When someone with a degree in biomedical engineering from Rensselaer Polytech Institute, one of the more prestigious universities in the nation talks, people.. well.. they probably yawn.
“Biomechanically, you want more lean on the ball to get more height on the ball so you can get more torque through it,” explains Miami Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks “Force equals mass times acceleration. The bigger your legs are and the more speed you have, the farther the ball’s going to go.”
Uh, yeah, whatever you say, buddy.
Franks had no intention of playing in the NFL while he was studying for his degree, but after meeting a former journeyman NFL kicker (Justin Medlock), and realizing his kicks went just as far, he put together a YouTube video of highlights, and posted it hoping that a special teams coach might notice.
Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi did. And the moment Rizzi heard the sound of the shoe hitting the ball, he knew he had a prospect.
“It’s one of those things when you work out a guy, after a few swings, he’s either got it or he doesn’t, said Rizzi at the time. “You can tell when he makes contact with the ball, there’s that thump. I also liked his physical stature, and that he’s a weight-room guy. He’s not a quirky kicker. He is a real athlete, and everyone loves him. His ceiling is limitless. He has the talent to kick in this league for a long time.”
Franks had an up and down start to his NFL career, making 29 of 37 career attempts (78.4%), and earning the nickname Andrew “The Shank” Franks from fans (okay, maybe just me and five others on Twitter, but still…). But Franks came into his own at the end of last season when he nailed a 55-yard field goal with six second left in Buffalo to tie the game, then another 27-yarder in overtime to seal the deal.
How big was that moment for him?
"I think, especially in an event like that, you really have to take yourself out of the game a little bit,” said Franks. “I think I kick the best when you take the pressure of the game away from it. When you're calm, relaxed, that's really when you kick the best. I think at that moment it's a rushed field goal. We got a couple of seconds left. It's a long one in Buffalo of all places and at that point, you got to remember just to kick the ball."
Nailing game-winning field goals is the ultimate dream for all kickers, and Franks, with his ever-analytical approach suddenly had a degree of notoriety amongst his peers.
“I had a ton of friends send me the video, and I've watched it probably ten times. I watched a lot of it just to analyze the film itself to see how my form was, how the ball flew, everything - snap, hold, kick - from just an analyzing format. Beyond that, it's a cool kick to watch. People will show it to me when I visit. I've seen it quite a few times.”
For Franks, having a part in getting the Dolphins to the playoffs is a huge part of his motivation, and hitting both of his field goal attempts in the wildcard game in Pittsburgh was a step towards some self-validation.
“That's where you want to be,” he said. “You want to be in the playoffs. You want to be competing trying to get to the Super Bowl. Being in that position, understanding the ramifications of every play during those games is really big. I think playing the games in ... It was like subzero temperatures in Pittsburgh, freezing cold with a ton of wind, getting those tough kicks out of the way, understanding that whatever the conditions are you can get the ball through, I think was really important for me.”
The Dolphins are obviously happy with Franks as their kicker, as they didn’t bring in any competition at the placekicker position in camp this year. While that lends a degree of job stability for Franks, he’s not content to rest on his laurels.
“For me, I always like competition,” he says. “I always like comparing myself. Just because there's not a guy on the team roster that I'm competing with, I really look to everyone else in the league. I don't want to be in the middle or the bottom of the league. I really want to aim for that top spot. It's really looking at myself from last year, looking at everyone else from last year who kicked, and really comparing and trying to keep pushing myself to be the best that I can be.”
Does he feel more confident heading into the 2017 season?
"I think I'm a pretty level headed guy,” he surmised. “I don't try to be too low, I try not to be too high. I think my confidence has always been pretty consistent. I'm confident in what I can do. I'm confident that I can help this team. I think that's something I brought with me from the first day I came here.”
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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