[EDITOR’S NOTE: WE ARE ASKING EACH OF OUR JOCKS TO DECIDE IF A BUBBLE PLAYER FOR THE HOUSTON TEXANS IS GOING TO MAKE THE CUT AND BE ON TEAM’S 53-MAN ROSTER OR MISS THE CUT AND BE CUT BY THE TEAM. THE TENTH OF THE SERIES BY GARRET HEINRICH – THE WEB GUY – ON KICKER KA’IMI FAIRBAIRN]
There are always battles at training camp that capture the media attention. Last season the Texans gave us a mediocre quarterback battle between the guys we knew were going to be the starter and the backup, and then the starter, and then the backup and then the cut guy. This year we have defensive end, tight end (SEE STEPHEN ANDERSON) and even the back end of wide receiver (SEE CECIL SHORTS) all battling for jobs. I’m however very excited to see what will happen with a spot on the roster that really only has one guy who can do it. Place Kicker. I am well known (in the very small circle of friends and co-workers I call friends to people who don’t know them) to be a fanatic for punters. Shane Lechler is my Michael Jordan. Andy Lee is my LeBron James. But I do enjoy the place kicker position as well.
This season the Houston Texans have a legitimate kicker battle going in training camp. They should have had a better one last year, but after Chris Boswell missed two extra points early in the preseason, it was Randy Bullock’s job to lose during the season (SPOILER ALERT: He did). Then Boswell went on to be a great kicker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Texans had to watch from afar as Bullock continued to have problems and ended up cutting him mid-season. This season Bullock’s mid-season replacement Nick Novak is looking to keep his job and undrafted rookie free-agent Ka’imi Fairbairn (full name: John Christian Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a Fairbairn) is looking take it from the veteran kicker.
Novak was solid for the for the Texans last year after stepping in for Bullock making 18 of 21 attempts, all of those misses coming from outside of 50-yards. He also missed 2 extra points on the season. That is okay for Novak, but he’s old. He is only in the league because the Texans needed a kicker mid season and Boswell (from Rice) had already been picked up.
But we’re not here to talk about Novak, because honestly, it’s his job to lose. Fairbairn is the guy trying to make it into the league. He is the 2015 winner of the Lou Groza Award for best collegiate kicker, which you will hear a lot when people talk about him. He got that award because he is really good. He’s the only kicker at UCLA to ever score 100 points in four years at the school. That is a strong consistency for a college kicker. While he did miss four field goals his senior season none were under 40-yards (good for extra points) and only one was beyond 50. His long was 60 yards in college, so his leg is NFL ready and he’s plenty accurate.
One of my favorite stats for Fairbairn is that he never had a kick blocked in college. Eighty-eight field goal attempts. Zero blocks. Two-hundred-fourteen extra point attempts. Zero blocks. That is really impressive. It speaks to a good trajectory, add in his accuracy and ability to have the distance to make 50+ yard field goals and he just makes sense as the guy the Texans should have kick for them this season. Last year unless the Texans were inside the 30-yard line they were going for it on fourth down between the 31 & 42-yard-line. Fairbairn gives them a shot from as deep as 42 if not longer if the case permits it.
He also has the leg and skill to be very beneficial on the kickoff. We saw in the first game he placed a kick at the 5-yard line that was returned to the 20-yard line by the 49ers. If this is the strategy that the Texans want on their kickoffs a guy like Fairbairn who can place kicks accurately short of the goal line can be extremely beneficial. He also has the leg to boot it out of the end zone (70% touchback rate in college) and we can’t really say that about Novak.
Unless he completely fails on the field during games this pre-season there is no reason that the big-legged kicker from Hawaii via UCLA should be kicking from the impeccable holds of Hall of Famer Shane Lechler. John Christian Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a Fairbairn will make the Houston Texans out of camp and be their kicker.
And hopefully you’ll see this GIF a lot on twitter: