game-winning field goal of longer than 50 yards as time expired to complete a come-from-behind victory against his former team.
"I think it was one degree at kickoff and the wind chill was like 10-below zero," Succop said. "I hit a 53 yarder with no time left to beat them, and that was just an amazing moment for our team and for me personally. It's a little special to do it against the old team that you played for, but even more so, our team was playing really well and we were in the playoff hunt. Just to celebrate it with the guys on this team was the best part. It wasn't anything about any kind of ill-will towards the Chiefs or anything like that."
While he makes it look easy, Succop said there is pressure with every kick.
"If you ask any NFL kicker, I don't think it matters how long you've been doing it, you always get those nerves going a little bit," Succop said. "Every kick in this league is very important. It's a high stakes game. I think my faith has really helped me to handle some of those situations."
Succop noted that preparing as a kicker is similar to how a pitcher prepares in baseball.
"Those guys can't go out and pitch every day or they're going to run into big problems with their arms or their shoulder," Succop said. "Kicking is sort of the same way. I'll usually kick twice per week during practice. I'll hit maybe 30 or 35 balls per practice and try to limit it during the week because you want to be fresh for the game on Sunday. You have to take care of your body while making sure you get enough work in to be sharp."
When he's not putting the ball through the uprights, Succop still enjoys golf. He caddied for his friend and former South Carolina classmate, Wesley Bryan, at the 2016 Nashville Golf Open. Bryan is now playing on the PGA Tour.
"We played a lot of golf together my first couple of years in the league," Succop said. "It's been really cool to see him do so well. He works so hard. I don't get to play hardly at all during the football season. In the spring, that's my time of year to try to get it in and play as much as I can. I love to play.
"There are a lot of parallels between kicking and golf. Your tempo needs to be good in both, and your rhythm. Some of the mechanical stuff is actually fairly similar. "
Succop and his wife, Paige, have a two-year-old son, and the couple has another child on the way.
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