Well folks, it’s Sunday. A day reserved for fry-ups and lazing around all day until American football hits our screens at 6pm pronto. Well, for most of us NFL fanatics in the United Kingdom anyway.
That said, the Super Bowl has been and gone, leaving us empty-handed and searching for a football fix elsewhere. Yet, here I am embarking on a brand new weekly column that probably nobody will ever read. That could be due in large part to the quality of my writing, or the fact that it’s a weekly column detailing special teams.
Either way, the unit as a whole has become my passion ever since I witnessed the GOAT Adam Vinatieri in London, and when my ears were blessed with the unique tone of Pat McAfee following the conclusion of his NFL career. Which, by the way, is slowly becoming overshadowed by that of his media one. Now, that statement wasn’t meant to diminish his career, which saw him kickoff a Super Bowl and gain a trip to the Pro Bowl twice (which we will get to later), it simply exemplifies the talents of one the NFL’s most loveable characters. Not only is McAfee’s contributions to both the game and the media within the game the reason I started this column, it’s also something I want to pay tribute to in the best way I can. So, without further ado, please enjoy the first entry to the column, and more importantly the life and career of one my sporting idols, Pat Freakin’ McAfee.
Dahn ‘Ere In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The above Pittsburgh phrase is often utilised by Pat and his pals on one of the hottest podcasts globally, The Pat McAfee Show. But you already knew that. If you didn’t, Pat himself would just say: “you get it…”.
One of the key reasons as to why I admire Pat is because he hasn’t changed in the slightest from humble beginnings. Okay, maybe he drinks less alcohol now, but that’s it.
He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and from what I’ve heard, was, and still is, largely considered a bit of a wild child. At Plum High School, in Penn State, he starred for the school’s soccer team. It was there when he began to develop his leg’s power, and has been noted as a catalyst for producing the athlete that he became later in life.
Wikipedia, our good and often reliable friend, revealed that in his senior year, he borrowed $100 from a friend and played poker at an illegal poker club, turning it into $1,400. Whilst I don’t believe he had a motive as to what he would use the money on prior to heading to the casino, or at least a legal one, he decided to use the funds to finance a trip to Miami to participate in the final day of a national kicking competition which highlighted the best placekicking prospects in The States. After starting at the 25 yard hash, he moved five yards upfield after every conversion. As a result, he converted 9 consecutive field goals in a row before narrowly missing a 70-yard field goal, with the ball missing to the right but with enough distance to make it. Upon his return to Pitt, he was approached in the school’s lunchroom by Tony Gibson who was West Virginia’s recruiting coordinator at the time and was subsequently offered a scholarship.
A Mountaineer For Life
In the two years that I have listened to Pat and his gang of unruly friends, one thing I have understood more than anything else is his love for West Virginia. He credits those four years of his collegiate career as some of the best in his life, and it’s no wonder. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t love starring for their team on special teams, as well as partying with their closest friends every other weekend.
It must be noted however, that as much as he likes to have a good time, Pat is a professional at heart. Let’s also not forget, McAfee started his career as a placekicker and not a punter. His freshman year saw him make 48 of 49 PAT attempts, whilst he produced an admittedly low 61.1% field goal conversion rate as he only made good on 11 of 18 attempts.
He was determined not to rest upon his laurels however, as in his sophomore season he excelled. In that campaign, he converted 100% of his 62 PAT’s and knocked 17 of 22 field goals through the uprights. As a result, he accumulated a career-high 113 points that year. It was in his second year that he began taking snaps on the punt squad also. Through limited snaps he punted for 778 yards and averaged 43.2 yards per punt on just 18 attempts.
2007’s season produced a slight regression in his kicking performances, having missed 1 PAT attempt, whilst he only converted 13 of 19 FG’s. Oppositely, his final year at the school, which ultimately could make or break his footballing career, saw Pat do what he does best – thrive under pressure. That year, he made 36 of 36 PAT’s and produced a career high best conversion rate of 85% after he converted 17 of 20 attempts. One of which was a career long 52-yard BOMB which tied the game up against Cincinnati, in what was one of the most electrifying comebacks of the season. The Mountaineers still failed to consolidate the victory however, as they lost in overtime.
Perhaps more importantly, McAfee was now producing exquisite results consistently as a punter. He finished the season with a career-best 44.7 yards per punt average. Furthermore, he led the Big East with 23 punts inside the 20-yard line, whilst he registered a career-high in punt yardage (2772) and boasted a long punt of 65-yards.
