On a September Monday night in 2003, Billy Cundiff, Dallas Cowboy placekicker, nailed seven field goals in a game against the New York Giants. Ironically, it was the Cowboy’s new head coach Bill Parcell’s first win, 35 – 32, against his former team. Cundiff joined three other kickers in NFL history with that performance. Right out of college, he attended the 2002 Cowboys training camp as a free agent and took the starting job from Tim Seder. Despite making history in that 2003 game, he was not what the Cowboys wanted long-term. Since the Cowboys now employ the best kicker in the league, Dan Bailey, where are you now, Mr. Cundiff?
The basics around his life maintain he was born in the mid-west on March 30, 1980. He grew up in Iowa and originally played quarterback in high school. Due to the lack of players, I’m assuming, he also stood in as the team’s placekicker. Possibly the only dual quarterback/kicker in football history. He then attended a FCS (Football Championship Subdivision), non-scholarship college, Drake University in Des Moines, where he realized kicking was the future. He is married to his college sweetheart, living somewhere in Maryland, with two children. The 6’1”, 200 pound, $2.2M per year star has played for nine different teams starting with the Cowboys, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and as of today, the Baltimore Ravens.
Back when he played for the Cowboys, in 2005, an injury benched him and José Cortéz took over, temporarily. On November 19, 2005, back in the good standing of Cowboy coaching staff and injury free, he replaced Shaun Suisham. In the game against the Lions, his first game back, he kicked a record breaking 56-yarder in franchise history. Apparently that was not good enough because he was canned on December 26 for missing two field goals in a game against the Carolina Panthers.
After bouncing around the league like a pinball, Cundiff attended Arizona State University where he received his MBA in May of 2009. He spent the next couple of years in the real world until Cleveland came calling for his leg. They signed him in September, but then released him in November. Not a very loyal bunch, so it seems. Baltimore needed to replace someone no one had ever heard of, Steve Hauschka, so they signed Cundiff on November 18. On January 23, 2011, he signed a five-year, $15 million contract with the Ravens. Not long after, in a 2012 AFC championship playoff game against the Patriots, he muffed a 32-yarder. It nailed the coffin shut for a Ravens Super bowl appearance.
A long story, short, Cundiff might be one of the top five NFL players to be cut by the most teams. He did earn All-Pro status in 2010 and that might save him for awhile. Everyone makes mistakes, it just seems like this guy usually gets hit harder, or fired in his case, than most. From his days of playing dual roles in high school, to wearing the blue and silver jersey, to moving to nine different cities with his family, he keeps a good attitude. He hasn’t given up and he continues to lean on a former coaches advice to put forth your best effort. “Let life happen and let the chips fall where they may” said his Harlan High coach.
I know I’m going to fail, and I know I’m going to have some success. I’m going to put my best effort out there, and sometimes it’s not going to be good enough, and sometimes it’s going to be more than enough, but at the end of the day, can I look myself in the mirror and say I did the best I could? If that’s the case, then I know I can’t really do any more than that.
For Cundiff, he knows this saying all too well – “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising everytime we fall.” He might miss again or he may make every single field goal he ever attempts in the future, but he’s faced challenges and he will more than likely face harder challenges in life than whether he can kick a football through the uprights. For now, he’ll get back on the field and let it fly.