FRISCO, Texas – Brett Maher fielded two important phone calls the day he became a Dallas Cowboy.
The first was from his head coach, Jason Garrett, to let him know he had made the team, having beaten out Dan Bailey for the team's place kicking job. The second was to his wife, Jenna, to let her know he had achieved his NFL dream.
"She's the one that knows everything about my journey, and she's been through all of it with me," Maher said on Wednesday. "We've got two little kids, as well, so what she's able to do for our family and with the kids and allowing me to do this and pursue this, it's been awesome."
It's been quite a pursuit, to be sure. Phone calls on NFL Cut Day typically carry bad news, which is something Maher knows well. This is his sixth season in professional football and his fourth stint with an NFL club, and although he has played for several Canadian Football League teams, he had never cracked the active roster at the game's highest level.
"To be honest with you, I think I was more prepared this time than I had been in the past," Maher said. "There's a lot of factors that go into that. If I had to pinpoint one of them, I think mentally and physically this is as good as I've been and I gave myself the best chance this time."
In this instance, Maher appears to be underselling himself. The 28-year-old was impressive throughout training camp, excelling throughout three weeks of practice and connecting on 4-of-5 preseason kicks – including a long of 57 in the preseason finale.
It was a performance that many thought might earn Maher a shot in the NFL, although few could have predicted it would be with the Cowboys. For his part, Maher said he tried hard to ignore the outside implications.
"To be honest with you, my blinders were on the whole time," he said. "I just tried to keep my head down, stay in my lane and be prepared every single day. I know that sounds cliché and it's boring for you guys, but that's truly what I tried to do."
He clearly succeeded, as he was impressive enough to unseat Bailey, who is one of the most accurate kickers in league history and made the Pro Bowl during his stint with the team. It's not exaggerating to say Bailey is one of, if not the best kicker in franchise history, and that's something that isn't lost on his replacement.
"I wish Dan nothing but the best," he said. "He's been great since I've been here. He's a true professional and I understand what he's meant to this organization."
It's tempting to suggest the surprise nature of the move means more pressure – and that might be true for those that made the decision. Maher himself made the astute point that kicking in the NFL doesn't leave much margin for error, regardless of how one obtains the job.
"I think in this profession, every single thing that you do is kind of pressure-packed, as well," he said. "You never know when your time is going to come, when you're going to get an opportunity and when you're going to be on the wrong side of it."
Obviously, making the team is just the beginning. There's a long road left in front of Maher as the season gets set to start. But after years of striving, the opportunity has arrived – and Brett Maher seems determined to answer the call.