One can often find kickers on their own during a football practice, entranced in a rigorous routine of placing a football perpendicular to the ground on a holder, before then positioning themselves in an athletic stance and approaching the football with a calculated number of steps — keeping their hips and shoulders in line. They then deliver a soccer-style kick to the football, aiming four inches above the bottom tip of the ball and continuing the kicking motion well after the pigskin has left their foot.
The kicker is one of the most important positions in football, and Sam Tuckerman ’20 is no exception. While the Bulldogs currently sit at a 4–1 record, it very easily could have been 3–2 had it not been for two key kicks from Tuckerman last week, one being an onside kick with less than two minutes remaining and the second being an extra point to seal one of the most improbable Yale victories in recent memory. It was a display of superlative kicking that was anything but atypical for the senior. Rather, it was an exemplification of the remarkable season Tuckerman has been enjoying — a season that has him currently leading all other Ancient Eight kickers in makes.
What has made this season even more noteworthy and admirable is the fact that it marks the first time in Tuckerman’s collegiate career that he has been tasked with the role as starting kicker — all three of his previous seasons for the Elis were as a backup. Astonishingly, the last time Tuckerman had even attempted a competitive field goal before this season was as a high school student in 2015.
“In regards to the PAT to seal the game, I remember jogging on the field and just thinking about how every single person on our roster, regardless of whether or not they made the trip to Richmond, had a major role in helping aid that comeback,” Tuckerman said. “All these guys sacrifice their bodies every day in order to help the team succeed. Playmakers like [Reed Klubnik ’20, JP Shohfi ’20 and Kurt Rawlings ’20] carried our offense through those final minutes, but behind the scenes, that comeback doesn’t happen without great protection from our offensive line, an elite stop by our defense, a full week of preparation from our scout team and a perfect snap, hold and protection on the extra points. At the end of the day, I didn’t want to let any of these guys down.”
Tuckerman came to Yale as an elite kicking prospect out of high school, which further demonstrates his commitment to Yale’s success when he did not receive the starting role right away. He attended Columbus Academy in Ohio, making a name for himself in three sports. Tuckerman gathered nine varsity letters: three each from soccer, football and basketball. Yet, it was clear that football was his true calling. Tuckerman was tabbed as a 4.5 star recruit and the 28th best kicker in the nation by Kohl’s Kicking. Accolades also poured in from his conference play, as he was an all-state and all-metro selection his senior year.
Tuckerman’s recent success comes mainly from his own patience and perseverance throughout his career. He served as a backup placekicker his first year and graduated to a larger kickoff role in the following season, performing that duty in eight games. The Ohio native was rewarded for his hard work and dedication to the squad, seeing his first college place-kicking action against Cornell last year. However, the waiting only fueled Tuckerman’s fire for success, and he has come out with a vengeance this year.
“Sam has been absolutely huge for us so far this year, especially given how much uncertainty we had regarding our special team units coming into the season,” offensive lineman Sterling Strother ’20 said. “It goes without saying that he’s been automatic kicking the ball, but his impact has spanned far wider than that. He’s been such a positive influence on [the] younger kickers … Sam’s just a source of energy for our whole team and I can’t picture our team’s infrastructure being the same without him.”
This season, Tuckerman leads the Ivy League currently in both attempts and makes, splitting the uprights on six of his seven kicks this year. He averages nearly a field goal per game, and his 42-yard blast against Dartmouth ranks him in the top five for distance in the Ancient Eight.
Tuckerman’s excellence has been a huge boost for the Team 147 and is well-deserved for one of the most dedicated members of the Eli squad. To put into perspective the marvelous performance he has put on these last five weeks, one must realize that these weeks marked the first time Tuckerman had even attempted in-game field goals in four years.
“Sam has been a pivotal guy for the team,” Shohfi said. “He has already had several key kicks this season that have changed the game for us. He’s worked really hard to be where he is at, so it is great to see him having a lot of success in the kicking game. He represents Yale football incredibly well in the way he works and cares about his teammates. He’ll continue to be a leader for us, and there’s never a doubt in my mind that when his name is called, he’ll get the job done.”
Tuckerman will next take the field this Saturday at 1 p.m. against Penn.
Jared Fel | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eamonn Smith | email@example.com