Kicking It With Regular Folk

wrist. He couldn't tackle or get tackled. 

So, equipped with a soccer background, he'd go off on the side and kick . . . and kick . . . and kick. He knew nothing about the technique. Nothing about the steps. And wow, what a deal, they let him put the ball on a tee to help get it up off the ground. 

"I saw in the NFL on TV the guys would take three and two," said Folk, meaning the kickers would take three steps back and two to the side to line up for soccer-style attempts. "As for my kickoff steps, I had no idea." 

Just kind of wandered back there to time up his approach to the tee. 

And get this: He wasn't even a fulltime football player. What he'd do in high school was attend practice from the start, go through warmups and special teams drills and then run off to soccer practice so he could do both since they practiced at the same time. 

But this you'll like. Evidently athletics are in his genes. Said his one brother, Greg, is a senior soccer player who starts at UCLA, and "one day he'll be a professional soccer player." His youngest brother, Erik, is a freshman kicker at the University of Washington. 

Folk has come a long way from the first day of freshman practice at Notre Dame High. 

"I came in here thinking you got to do the best you can do, and you do it," the rookie kicker said after arriving at The Ranch following the draft. "Then it's out of your hands." 

Well, he must have done it, since the Cowboys have placed the job back in his hands, and you know, over the years, that's not unusual for the Cowboys do to do exactly that with a rookie or first-year kicker. In fact, if you go back to the 1990 season, the second year Jerry Jones owned the team, the Cowboys have relied on inexperienced kickers six times in the previous 17 years. This will be the seventh. 

In fact, only twice during those 17 years did they enter a season with a veteran kicker they didn't raise from scratch: Uh, that would be last year with Vanderjagt, a ninth-year kicker they actually paid a $2.5 million signing bonus to entice out of free agency. And it backfired. And then the start of the 2005 season with Cortez, and that didn't work out so swell, either. 

Check it out: In 1990 it was Ken Willis. Then in 1992 it was Lin Elliott, who struggled out of the gate in 1993 and gave way to veteran Eddie Murray two games into the season. Then came Chris Boniol from 1994-96. Next up was Richie Cunningham, from 1997-through four games of the '99 season, before Murray took over one more time. Then Tim Seder in 2000-through breaking a leg in 2001. Lastly, Billy Cundiff, 2002-04. 

Willis connected at a 70-percent clip, earning a Plan B contract from Tampa Bay. Elliott finished at 69 percent, though when he missed two of three in the second game of the 1993 season, he took the fall for a 13-10 loss to Buffalo with the Cowboys playing without NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith. 

Boniol was the best. He connected on 87 percent of his kicks, and in 1995, hit on 27 of his 28 attempts. Cunningham was even better his first two years, first converting 90 percent of his field-goal attempts in 1997 and then 87 percent in 1998 before losing his touch in '99, going just 12 of 22 over the first 12 games before getting cut. 

So there is precedent for the Cowboys succeeding with inexperienced kickers. 

Now it's Folk's turn. 

"Just go out there and do what I have been doing," said Folk, who knows he hit all three of his preseason attempts, one from 52 yards, and like missed only one from behind the line during special teams practice in training camp. 

As for kickoffs, which had been his specialty in college where he had 31 touchbacks on 49 kickoffs his senior season at Arizona, the extra five yards in the NFL, kicking off from the 30 instead of the 35, has made a difference. But he's figuring out hanging the ball up to the five is much better than line-driving the kick to the end zone. 

Still worried? Probably so. 

Rookies are rookies. You never know. But there is no turning back with Gramatica, especially if they don't come to an injury settlement by Friday. Because if he's still on injured reserve five days after being placed there, the Cowboys will have no

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