Our weekly Q & A is with New York Jets kicker Nick Folk, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. He leads the NFL in field-goal percentage (96.6), having made 28 of 29 attempts. His only miss was a 48-yarder in heavy wind.
This has been a remarkable season for you. What's it like being almost perfect?
NF: I feel like last year I had a pretty good year, too (21-for-27). If you look at the stats, the three blocks didn't help. I felt like I was hitting the ball really well last year, too, so I tried to carry that over into the offsesaon and keep progressing with my consistency. I had a pretty good training camp. I tried to build a good rapport with Rob [Malone, the former holder], and now with Ryan [Quigley]. I've been with Tanner [Purdum, the long snapper] for four years, so I have a good feel for what Tanner's got. I'm just trying to keep it going. I'm not worried about any of the past stuff. I say it all the time: The most important kick is the next one.
You made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. How much would it mean to go to Hawaii this season as a member of the Jets?
NF: It would probably mean a lot more to my wife than me (laughs). It's always good, but the only real stat I pay attention to is our won-lost record at the end of the year. I'd much rather hold a Lombardi trophy at the end of the year than be in Hawaii, that's for sure. It obviously would be nice, but right now the only focus I have is on Carolina, going down there and getting a win.
Who has been the most influential person in your career?
NF: Probably my kicking coach, Chris Sailer. We actually went to the same high school (Notre Dame, in Sherman Oaks, Calf.) He got me started with it, way back in the day. He got me my scholarship to Arizona. Without that, I probably would've been playing soccer in college. I had more soccer scholarship offers than football scholarships coming out of high school. Every offseason, I try to go back and get a day or two with Chris to get back on track. I try to start my kicking offseason program with him for a day or two, and go from there.
Where would you be now if you had accepted a soccer scholarship? How good were you?
NF: Oh, man, my brother [Gregory] was a lot better than I was. He played with the Under-14 to Under-21 national team, all the way through, about seven years. He went to UCLA and went to the national championship. He was a lot better than I was. He's now working at Merrill Lynch. I don't know where I'd be right now if I went and played soccer. But I did have a few schools interested in me -- American, Portland State, San Diego State, Cal-Northridge. A lot of schools wanted me to walk-on, like UCLA, for football and/or soccer. At this point, I kind of think I made the right choice.
How do you think the United States will do in the World Cup?
NF: Tough draw. I'm actually a German citizen as well, so once the U.S. is out, I'm rooting for Germany. I hope we get a good result against them. That'll be a tough game, obviously. They're the No. 2 team in the world right now, so they're a good squad. I think Ghana will be a tough game, but I think we can win that one. If we squeeze out a result against Portugal, if we get a win, I think we'll be all right. I'm rooting for them. I'd love to go down to Brazil, but I've got the kids.
You ever attend a World Cup?
NF: I was at the World Cup final in '94, Brazil-Italy in the Rose Bowl. I watched Robert Baggio put it over the net in a PK (penalty kick). First World Cup ever to end in PKs, and I was there. Pretty cool.