Despite his solid production across a four-year span that provided a platform for him to hone in on both positions that are highly valued in the professional game, McAfee was not invited to the NFL Combine. This being something that I feel still lingers in the back of his mind today. Regardless, he started the Senior Bowl as a kicker, and made a sound impression on his Pro Day. He also drew interest from the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys, with the latter actually informing McAfee that they planned on selecting him. All he had to do was stay fit and out of trouble; how hard could that be?
The Cowboys accruing his talents never transpired in the end of course. But, as the Rock says: “sometimes the thing you want the most in life, is the best thing that NEVER happened.” That, for me, is aptly associated with Pat, who went on to have a wonderful career in Indianapolis after he was selected 222nd overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Super Bowl XLIV
Pat had completed a life-long dream by making the Colts roster, and more importantly, he became a starter in his rookie year. That challenge presented many difficulties, given that he had to serve as the holder for one of football’s greatest kicker’s in Adam Vinatieri. As Pat likes to reiterate, that challenge was one of the hardest he faced as a professional athlete, which goes to show just how many people underestimate how hard being the holder is.
Irrespective of the task at hand, McAfee still had to punt. His rookie year was very productive for his lack of experience. He took the field 64 times, punting for 2,837 yards and averaged 46.4 yards per attempt. That year, he nailed 21 punts inside the 20 also. The Colts as an organisation were performing just as well, as they would finish the season as the best team in the AFC. With a 14-2 record they were awarded a playoff birth and a pass straight to the Divisional Round. There, they dominated the Baltimore Ravens 20-3. Then, they won the Conference Championship after defeating the New York Jets 30-17.
Just like that, a fantastic rookie year had transcended into Super Bowl XLIV, where the Colts would face the New Orleans Saints. It was Manning vs. Brees, but it was also an opportunity for McAfee to kickoff his first and only Super Bowl performance, literally. As the cameras began flashing, McAfee found himself on the biggest stage. Still, he never shied away from the magnitude of the occasion, as he averaged 45 yards per punt in the game, having only took the field twice to do his job. Manning however, was outshone by the Saints’ Drew Brees, who completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards. He also added 2 touchdowns and was subsequently named the Super Bowl MVP, leading his team to a 31-17 victory.
A Career Worthy of a Champion
Pat McAfee’s career never brought with it a championship ring. In-fact, the 2009 season was the closest that he’d ever get to reaching the promised land.
Despite that fact, he continued to improve on the field and bolstered his statistical production in every season following on from his rookie year. In 2014, five years on from that first campaign, McAfee produced a career year. He recorded 3,221 yards on just 69 punts, which produced an average of 46.7 yards per punt. He also nailed a career-best 30 punts inside the 20-yard marker. As a result of being the best punter in the league, he was named a Pro Bowler and a 1st Team All-Pro.
In the next season, in 2015, the Colts registered several poor performances on the field. They finished the year 8-8 on the season, yet Pat remained a bright spark on a rather downtrodden franchise. Not only was he in the top 5 for shirt sales, he also saw the field more than most other seasons. In-fact, he had 3 punts short of his all-time season most with 85. With those, he notched 4,052 yards, with a long of 63 and a punt average of 47.7 yards. Moreover, he registered 28 punts inside the 20, but missed the Pro Bowl unbelievably in favour of Sam Koch.
The 2016 campaign served as Pat’s last, but he left a lasting impression on the franchise who provided him with a fantastic life. That campaign also served as the first time I ever witnessed Pat live, as the Colts were defeated 30-27 at Wembley Stadium in London. I couldn’t believe my luck that I was actually witnessing the greatest kicker of all time knock FG’s through Wembley’s uprights, whilst my favourite NFL personality was punting balls all over the pitch. I still recall my dad, who is an American football novice, asking me why I was taking pictures of the guys who hardly played. But for me, they were the most important as my love for special teams was at an all-time high.
But enough about my gander down memory lane, how did Pat’s final season conclude? Well, he nailed 19 punts inside the 20, amassed 9 touchbacks and accumulated 2,711 yards on just 55 attempts. That year he produced his best punt average, as he averaged 49.3 yards per punt. Following the conclusion of the Colts’ replicated 8-8 season, Pat was nominated to the Pro Bowl once more. In spite of the nomination, he elected not to go to Hawaii, as it was finally time for him to hang up his cleats after an electric seven-year career.
