Training Camp | 2022

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Maher Chooses This Crazy Life Of A Kicker

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OXNARD, Calif. – Here is the life of a kicker, Brett Maher's in particular.

Maher recently signed a deal with the Cowboys during training camp. Nothing guaranteed. Just an opportunity to compete with Lirim Hajrullahu these final couple of weeks of training camp to make the 53-man roster.

Remember him, right? Kicked for the Cowboys in 2018 and 2019 after incumbent Dan Bailey sort of went south that summer after a brilliant seven-year run (2011-17).

Maher has been on a nomadic journey to follow his dream of becoming a professional kicker after a collegiate career at home-state school Nebraska. The 32-year-old began this trek as an undrafted free agent in 2013, signing with the Jets only to be cut before the start of training camp to make room for former Cowboys kicker Billy Cundiff. Dallas signed him in August of that year with Bailey nursing an injury but released him by the end of training camp.

Maher did not latch on to another NFL team in 2013 but then decided to go north of the border to the CFL, first during preseason with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, only to be released for international player restrictions to make room for some guy name Hajrullahu. A few weeks later he was signed by Ottawa, kicking in 18 games that 2014 season but reduced to just four games with a hip injury in 2015, but as punter.

Then in 2016 he was on to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Stay with me now.

In 2017, he spent like two months with the Cleveland Browns but was released in May and went back for a second stint that season with Ottawa. The Cowboys signed Maher in the spring of 2018 to lessen the offseason and training camp load for Bailey.

Lo and behold, the Cowboys chose Maher and surprisingly cut Bailey. Maher would kick that season for the Cowboys and the next, 2019, but when he made only 66.7 percent of his field goals (20 for 30), the Cowboys replaced him in the final four games with Kai Forbath.

That and COVID turned 2020 into a traveling road show for Maher, first signing with the Jets, but waived on the final cut. Then on to the Washington practice squad for three weeks, then cut.

Undaunted, it was on to Houston as a practice squad kicker for two months, then to the Arizona Cardinals practice squad on Christmas Day followed by signing a futures contract with the Cardinals only to be released in the offseason. But he kept getting chances. New Orleans was his next stop.

The Saints signed Maher on Aug. 10, 2021, but waived/injured him on Aug. 21, clearing waivers and returning to their IR list. The kicker with nine lives was re-signed by New Orleans to the practice squad on Nov. 16. If not for the injury, Maher might have taken over for Will Lutz that year, lost for the season needing core muscle repair surgery.

While Maher was on IR, the Saints went through kickers faster than sand through an hourglass: Aldrick Rosas, Cody Parkey and Brian Johnson. Once healthy, Maher was given the kicking job on Nov. 19, holding it down for eight games.

Maher ended up connecting on 16 of 18 field goals for the Saints, 10 of 12 extra points and had touchbacks on 52 of 77 kickoffs. Not bad. And, oh by the way, Maher kicked for the Saints in the Cowboys' 27-17 victory, going one of two on field goals (make from 42, miss from 56) and connecting on both extra points.

So not bad.

But once Lutz had recovered, the Saints released Maher on Feb. 22 of this year, so once again out of a job and jumping back on the traveling kicking caravan.

Google Maps would have a hard time keeping up with this guy.

And now here he comes on Aug. 9, not just for a tryout with the Cowboys, but to participate in a four-man kick-off to replace free agent rookie kicker Jonathan Garibay, who struggled mightily the first two weeks of training camp.

"It's better to be on the caravan than not," Maher said. "So, we're all out here trying to find a job. This is how we earn a living and provide for our family. This is an opportunity for me to do that and excited about it."

Maher went through somewhat of an ordeal to simply get to Oxnard in time for the Aug. 9 workout. And mind you, it wasn't just him, but included three other kickers: Matt Ammendola, JJ Molson and Cole Murphy.

Now, Maher lives in Lincoln, Neb., with his wife and their three daughters. Gets a call from the Cowboys on Sunday, hops on a plane Monday to fly from Lincoln to Denver, where he incurs a delay – of course these days – and then flies Denver to LAX. Next makes the hour or so drive to Oxnard. Up at 6 a.m. the next day to get in a good kicking warmup before Tuesday's four-man kicking contest.

The most experienced of the four, Maher wins the kickoff, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy saying the tiebreaker was kickoffs. From afar, could see many a kickoff being sprayed around.

The job was Maher's.

"It's awesome to have another opportunity," Maher said after finding out the Cowboys were signing him. "Jobs are hard to come by in this league."

But here is the rub on that: All Maher has won is the chance to compete with, of all people, that Hajrullahu guy for the Cowboys' kicking job, the same guy because of that roster technicality beating him out eight years ago in Canada. We think that's it for now, though with these kickers, they really are competing, too, against the rest of the league. Not only guys still on the caravan, but also any kicker who might be released when the cuts occur to 53.

So far Maher has only had one opportunity to kick behind the line in a team drill. That came in Saturday's first preseason game against the Broncos, making his only extra point try and recording a touchback on his only kickoff. More to come this week when the Cowboys practice Wednesday and Thursday against the Chargers in Costa Mesa. McCarthy says the Cowboys and Chargers will have a live kicking period during Thursday's joint practice.

Then during Saturday's game, McCarthy's plan is for Maher and Hajrullahu to alternate kicks at SoFi Stadium.

Very interesting where this goes.

"Our job is very cut and dried," the veteran Maher said of the impending competition, knowing he must improve on his kicks of 40-plus yards, making just 22 of 36 (61 percent). "You make it through the posts or you don't.

"I'm going to focus on that part first."

May the best man win, and the loser, well, likely jumps right back on the caravan circuit Maher knows exhaustingly only too well.

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