ST. LOUIS (FootballStL) -- The road to the National Football League was anything but certain for kicker Greg Zuerlein.
As a high school senior in 2006, Zuerlein had to decide whether to attempt to walk-on at a big university or take the scholarship money given by a smaller school. He chose the latter since he was going to be paying his way through college out of his own pocket. In the end he chose to play football for the University of Nebraska-Omaha, dubbed UNO.
By 2011, Zuerlein was again debating which college to attend after UNO cancelled its football program. He chose to attend Missouri Western State University, part of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, amidst the uncertainty of whether he was eligible to play Division I football in his sixth year of college.
“I mean really the biggest thing was if I was going to play Division II, I wanted to stay close to home,” Zuerlein, a Lincoln, Nebraska native, said.
His familiarity with Missouri Western kicking coach Jay White was another factor in his decision along with the school’s facilities.
“They had that indoor and I figure if I am going to pursue this dream of trying to make it in the NFL I am going to want to be kicking in the offseason and with that indoor there I would be able to kick in the winter when there is snow on the ground which was exactly what I was able to do.”
The Rams will be counting on Zuerlein if he has to kick in the snow which could happen when the team travels to Buffalo on December 9.
In April, Zuerlein was drafted in the sixth round after making 38 field goals in 40 attempts and ranking second in the league in scoring during his senior year at Missouri Western.
It was anything but a straight path to his dream of playing in the NFL, and now that he is there the humble kicker is considered one of the more popular players on the team -- even after only four games.
“I don’t know about that,” Zuerlein said looking around in the vicinity of the nearby lockers of Sam Bradford and James Laurinaitis. “We have got some big guys around here.”
As for the players calling him the ‘MVP’ of the team thus far, the modest 24-year-old kicker replied, “they are just being nice."
On Sunday, Zuerlein kicked his way into the Rams record book with a 58-yard field goal only to be replaced a short time later with a 60-yard field goal. Jeff Wilkins had the previous longest which was 57 yards set in 1998.