Rookie Detroit Lions kicker Havard Rugland, known to his legions of YouTube fans as “Kickalicious,” is already off to a great start in the NFL.
Rugland, a 28-year-old kicker from Norway, converted both of his field goal attempts on Friday in the Lions’ 26-17 preseason victory over the New York Jets. He’s likely a long shot to make the team's 53-man roster, but “Kickalicious” seems thrilled to be receiving an opportunity.
“It felt great,” Rugland said after his impressive debut, according to the Lions’ team website. “Especially to see that first one go in the uprights. I have great teammates and it’s just a big relief to see it go in. It’s always nice to have a good start.”
Rugland’s enthusiasm is apparent. In fact, he was so excited to connect on his first professional field goal attempt that he nearly forgot to take the field for the ensuing kickoff. “I almost forgot my kickoff,” said Rugland, who will challenge 38-year-old David Akers for the team's starting job. “I was so happy. David said, “Hey, you’ve got to kick off.’”
“Kickalicious” received national attention after a YouTube video featuring his kicking exploits went viral. In the video, Rugland performed a series of difficult “trick-shots,” and converted 60-yard field goals with ease. His YouTube performance was so impressive that it drew the attention of several NFL teams, including the Jets and Lions. Ultimately, the Lions offered Rugland a chance to compete against Akers for the team’s starting kicker position.
Despite Rugland’s strong debut, it appears unlikely that he will be able to beat out Akers for the team’s kicker spot. Akers, a former member of the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, converted two field goals of his own on Friday and has 16 years of NFL experience. While impressed by Rugland’s skills, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has urged caution regarding his progress.
“He’s done an impressive job, but I don’t want to get out ahead of ourselves,” Mayhew said in July. “He’s never played in a National Football League game. He hasn’t played a preseason game. I’d like to see him do that before we start making a judgment on him.”
Still, Kickalicious’ teammates seemed to be impressed by his debut performance. “I think we’re all happy to have him as a teammate,” Lions quarterback Matt Stafford said after the game. “The guy is a great guy. It’s refreshing to see how much fun he’s having. The guy’s having a blast here, and he’s kicking the ball great.”