A FG-Kicking Robot Has Determined What It Would Take For An NFL Kicker To Make A Record 80-Yard Field Goal
The NFL record for the longest field goal kicked in a game is a 64-yarder that was kicked by Matt Prater on December 8, 2013, in Denver. Prior to that, Tom Dempsey kicked a 63-yarder in 1970 and that distance was matched by four kickers (1998, 2011, 2012, and 2018).
NFL kickers are capable of kicking it A LOT further than 64-yards and the elite kickers do this in practice with regularity. When the conditions are perfect with a tailwind and a perfectly broken-in ball, an NFL FG kicker can launch it in practice with some guys pushing the distance all the way back to 80-yards.
To determine the limits of NFL kickers, a PhD biomechanist and biomedical engineer from Florida State created a robot to test what the human limits are. Chase Pfeifer was a placekicker for the ‘Noles as an undergraduate, and he went on to create a robot named Herbie Junior after the University of Nebraska’s mascot.
With Herbie’s chain-powered lawnmower engine he was able to create a data set under perfect conditions and then cross-reference that data set against actual player data including things like foot speed, foot placement, and coordination to see how these factors all affected a kick.
What he found is an 80-yarder IS POSSIBLE for elite NFL kickers, and a 90-yarder isn’t out of the realm of possibility given what we know about athletes:
According to Pfeifer’s observations, when an elite placekicker’s foot makes contact with the ball, it’s usually traveling between 42 and 49 miles per hour (that’s between 19 and 22 meters per second), and can deliver more than 3,000 newtons of force to the ball. To achieve maximum distance, a kicker needs to launch the ball at 43 degrees. And to do that, their foot needs to make contact a quarter of the way up the football, which, on a standard NFL ball, is about 2.5 inches off the ground.
Based on his data, Pfeifer says that a record-breaking 70-yard field goal kicked at sea level, with no wind, would require a foot speed of around 49 miles per hour delivered right to the ball’s sweet spot, while an 80-yarder would take a foot speed of about 56 mph. And while the latter is outside the range typical of elite kickers, it’s well within the realm of human ability: The foot speeds of elite soccer players have been clocked at more than 60 miles per hour (27 m/s), which, in theory, is good enough for a field goal from 90 yards. (via WIRED)
What’s funny to me is that excerpt above comes from an article on WIRED titled ‘Why The NFL’s Field Goal Record Is Waiting To Be Smashed‘ which they then released an accompanying video titled ‘Why It’s Almost Impossible to Kick a 90 Yard Field Goal’.
Sure, you can kick a record field goal of 65-yards without it being anywhere near 90-ards but to title those two pieces of the same work with completely opposite messages seemed odd to me.
Here’s that clip from WIRED which explains why a 90-yard field goal is virtually impossible for an NFL kicker. This is a great clip to throw on in the background and listen to while you’re working:
The main takeaway here is a field goal longer than 64-yards is coming. Elite NFL kickers make these in practice on the regular. All it takes is for the weather conditions to align with the needs of a game and we’ll see that record fall.
It’s kind of astonishing that it took 30 years for the record to be broken by only 1-yard when these kickers are capable of so much more. To read that full article on WIRED, you can click here.