Life as an NFL kicker taught Iowa City native Nate Kaeding about the microscope of America’s most high-profile professional sport — during a career that led to two Pro Bowl selections and designation for much of his career as the most accurate leg in league history.
Kaeding announced Thursday that he will retire after re-aggravating a groin injury in his kicking leg as he prepared for the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Even as a pro, Kaeding remained a grounded, humble Iowan — saying his silliest purchase with an NFL paycheck was a $300 buy, and his first post-career goal involves seeing the state from border to border.
The 31-year-old answered nine questions from the Des Moines Register about his nine NFL seasons:
1. What’s the toughest part about hanging up the helmet?
“Just the competitiveness of it. It was something to look forward to eaach year and each week. Just knowing that won’t be there. Knowing that my time as a competitive athlete is over, that’s probably the hardest thing.”
2. What was your biggest kick?
“I hope this isn’t overly cliché, but I hung my hat on each kick being a big one. Being consistent and grinding away, whether it was an extra point or 50-yarder. That’s the hallmark of a good kicker.
“If I had to choose one, I had a game-winner against Cincinnati that secured a playoff spot a few years ago. But they all count the same.”
3. Who was your most interesting teammate and why?
“LaDainian Tomlinson, he was probably the best. He had that superstar quality, but was also a great guy, quiet leader who led by example. It was great to be around him when he set the (NFL single-season touchdown record in 2006).
“Offensive lineman in general, are some of the quirkiest guys. They probably say the same thing about kickers, too.”
4. What was the kick you’d love to have back?
“Every single one that I missed. Those are the ones that keep you up at night. As a kicker, if it’s within your range, the coach wouldn’t put you out there. Those motivate you to try to get better. I probably can name 99 percent of misses, but I only remember half my makes.”
5. When was the first moment you realized you weren’t in college anymore?
“When I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time when I got to San Diego. Or got my first paycheck — one of those two. When I saw the check had a few commas and extra numbers in it.”
6. Silliest purchase you made with your NFL paycheck?
“Probably some Levi vintage jeans. I’m kind of a jeans guy. You’ve got to sit in the bathtub so they shrink to your body.”
Honestly, sit in the bathtub? “Yeah, that’s how you get them to fit right.”
How much did those cost? “About $300.”
7. What would surprise the average person most about an NFL locker room?
“There are a lot of guys dancing. There’s a lot of music playing. Guys are just dancing and singing. I didn’t, though. Kickers try to be seen but not heard. You try to fly under the radar more.”
8. What do fans yell from the stands?
“You hear a lot of things, but you hear a lot of obscenities. Some guys are smart, and they look up Facebook pages and talk about a guy’s sisters and brothers. They get creative.”
9. You’ve got some business interests (such as a bar/restaurant in Iowa City called Shorts Burger & Shine), so what now?
“It’s RAGBRAI for me. I’ve always said that the first summer I’m done, I’m doing RAGBRAI. I’ve got two months to get in cycling shape. It’s a chance to see the state from border to border. I picked up biking from friends a couple years ago. It’s a great tradition in the state. I’ll see if my endurance is there.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football