If you've been around here long enough, you'll know I have a soft spot for kickers. It may be my British nature with football and rugby or it could just be that I think most kickers are completely undervalued. You don't realise you need a good one until you've got a bad one, and we've had our fair share of bad kickers in New York.
I can't promise this article is going to be as long as some of the others, but I'll try and cover Chris Naggar's journey from Arlington high school to the bright lights of NY.
The Jets don't have an established kicker in place. At the moment it looks as though it'll be a straight battle between the incumbent Sam Ficken and SMU product Chris Naggar.
Naggar attended Arlington High School in Texas where he was a 3-year letter winner and 6A All-State kicker and punter during his senior season playing for head coach Scott Peach. He was also named his districts special teams MVP. It wasn't just on the field that Chris excelled. He was named an Academic All-State, a member of the honour society and a 4-yesr member of the honour roll.
Kickers won't get a lot of attention in High School, even kickers who excel in a football mad state like Texas. He wasn't ranked by 247, but he did receive a scholarship offer from Southern Baptist and preferred walk-on offers from both Sam Houston State and Toledo. However he turned down all three offers to attend his dream school of Texas. He wasn't promised or guaranteed anything at Texas outside of a tryout, but having been accepted into their engineering program, he knew it was the place he wanted to be.
Growing up Naggar had idolised Justin Tucker, the Baltimore Ravens kicker. Tucker is a native of Houston and kicked and punted for the Longhorns between 2008 and 2011. Much like Tucker, Naggar is going to have to make his name in the league after going undrafted. Justin wasn't selected in the 2012 NFL draft, however he caught on with the Ravens, beat out Billy Cundiff and the rest as they say, is history.
Believe it or not there was a little bit of hype for Chris as a walk-on in Texas. The Longhorns didn't have a set kicker and Naggar had made a name for himself in Texas with his big leg. By the time he was wrapping up his senior season in Arlington he was hitting 60+ yard field goals with ease and showcasing the odd trick shot here and there.
Naggar's time at Texas didn't quite go to plan. He redshirted his freshman season in 2016 as Trent Domingue was named the starting kicker and Michael Dickson took care of punting duties. He didn't see any action in 2017 either, despite kicker Joshua Rowland struggling to the tune of a 61.1% success rate.
2018 followed the same pattern. Cameron Dicker got the nod and made 18/25 kicks for a 72% success rate while Ryan Bujcevski took care of the punting duties.
After waiting in the wings for three years at Texas, Naggar was finally given a chance to showcase his talent in 2019, all be it due to a shoulder injury sustained by regular punter Ryan Bujcevski against TCU, a broken clavicle was the diagnosis. So while Naggar would need to wait for his opportunity to kick in college, he did have an opportunity to punt. He had 10 punts downed into the 20 yard line while averaging 39.3 yards per effort, not a bad mark for a kicker who hadn't seen competitive action since High School.
Naggar graduated and entered the transfer portal in 2020 and landed with SMU, a team in desperate need for a kicker. With Cameron Dicker being the undisputed starter in Texas, Chris knew that If he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his kicking idol Justin Tucker, he'd need to put some film out there to grab NFL teams attentions. He wasn't the only former Longhorn to switch to a Mustang. Former Texas QB Shane Buechele had also made the move.
Finally Naggar was the starting kicker of a college program. He went 17-21 for an 81% success rate in 10 games while securing 43-46 PAT attempts. He had 46 touchbacks on 69 kickoff attempts for a combined 4,314 yards. He made a name for himself in clutch situations, he hit game winning field goals against both Tulane and Memphis, high pressure situations which called for calm nerves.
Following the season he was named the AAC special teams player of the year, an All-ACC first-team player and placed on the Ray Guy watchlist for the nation's top punter. As not only did he kick for SMU but he also punted, averaging 39.3 yards per punt. So he does offer that ability and experience on both sides of special teams kicking.
Chris enters the off-season with a great opportunity to earn the starting job. Earlier today the Jets released Chase McLaughlin, meaning it's a straight shoot out with Ficken. Just like his idol Justin Tucker best out Billy Cundiff back in 2012, Naggar will be hoping to beat out Ficken in 2021.