|10-12-2008, 04:03 AM||#1|
Lost In Space
Join Date: Apr 2004
Prater love (Or punk that stole Anubis' job)
Publish Date: 10/12/2008
Prater becoming a game-breaker
By Brian Howell
ENGLEWOOD — Brandon Marshall remembers when he first figured out Matt Prater could be special.
The two were teammates at the University of Central Florida. Marshall was a standout receiver, and Prater the Golden Knights’ kicker.
“It’s funny,” Marshall said. “There’s a college football PlayStation game, and he was a ‘game-breaker’ and I wasn’t.
“You could tell, watching him in college, that if he got an opportunity, he would be a great kicker.”
Three seasons later, Marshall and Prater are teammates again. Marshall is the star receiver for the Denver Broncos, while Prater is doing a fine job as the team’s field goal kicker.
In his first full season as an NFL kicker, Prater is the league’s leading scorer, with 51 points. He has made 12 of his 13 field goal attempts, and all 15 extra points.
“I’m pretty excited, but I know, at the same time, it’s still early in the year,” he said.
Prater couldn’t have asked for a better start, however. He has done a remarkable job replacing Jason Elam, who signed with Atlanta in the offseason after kicking for Denver for 15 years.
It’ll take a lot more than five good games to make fans forget Elam, but Prater isn’t concerned with that.
“You’re replacing a guy that’s probably going to end up in the Hall of Fame,” Prater said. “I wouldn’t say I’m trying to fill his shoes. I’m just trying to do the best I can and not compare myself.”
Having bounced around the NFL since his days at Central Florida, Prater was surprised to find a secure job in Denver so quickly. He was signed and waived multiple times by Detroit, Atlanta and Miami before hooking on with the Broncos as a kickoff specialist for the final two games of the 2007 season.
Then, Elam left, creating an opening for field goal and extra-point duties.
“I thought he was going to come back,” Prater said. “I thought he’d retire a Bronco, so I was pretty surprised.
“I just knew I had to come in and compete for the job.”
The Broncos saw enough of Prater to take the suspense out of the competition. The only other kicker on the roster, rookie Garrett Hartley, was waived before training camp even began.
“It was really nice that they showed they had confidence in me,” he said.
So far, Prater has rewarded the Broncos for their confidence.
In addition to his near-perfect mark on kicks, he’s sailed a league-high 11 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
“He is in the zone,” Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler said. “Hopefully, we don’t jinx him or anything. You have to have a guy you can rely on, and he has been that guy all year.”
Prater’s talent has never been questioned. Despite his small frame — he’s 5-foot-10, 188 pounds — he has got a powerful leg. He’s been known to hit 70-yard field goals in practice, and he routinely booms kickoffs into, or beyond, the end zone.
The only issue with Prater was his accuracy. Although he tied the UCF record for career field goals (50), he missed on 24 of his 74 attempts.
His final kick as a collegian is a forgettable one.
During the 2005 Hawaii Bowl, Marshall caught 11 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, including one late in the fourth quarter that sent the game into overtime.
Nevada took a 49-42 lead in overtime, and after UCF scored a touchdown, Prater missed the game-tying extra point.
“I was mad at Matt,” Marshall said. “There’s a picture of me and offense running on the field after the game. We were screaming at him. It’s funny.”
Well, not really. It took Prater a while to forget that missed kick.
“A lot of people always bring that up, but a lot of people don’t remember I kicked a (46)-yarder to get us in overtime,” Prater said. “Stuff happens. That was actually one of my best games until that one kick.”
A year ago, he missed three of his four field goal attempts in two games with Atlanta, prompting his release from the Falcons.
So far in Denver, he’s been more accurate than ever.
“Working with (special teams coach Scott O’Brien), he’s really fine-tuning me,” Prater said. “Instead of just being a guy who can kick the long ball, I think I’m more consistent. I have a lot of confidence going into the short ones.”
Prater’s kicking with confidence at all distances. His four field goals of at least 50 yards lead the league — and leave him one shy of the team record for season.
Of course, any talk of team records in the kicking game leads directly back to Elam.
And, like many Broncos fans, Prater’s got an eye towards Atlanta. Elam, by the way, hasn’t missed a kick.
“I kind of keep tabs (on Elam),” said Prater, who became close with Elam during their time in Denver together. “I keep tabs on everybody, just to see where I’m at compared to everybody else, because I want to try to be one of the top guys.”
So far, he has been.
Brian Howell can be reached at
|10-12-2008, 04:16 AM||#3|
Lost In Space
Join Date: Apr 2004
|10-12-2008, 04:29 AM||#4|
Horse Player and Dimwit
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Houston, TX
|10-12-2008, 06:20 AM||#5|
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Elway was just an arm =MacGruder
the punk that stole Anubis job ......... but screw Anubis
|10-12-2008, 07:15 AM||#6|
Join Date: Nov 2002
It's nice to see kickoffs booted into the endzone again.
|10-12-2008, 07:40 AM||#7|
The Enigma Prognosis
Join Date: Aug 2003
|10-12-2008, 11:54 AM||#8|
Vote Joe Mays to Pro Bowl
Join Date: Aug 2004
Hey anubis the vikes might be looking for a new punter.