Small col­lege kicker about to make big splash in NFL

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

Start­ing Thurs­day, NFL gen­eral man­agers — and oth­ers who fancy them­selves as per­son­nel ex­perts — will do the foot­ball ver­sion of a shop­ping spree at Costco’s when the draft gets un­der­way.

They’ll go down the aisle and pick up the sta­ples that they need to stock their foot­ball teams — of­fen­sive tack­les, lineback­ers, re­ceivers, cor­ner­backs.

Some of them, though, may have a copy of the Sharper Im­age cat­a­log stuffed in their back pocket. They have cir­cled the item that they saw in there — the unique item that maybe they don’t ab­so­lutely need, but it sure would be fun to have.

That item is called a Si­mon Mathiesen — a 23-year-old, 6-foot-4, 210-pound Dan­ish kicker from North­west Mis­souri State who has scored more points than any kicker in col­lege foot­ball over the past two sea­son (151 points in 2015, 140 points last sea­son), who can put 50 yarders through the up­rights with ei­ther foot and who gets more ac­cu­rate as the game gets big­ger and the weather gets colder.

“I think what teams re­ally like about me is that I am weath­er­proof,” Mathiesen said. “I hit on about 82.5 per­cent of my field goals, but in the cold months like Novem­ber and De­cem­ber my field-goal per­cent­age is over 95 per­cent. When it comes down to the crunch games like the play­offs, I rarely ever miss — 22 for 23 in play­off games.”

“When it comes down to im­por­tant games I usu­ally per­form at my best,” he said.

He’s kicked in his share — North­west Mis­souri State, lo­cated in Maryville,

Mis­souri, has been a Di­vi­sion II foot­ball powerhouse, win­ning six NCAA na­tional championships, in­clud­ing 2013, 2015 and the 2016 ti­tles, with Mathiesen a big part of those last three championships.

It was not a straight path that led Mathiesen to Maryville.

He was born in New York to Dan­ish par­ents, who then re­turned to Den­mark when Mathiesen was 4 years old. He has dual cit­i­zen­ship in both Den­mark and the United States. He grew up in Den­mark, and while Mathiesen was a soc­cer player, in­ter­est be­gan grow­ing in Amer­i­can foot­ball in the coun­try.

“I had a cou­ple friends that re­ally got me into it and I just re­ally en­joy play­ing foot­ball a lot more than I did soc­cer,” he said. “I was about 15 years old when I started play­ing foot­ball. hat’s kind of how it all be­gan I was about 15 years old when I started play­ing foot­ball. I played for the lo­cal club team — the Gold­dig­gers.”

He was pri­mar­ily a wide re­ceiver, though, and that was how he pitched him­self when he sent a high­lights video to about 80 Amer­i­can schools. One coach at North­west Mis­souri re­sponded, and Mathiesen made the team as a walk-on re­ceiver.

“My fresh­man year I was a re­ceiver, and about half­way through the sea­son we needed a kicker,” he said. “The coach came up to be be­fore one of our most im­por­tant games of the year and said, ‘You’re our start­ing kicker to­day.’” By the end of his ca­reer at North­west Mis­souri, Mathiesen wound up with ev­ery kick­ing record in school his­tory.

You prob­a­bly never saw him play for North­west Mis­souri State, but you might have seen him none­the­less — he has be­come a YouTube sen­sa­tion of sorts with his kick­ing videos, some of which have recorded him hit­ting field goals from as far as 75 yards out.

Back in Den­mark, he has be­come a rock star. “The whole coun­try seems to have ral­lied around this kid,” said Scott Bergman, his agent out of Rockville.

Mathiesen may re­mind them of an­other na­tional sports hero out of Den­mark who went on to be­come one of the great­est kick­ers in NFL his­tory and who will be only the sec­ond kicker in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame in Au­gust — Morten An­der­sen. In fact, An­der­sen has be­come a men­tor to Mathiesen and has worked with the young kicker, help­ing him pre­pare for his pro work­outs.

“I’ve got­ten to know him pretty well,” An­der­sen said. “He has a lot of tal­ent. I can iden­tify quickly whether he has what it takes — phys­i­cal tal­ent, work ethic and men­tal tough­ness. I put him through some tough work­outs and he per­formed well. He’s got good el­e­va­tion on the ball, good pro­jec­tor. He is pretty di­aled in right now.

“I think he has an op­por­tu­nity,” An­der­sen said. “I think he has a lot of po­ten­tial.”

Of course, Mathiesen grew up ad­mir­ing An­der­sen. “He (An­der­sen) has played a big role in my prepa­ra­tion,” he said. “To hear from a Hall of Fame kicker that I have what it takes to play in the NFL on Sun­days is a big con­fi­dence boost.”

Will an NFL team give him that op­por­tu­nity in the draft this week­end?

Teams are re­luc­tant to use draft picks on kick­ers — par­tic­u­larly high draft picks. They are con­sid­ered lux­u­ries in the draft, though in a mo­ment in a game to de­cide a win or loss, there is no po­si­tion more valu­able to a team. Bergman said he has had con­ver­sa­tions with all 32 NFL teams about Mathiesen. Eight of them have ex­pressed “a lot of in­ter­est,” he said.

Given the dis­ap­point­ing sea­son that Washington kicker Dustin Hop­kins had last year, you would think that the Redskins would be one of the teams that would ex­press a lot of in­ter­est.

Ac­cord­ing to Bergman, one of their di­vi­sion ri­vals, the Philadel­phia Ea­gles, has Mathiesen on their draft board.

“Over­all I’ve heard very good things from these eight teams,” Bergman said. “I don’t know if there are any other teams that are re­ally in­ter­ested but that may be lay­ing low.”

One gen­eral man­ager, while stand­ing in line with his cart full of tack­les, lineback­ers and run­ning backs, may pull that Sharper Im­age cat­a­log out of his back pocket and said, “I’ll take one of these — a Si­mon Mathiesen.”

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