It is one thing to be told you’re not good enough, strong enough or fast enough to make an NFL roster.
But to be told you’re too short when you’re a place kicker? As if you must be 6-foot-2 to see the goal posts?
The Jacksonville Jaguars initially told 5-foot-10 Mike Hollis he was too short and nearly got away with it.
Hollis, former Central Valley High and University of Idaho Vandal, won the Jaguars’ job in preseason camp, but only after having to virtually beg for the chance.
Hollis was in San Diego last year, but couldn’t give Pro Bowler John Carney the boot. Before the 1995 season, Hollis worked out for the Giants and Seattle.
His agent, Missoula-based Ken Staninger, felt Jacksonville would be an ideal spot for Hollis. There, he could compete with Scott Sisson, an unproven NFL kicker.
Problem was, Jacksonville didn’t want Hollis.
“They ran it by the head coach (Tom Coughlin) and he said I was too short and they didn’t want to waste any time on a short kicker,” Hollis said.
“It goes along with the same theory that (some NFL coaches and scouts) don’t want a kicker who kicked in a dome,” Staninger said. “Some coaches and scouts get something in their mind at a specific position and that’s what they go with. Some teams won’t look at a quarterback under 6-foot-3, but Steve Young is 6-1 or 6-2.
“My argument was, ‘Do you want a short guy who kicks it through the uprights or a big guy that doesn’t?”’
Upon hearing Jacksonville had bypassed Hollis, Jim Gaetano, Hollis’ personal kicking coach, went to the nearest pay phone and dialed up the expansion team.
“He was a little blunt with them,” Hollis said of Gaetano, who is from Spokane and had numerous NFL tryouts but never landed a kicking job. “I don’t know who he talked to, but out of the ordeal I got a workout.”
From the workout came a shot in fall camp, where he won the job. Last Sunday, Hollis became the answer to a trivia question when he scored the first points in Jags’ history on a 26-yard field goal against Houston.
The down side was Hollis missed a 36-yard field goal, shortest of the 10 errant kicks on the first NFL weekend.
Perhaps more so than any other position, kickers, particularly young ones, are a bungled boot away from the unemployment line.
“There’s almost more pressure now that I’ve made it,” said Hollis, who makes the rookie minimum salary of $119,000. “The media says I’m on the bubble and I could be gone tomorrow because there are other vets around.”
Jacksonville fans, who are going bonkers over their new franchise, seem to have taken to Hollis.
“When I went out to buy a car, the guy knew who I was. When I bought some furniture, the guy knew who I was,” said Hollis, who plans on marrying his high school sweetheart, Debra, next March.
During exhibition games, 20 to 30 friends and relatives of Hollis would gather at Steve’s Sports Dugout in Post Falls to watch Jacksonville games via satellite. “Everybody’s been very supportive,” Hollis said.
“Mentally, you can’t shake the kid,” Staninger said.
“The thing he’s got to do now is be the regular Mike Hollis, nail everything out to 45-48 yards and show consistency. Then he can start building his resume. This is a critical year.”
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