During a game early in the 2018 season, special teams coach Keith O'Quinn was standing on the sidelines as the Cowboys faced a third-and-long around the opponent's 43-yard line.
Just as he was about to yell for punter Chris Jones to get ready for a punt, he felt a gentle tap on his side. He looked over and shockingly saw new kicker Brett Maher, who was still in his first season with the team.
"He just said, 'Coach, I got this,'" said O'Quinn, who quickly did some math in his head to figure out how far this field goal attempt would be. "I said, 'You want a 61-yarder?' He didn't even blink. He was ready."
As it turned out, the Cowboys made the first down and never even attempted that field goal, but the special teams coach found out something about Maher right then, and it's certainly carried over into his second season – a season that has already had its share of ups and downs.
Maher missed a 33-yard field goal late in the Cowboys' loss to the Packers that ended any hopes of a comeback. He also missed a 40-yard kick against the Jets that proved to be huge in a two-point loss. However, he also had a 50-yard field goal and then a 62-yarder in that Jets game that gave the Cowboys a chance to come back.
And then, of course, there is the 63-yard field goal against the Eagles on Sunday night that was not only a franchise record, but made him the only kicker in NFL history to now hit three field goals of 60 yards or more.
That game also made Maher the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, just two weeks after many were wondering if the Cowboys would be looking for a new kicker.
Maher said he never let the "outside noise" really bother him.
"That's part of the job," Maher said of the criticism that follows missed kicks. "I try to stay with Chris and [long snapper] L.P. [Ladouceur] and the guys in our room. Keep plugging away, keep my head down and stay ready week to week."
That's something O'Quinn said the Cowboys loved the most about Maher, just his ability to stay focused on the task and never let previous misses, or makes, affect his next kick.
"This guy isn't afraid of anything," O'Quinn said. "If he misses (a kick), he's got this unique ability to put it behind him. He's got a strong belief in himself and he's going to go attack the next one."
And that was something the team actually found out last year in a game against the Falcons. Maher had missed an extra point in the second half and then clanged another extra point off the upright, although it still went through. Regardless, the Cowboys were anything but comfortable with Maher, but had no choice but to allow him to try a game-winning kick in the final seconds. Maher calmly stepped up and drilled a 42-yarder to give the Cowboys a 22-19 win. It was the second game-winning kick of his career.
But being a clutch, reliable kicker is still a work in progress for Maher, who is a .788 percent kicker in his two seasons, hitting 39 of 50. This year, he's just 10 of 14, but does have two over 60 yards.
"He does not shy away from an opportunity, regardless of the distance," O'Quinn said. "The kid's mindset is, 'Coach, I'm going to make it.' That's his mindset. You have to appreciate that about Brett Maher, more than anything else. It's a unique trait. It really is."
What O'Quinn wants to do now is get Maher to keep the same approach, regardless of the kick. But he knows that's easier said than done.
"He's got an incredibly strong leg, we've known that," O'Quinn said. "He's just got to hit the ball with a consistent ball strike. It should look the same whether it's from 40 or 60. If he can get his mind to do that, we're in business."
When asked after the game if 60-yard kicks are like playing with "house money" because no one really expects him to make it, Maher somewhat shrugged off that notion.
"I don't know, I think I expect to make it," he said. "I just try to put a good swing on it, a good hit on it and let that do the rest."
So what's next for Brett Maher? Is he looking to go even farther, maybe even challenge Matt Prater's NFL record of 64 yards?
"Well, maybe a couple of more [yards]," Maher said with a smile. "I think we might be getting close to the limit, but you never know."