Sunday, August 19, 2012

13 Mike Vanderjagt

Hometown: Oakville, ON
Career: 1991-1992
Record: 11-9-2, Bowl Record: 0-0
Mike Vanderjagt took a long an interesting road to Morgantown, WV. He initially began his college career in 1988 at Michigan State, originally playing as a quarterback and place kicker. Vanderjagt was not going to win the starting quarterback job for the Spartans, so he transferred to Allan Hancock Community College. After playing a year of lower level football, chasing his quarterbacking dream, he decided to focus on punting and kicking. Coach Nehlen plucked up the talented kicker in 1991. He would play the 1991 season as a punter and then as a place kicker in 1992. That 1992 season, Vanderjagt would make 15 of 20 field goals. His conversion rate was decent, yet not noteworthy. The NFL would pass on Vanderjagt for the next 6 seasons. He would find work in the CFL and AFL for the next six seasons, honing his accuracy. He would get his chance to play in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. While with the Colts, Vanderjagt would become widely known as the most accurate kicker in the league. He was one of the most reliable scorers in the NFL up until that fateful 2005 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers where he missed an easy field goal that would have sent the game to overtime. From that point on, Vanderjagt’s career would take a nose dive. While Vanderjagt may not ever make the Pro Football Hall of Fame (or any other kicker for that matter besides Jan Stenerud), he should have a decent chance at the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. Time will tell.

Memorable Game: Mike Vanderjagt was a key scorer for the 1992 Mountaineers. He flexed his scoring muscle in an early season match-up with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The Mountaineers ran all over the Bulldogs, but had a difficult time punching the ball into the endzone. Vanderjagt stepped up to the plate for the Mountaineers, converting three field goals. Once the Mountaineers were able to get into the endzone, he would add a pair of extra points to bring his scoring total to 11 points for the afternoon.  Vanderjagt’s scoring alone was enough to put away the Bulldogs, as WVU easily won 23-3.
Competition: Again, I understand that some people don’t think too highly of kickers, especially one that did not always play for WVU. There is something to be said though for being the alma mater of one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. Perhaps this selection was made more on the total career merit (pro and college) than just his collegiate accolades, but I think it is important to remember the careers of your famous alumni, even if they are just a kicker.
Teaser: Fortunately for all you readers out there, I have no more kickers in line for this countdown. The remaining dozen are all high profile, extremely talented players. Tomorrow, the pick at #12 is a tremendously talented quarterback. The only question is, which quarterback is it? Luck? Smith? Maybe Sowards? I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow to see who makes the cut at #12. No matter who I pick, it is sure to start a Mountaineers family fued, like that of Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

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