It’s safe to say that as working-class citizens, we all want to succeed in our profession, make a good living to provide for our family and know that we have job security. In which profession can you have success and make a good living, but your job security isn’t guaranteed week to week? Welcome to the life of an NFL kicker. We’ve seen many kickers who have made a good amount of money and have a successful career (Mike Vanderjagt and Jeff Reed) but lost their job when they started missing kicks. The kicker isn’t seen as the sexy position on the team and, in fact, a lot of people feel it is a joke and a sissy way to make it in the NFL. Quarterbacks can go through a dry spell and still be guaranteed a job. Kickers have, well, much less room for error. No one may know this better than Steelers mid-season acquisition, Shaun Suisham.
Reed was shown the door after he missed a gimme 26-yard field goal against the Patriots and then proceeded to blame the field conditions. I admit that I was one of the many who questioned and even bashed the Steelers for making that move. The following day, the Steelers said they were going to work out kickers for the job. Enter Shaun Suisham. Suisham nailed all of his practice kicks and I again criticized the Steelers for not having their holder, Daniel Sepulveda, or long snapper, Greg Warren, present for the try-out. They soon thereafter announced that Suisham was the new kicker for the Steelers. Those who know his track record were left scratching their heads at the decision.
I’ll be the first to admit that Suisham has proven all the critics, me included, wrong so far. Going into the AFC Championship game this weekend, Suisham is 15-for-17 on field goals this season (including the playoffs) and hasn’t missed an extra point. His rise to a top-performing kicker hasn’t come without some hurdles along the way, however. Suisham actually started his career with the Dallas Cowboys after being cut by the Steelers during their 2005 training camp. Suisham kicked in 3 games that season for the Cowboys, as well as in 2006 before being released. After his departure from Dallas, Suisham signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins in 2007 and kicked there into the 2009 campaign. That’s where his career took a hit.
With the then 11-0 New Orleans Saints in town,
Suisham had the chance to hand the Saints their first defeat of the season. What ensued, however, would be known as simply “The Choke”. A 23-yard field goal was off the mark, and that led to the Saints’ kicker Garrett Hartley making a game winning kick in overtime to move the team to 12-0. Suisham was released shortly after. Since his stint with the Redskins, Suisham has made stops in Dallas (again), Cleveland, St. Louis and Detroit only to be cut by all three teams. It looked like his opportunities were running out.
“It’s one of those things where you find yourself on the outside looking in,” Suisham said to the Washington Post. “You need an opportunity to arise and until that happens, you’re just sitting at home,” added Suisham.
Suisham moved his family from Virginia to Greenville, Ohio to be closer to his mother-in-law. On November 1st, Suisham’s family suffered the loss of his mother-in-law to a heart attack. With the tragic loss in his family and no team in need of his services, it’s safe to say that the Suisham household had seen better days. Here’s where the irony sets in. Suisham never planned on leaving Virginia after he moved there while playing for the Redskins. The only reason they moved was because of his release. Yet the release allowed Suisham and his family share the last days of
Some would call this fate. I believe that it was and is. Any way you look at it, Suisham is making the most of his opportunity and is kicking the ball better than he has in his entire career. Going into this postseason, Suisham is 3-for-6 in his career in the playoffs, including 1-for-2 so far in this year’s Super Bowl run. Ask any kicker and they’ll tell you that Heinz Field is the hardest stadium to kick in the NFL, yet Suisham seems up for the challenge. Whether hewill be back for next year remains to be seen, but as of now, he’s on the right path. According to Steelers safety Ryan Clark, when defensive tackle Casey Hampton knows your name, you know you’re a part of this team. When Suisham entered the Steelers clubhouse for the first week against Oakland, everyone including Hampton referred to him as “Number 6”. After his 4-for-4 field goal performance (including the overtime winner) against Buffalo the following week, a reporter asked how Hampton felt about “Number 6”. Hampton simply smiled and said, “that’s ‘Shaun Suishy’.”
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com