It may not be the flashiest pick on NFL draft weekend, but kickers are a vital part of the game, and they’ve become even more important over the past couple of seasons.
One of this year’s top prospects at the position is former Florida kicker Evan McPherson, who will be vying for a spot in somebody’s draft class in the coming weeks.
McPherson spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his decision to depart Florida for the NFL as a true junior, the importance of a reliable, effective kicker at the next level, and if “icing” the kicker has an impact on him.
JM: You led the SEC with a career field goal percentage of 85. You had an incredible career at Florida. How do you look back on your time there?
EM: I had a great time and career at Florida. I can look back on it and say I wouldn’t change much about it. I’m happy that I decided to go there and play for that coaching staff. I had some of the best teammates a guy could ask for. Everybody was so supportive. I wouldn’t change much about my time at Florida.
JM: You decided to enter the 2021 NFL Draft despite having some remaining eligibility. You leave Florida as a true junior. Tell me about that decision.
EM: Playing in the NFL has always been a lifelong dream of mine. Seeing that opportunity come to fruition now, I couldn’t pass on it. It was very intriguing to me. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I’m ready for what’s next.
I’m confident in the body of work I put on tape at Florida. I put together three really good seasons. That’s what helped me make my decision. I know that I’m ready. I spoke to the coaching staff about it. I loved playing college football and I love Florida. I just felt like it was time for a different challenge. I’m ready for this next step. I’m at a different stage of my life now. That’s what it came down to.
JM: That makes perfect sense. You grew up as a punter as well. What was it like growing up as both a kicker and punter, and how did you eventually decide to focus on kicking?
EM: It’s funny, I think I can still punt at a pretty high level today. In high school, I was a better kicker than I was a punter. That’s how I eventually made that decision. I was just a bit more consistent as a kicker.
I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of scoring points. As a field goal kicker, we sometimes decide the outcome of a game. That’s very exciting to me. We can win it or lose it. I get a thrill out of that. I enjoy being the deciding factor.
Kicking is more fun than punting (laughs). It gives you a chance to be in the spotlight. I enjoy scoring points for my team. I love the pressure that comes with it. It intrigued me more than punting did.
JM: Speaking of that pressure, say you’re down two points with a minute left and your number gets called. How do you respond?
EM: When you’re faced with that situation, you have to rely on your training. I can’t tell you how many balls I’ve kicked through the uprights throughout my life (laughs). It would be a very high number. All those kicks in practice and in the game, they all lead up to that one big shot at the end of a game. If I have a 45-yard field goal with a second left in the game, I lean on my experience. I rely on my training. That’s how I handle that situation.
JM: That’s a great way to look at it. What’s one thing a kicker can do to improve deep accuracy? You made plenty of field goals from 50 yards or further at Florida.
EM: You can’t go out there and overthink it. That’s what a lot of kickers struggle with when it comes to those long field goals. The long ones are like the short ones. A lot of kickers go out there and overthink the deep ones.
Whenever I get an attempt from 50 yards, I actually get more excited about those than I do the short field goals. It’s an opportunity to challenge myself. Most kickers will go out there and hit the short ones, but there’s true value in a kicker that can make the deep kicks. That’s where you separate yourself from the pack. That’s my mindset when it comes to a deep attempt. I have fun with them. We’re out there to make every single kick. The long ones are the fun ones.
JM: I really enjoyed your outlook on that. What’s your honest opinion in “icing” the kicker? Does it work?
EM: I’ll tell you what, I don’t think I’ve ever missed that second kick in my career. I’ve been iced a few times but I can’t recall it ever working on me. I think there’s some positives for the kicker. You can treat that first kick as a practice rep. At Florida, we treated those like normal field goals. If you hear the whistle, go ahead and make the kick. Take advantage of the rep. Treat it like a practice run. That’s how we approached icing the kicker.
I’m a competitor. If a coach is icing me, I view that as a challenge. He doesn’t think I have what it takes mentally. It’s time to prove him wrong. I take that into consideration. It makes me wanna make that field goal more than anything. I want to prove to the other coach that he can’t affect me.
JM: That’s the perfect way to approach that. You’ve spent the last few weeks meeting with teams virtually. How is that process going for you, and which teams have you met with so far?
EM: It’s been great so far. I wish we had an opportunity to go up to Indianapolis and meet with the teams, scouts, and coaches in person but it wasn’t in the cards this year. I would have loved the opportunity to perform at the combine.
I’ve spoken with several teams. My conversations have ranged from area scouts to special teams coordinators. I’ve spoken with some great people throughout this process. We’re having a lot of great conversations right now. We’re all getting to know one another. I enjoy learning about their kicking situation and what they’re thinking as they get prepared to enter this draft. I look forward to performing for them at my Pro Day. It’s been a lot of fun.
I’ve met with the Browns, Vikings, Seahawks, Patriots, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers, Bills, Bengals, Packers, Colts, Broncos, Cowboys, Cardinals, and 49ers to name a few. Some of those meetings have been with area scouts.
JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. When Urban Meyer was at Florida, he used to famously find ways to mentally impact his kicker Caleb Sturgis at practice. That’s how he prepared his kicker for a tough road game. Did the Florida staff do anything like that?
EM: Our coaching staff did a great job preparing me for every single game. I was a young guy. I began kicking for Florida as a freshman. They put me in great situations in practice. We ran through a lot of different scrimmages. They didn’t put as much pressure on me in the beginning, but they definitely ramped it up as the years went by. They wanted to test my performance in high-pressure situations.
Challenging yourself with a high-pressure situation in practice definitely makes those situations feel more manageable in a game. You feel like you’ve been through it before. You know to handle it. You’re there to make big kicks. You can use practice to get ready for a game.
[Head] coach Dan Mullen did a great job with me. He got me ready for every possible situation.
JM: I love that. I’ve really appreciated your time today. This has been terrific. It’s easy to see why you’re the best kicker in this draft. In closing, why should a team use one of its draft picks on Evan McPherson?
EM: A team should draft me because I’m the top kicker in this draft. You’re not only getting a great kicker but a great teammate as well. I love being a friend in the locker room. I’m always looking to bring a positive vibe. I’m easy to get along with. I’m going to help a team at the next level.