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Here's The Real Kicker

then, but never because of pressure. He was loaded with confidence. When he played soccer for his country, Austria, he'd tell me, "I've played in front of millions and millions, kings and queens. They'd all yell, 'Toooni, Toooni, Toooni!'"  

"Pressure . . . ha!"

With all of the variables that could go wrong within the mechanics of executing a successful field-goal attempt, pressure is usually the biggest challenge.

Because of his performance and experience, Toni's confidence snuffed the life out of any malfunction borne from pressure. Because he couldn't speak English, there were little claims or boasts, and he certainly did not look like an athlete. At 5-6, in full uni, he looked like an Easter egg with shoes on the bottom and a helmet at the top. But he gained our respect because he performed.

It was comforting during this off-season to analyze the Cowboys' decision to sign the most accurate kicker in NFL history. So far, that has been good in theory and not so good in performance. Heading into the season, Mike Vanderjagt has the confidence that he can and will produce. That confidence was manifested out of his past performances - but performances not in front of the Dallas fandom.

Pre-season games are not included in the stats. His regular-season numbers are staggering . . . 87.5 percent conversion rate. As fans, we can read this and hope, but because he has not shown us first hand, human nature forces us to question. We only remember the miss against Pittsburgh in the playoffs last year. Missing those two, game-winning attempts last week has lumped even more pressure on Vanderjagt.

His confident declaration that he has this uncanny ability to perform under pressure sounds great.

But boy does he ever have some pressure now. All Cowboys fans are rooting for him, but those in the football business know one thing:

"It's not what you've done or what you say you are gonna do. It's just what you do that matters."

Ask Bill Parcells. No matter if it's the injury (groin) or lack of doing - or both - Vanderjagt will be watching young kicker Shaun Suisham on Sunday.

Leaving the Cowboys leening a leetle.            

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