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Thursday, August 6, 2020

Looking for Career Stability? Try Kickin’ it in Motown—Three Kickers Have Defined the Lions for Nearly 40 Years

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Three dudes. 

Four decades.

That pretty much sums up the story of kickers in Detroit since Dallas was the top-rated show on TV.

While kickers (and punters, lest we forget) enjoy the longest NFL careers of any position, the Lions have turned skill-footed vocational longevity into mad science. 

For nearly 40 years, just three kickers have been responsible for the overwhelming majority of Motor City’s field goals and PATs. First, there was Murray. Then came Hanson. And now we have Prater. Each one has been as solid as a Detroit iron—battle-tested and among the best in the game.

Let’s take a look back at some career highlights of the big-three kickers employed by the Lions since 1980. 

Eddie Murray (1980-1991)

Murray arrived in Detroit in 1980 as the 166th overall draft pick (seventh round) out of Tulane University in New Orleans. The Nova Scotia native wasted no time in his bid to leave a legacy in Motor City. 

That first season Murray lead NFC kickers in scoring with 116 points, en route to setting the Lions’ franchise field goal record with 27. Unsurprisingly, he was named to the NFL All-rookie team and selected to the Pro Bowl where he won the MVP award at the league’s all-star contest. 

A consummate workhorse, Murray stayed on with the Lions through 1991, leading the team in scoring in each of his first 10 seasons. He notched 12 consecutive field goals during the 1985 campaign—an all-time high for Detroit. 

Murray converted identical percentages of his field goals in 1988 and 1999 (95.2-percent), tying the NFL record for highest field goal accuracy in a single season. 

Murray’s career lasted until 2000 thanks to stints with the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins, and Vikings. He won a Super Bowl ring with Dallas in 1994.

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Jason Hanson (1992-2012)

For a remarkable 21 seasons, the Lions charged Hanson with splitting the uprights for field goals and extra points. And what a job he did over the course of 327 Lions games—the most any NFL player has spent with a single team. 

Hanson was plucked from Washington State as the 56th overall pick (second round) in the 1992 draft, which is a relatively high position for a kicker. 

Detroit’s bet on Hanson paid off exponentially. He was honored with back-to-back Pro Bowls in 1998 and 1999 and served as an alternate in 1997 and 2008. His 189 career field goals of 40 or greater yards is an NFL high-water mark. The 2,150 points Hanson put through the goalpost is the most any player has ever scored with the same team. 

He also notched nine career overtime game-winning field goals, which is an NFL record he shares with Jason Elam, Jim Breech, and Steve Christie. 

Matt Prater (2014-current)

We can’t exclude Detroit’s current ace kicker from our list. Prater has performed admirably since coming to the Lions in 2014 following a seven-year run with the Broncos.

A master of the long kick, he set an NFL record for the longest field goal in 2013 with a booming 64-yarder while in Denver. 

Prater’s lengthy lethality has continued in Detroit where he is responsible for another league-wide distance kicking record: most consecutive field goals over 50 years (14) and over 55 yards (7). Both achievements covered the 2016 and 2017 seasons. 

Like Murray and Hanson, Prater has earned two Pro Bowl trips during his career, having made appearances in the 2013 and 2016 games. 

Maybe Prater is even capable of cursing opposing kickers. Who can forget the Week 5 debacle last season when Mason Crosby of the Packers botched five kicks (four field goals and an extra point) against Detroit? Was it Crosby’s mishaps, or perhaps was it a Prater hex that allowed the Lions to sneak away with the 31-23 win?

As if that weren’t enough, Prater turned on a fake field goal attempt and fired a surprise touchdown pass to Levine Toilolo in Detroit’s 31-0 routing over Green Bay in Week 17.

We’ve been fortunate to see three of the game’s greatest kickers suit up in a Lions uniform. The powerful feet of Murray and Hanson have given us some unforgettable memories. Prater continues to deliver the magic at Ford Field and away games. Who’s your favorite kicker in Detroit history?


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