The Pat McAfee We Know And Love
Amidst all of those statistics, nobody truly understands the man himself. You see, Pat may have been an excellent punter, but he’s an even better human.
Let’s start with the infamous locker room exchanges over the years. Despite being a guy who often attempted to exit before the media hoarded his locker room, Pat produced a few incredible conversations like the ones below.
On the topic of celebrations, which he references in one of the above media appearances, my favourite dance of his is the “Razor Ramon shuffle”. This, of course, is probably the one he utilised most, like this one against the Jets.
Who could forget Pat’s countless big hits down the sideline as he desperately aimed to prevent a return TD? Or when he began the #ForTheBrand movement which highlights some the incredible plays made each and every week by the nation’s most undervalued athletes in punter’s and kicker’s?
And remember when I discussed earlier that the Cowboys emphasised that Pat should stay OUT of trouble? Well, he’s not too great at that. For example, in the October of 2010, Pat was arrested at approximately 5:15AM and charged with public intoxication. This was after the police captured him soaked after “allegedly” swimming in a canal. Right there, spawned one of Pat’s most hilarious stories which has been retold on the previously alluded to podcast, whilst shirts brandishing his mug-shot with the term “allegedly” draped across it are sold by his official website – https://www.patmcafeeshow.com.
It isn’t all bad when it comes down to personality though, given that he set up his very own charitable organisation, aptly named The Pat McAfee Foundation. It’s aim is to provide help and support for the children of military personnel, a cause that is close to his heart. He also created a company named Shirts for America, to serve as a sponsor for Indycar driver Conor Daly for the 2016 Indianapolis 500, with the shirt sale proceeds benefiting both the Pat McAfee Foundation and Wish for Our Heroes. On May 2nd, 2019, the first annual Pat McAfee Birthday Charity Golf Tournament will take place at the Broadmoor Country Club in Indianapolis, IN, and will serve as an opportunity to raise funds for the foundation.
The Next Chapter
Upon his exit from the greatest game on Earth, Pat entered the media industry. He partnered up with Barstool Sports at first, which presented him with an opportunity to create several podcasts. The first, The Pat McAfee Show 1.0, centred largely around his footballing career, with the show hosting a variety of different celebrities and sporting alumni, whilst he was joined by his closest friends that he had met throughout his life. Then, the Indy contributors including Pat, started Heartland Radio which helped to create the Heartland division of Barstool Sports.
A few years down the line, Pat and Barstool parted separate ways in what was a blockbuster story. With question marks surrounding the future of the shows, viewership never faltered, in-fact it only grew. And now, 6 months on since the birth of The Pat McAfee Show 2.0 and Heartland Radio 2.0, business has never boomed brighter than it is today.
In addition to the group’s podcasting success, Pat has now officially signed with wrestling giants, WWE. There, he serves as a content creator and is one of the largest draws on the microphone. Not only has his many appearances on the Pre-Show of the WWE’s developmental brand NXT amassed critical acclaim, they have shot to the top of Twitter’s trends. Which is absolutely unbelievable to say the least.
Just a few weeks ago, the Mcafee For ESPN trend was deployed worldwide after Jason Witten announced his decision to forego his media career in an attempt to rejoin the NFL.
Now, ESPN tends to steer clear of the more outspoken media personalities to carry the flag for their company, but I just don’t understand why they shouldn’t at least give Pat a chance. He has already called two football games in his short media career, having served as the third man in the booth most recently in the last game of the regular season, as the Packers faced the Lions. His commentary of the below special teams trickplay also boosted a game which bared no significance to the top of Twitters trending section once again.
Ultimately, I just have one thing left to say on this matter – do the right thing ESPN.
Thank You, Pat
The point of this article was not only to document the wonderful career that Pat has produced, but also to say thanks. Pat has become an inspiration to people like myself, who aspire to one day produce content that is unique to everyone else’s schtick. I guess more than anything else, I wanted to showcase how much I value his contributions and for providing me with inexplicable laughs every Tuesday and Thursday thanks to the Indiana office and himself. I’ll forever be thankful to have witnessed him play live in my homeland, and rejoice in the fact that one day he may even be on our television screens broadcasting live from a stadium near you.
So, to the ambassador of #ForTheBrand and #PuntersArePeopleToo, Thank you, Pat.
With thanks to: YouTube, nfl.com (statistics), sports-reference.com, www.thepatmcafeeshow.com, https://tpmf.us & sportingnews.com (image).