Matt Prater is the Detroit Lions field goal kicker. The 2020 NFL Season has been eventful for him. Although statistically there are a handful of missed kicks he wishes he could have back, Prater has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice this season (Weeks 3 and 11.) Showing his resilience, Prater made 3-of-3 field goal attempts versus the Washington Football Team. He also smashed the game-winner from 59-yards in Week 11.
Additionally, he won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week versus the Arizona Cardinals for making 4-of-4 field goals attempts in Week 3. He split the yellow pipes for the game-winner from 39 yards on the road giving the Lions their first victory of the 2020 season. This made Matthew Stafford very happy.
He has played for the Detroit Lions and the Denver Broncos in his NFL Career. He set an NFL record for the longest field goal in a game which was 64 yards as a member of the Denver Broncos versus the Tennessee Titans.
Prater was an undrafted free agent for the Detroit Lions in 2006 out of the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando, FL. He then bounced around practice squads with the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, becoming the starter for the Broncos in 2008.
This episode covers his mindset and approach to kicking. He shares stories of his most memorable kick versus the Chicago Bears, and how he maintains a simple demeanor in his decade plus career where he has converted 22-of-22 game winning kicks.
You can hear the podcast with his Teammate, Jack Fox, who is leading the NFL in Gross Distance and Net Average through 11 Weeks of the 2020 NFL season as a Rookie.
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Hairston: all right this is Matt Prater I’ve uh been a fan of yours ever since I was a little kid and that’s because you had such a great plant foot you know us kicking nerds when you watch film, you’re like gosh I want to be that guy and I want to be that guy because of his plant foot and now here you are in the special teams lounge
Prater: that’s cool thanks for having me it’s nice finally talking to you
Hairston: yeah, this is cool so I’m going to go way back in the vault and we’re going to talk about Lonnie Paxton okay LP so he was on the special teams lounge and he told me once upon a time that you guys crossed paths in in Denver Broncos
Prater: right yeah, he came to Denver and uh snapped there a couple years and then ended up retiring but yeah Lonnie’s the man he’s awesome
Hairston: and now you’re mentoring and kind of coaching up Jack Fox so it’s kind of cool to see the passing on of good dudes on good dude
Prater: for sure Jack’s doing it on his own though I’ve just kind of been there to give him a little bit of guidance just through experience and he’s doing on his own he’s just he’s so talented and he’s doing a good job great mindset easy to work with awesome on game day which is a big thing yeah it’s fun working with him he’s doing a great job
Hairston: so both of you guys absolutely you guys cause property damage to footballs okay I mean seriously both you guys are probably you know in baseball terms plus power if you were as good at punting as you are kicking and Jack was as good at kicking as he is punting who do you think would win in that in that match
Prater: dude I don’t know are you talking about 36 year old me or like 25 year old me
Hairston: I’m talking about you fresh out of Orlando
Prater: fresh out of Orlando yeah now so long ago but um I don’t know I used to be able to kick it I feel like I could compete with anyone leg strength wise back then um I didn’t know where it was going all the time but I definitely swung for the fences but um I don’t know it’d be it would be fun to go out and do that but Jack has uh in camp you know I’m warming up off the sticks he’s come out and he ended up hitting one I think from 70 and I was like all right just get over here and start holding again let’s get come on but he absolutely crushes the ball get on down there jack just great stop stealing this is my show rookie
Hairston: so my uncle always says about power especially in golf that power comes from the ground up where does your power come from?
Prater: Honestly I think I think it got some guys are different I’m not like a very big guy so I’d say the leg speed um is where the power would I’d say would come from a lot quad
Hairston: I mean dude you just you pound the football and when I was when I would watch you in Denver because that’s probably in my mind’s eye where do I see Matt Prater hitting balls it was just on CBS they always had I don’t know CBS always has better cameras than Fox Sports just that’s why I visually see you in in that uniform and you know the way that you’ve always hit the ball man a pretty simple swing
Prater: yeah I try I don’t know it’s like anything else keep it simple stupid for me um the less things in the approach and follow through and everything else the less things that screw up um and I think I heard jack saying it before I swing hard at everything whether it’s a you know a 20-yard field goal or a 60-yard field but I swing close to the same um yeah when I try to finesse it which you know everyone’s different that’s just cool I think jack was talking about that too everyone has different a little bit different swings and different things the way they approach it how they attack it for me personally I have to attack the ball when I when I’m not attacking it is when I’m kind of spraying it and inconsistent
Hairston: it’s funny Bryson DeChambeau is a guy I’ve talked about on the show before I got a chance to run into him he was probably the most talked about participant at the Masters tournament this year and that’s one thing that he talked about is putting as much force into the golf ball as possible and he does it and look at what happens he’s hits the ball the farthest look at what you’re talking about same thing leg speed putting force on the ball and you’re one of one of the guys even though you’re nearing the ripe old age of 40 you’re still plus power man
Prater: I appreciate it
Hairston: not very many moving parts a repeatable swing I just bring that up because I think when people think of Matt Prater the number one thing that comes into their mind is dude you’ve hit a 64-yard field goal in a game but that doesn’t tell the full story right
Prater: yeah you know I’ve definitely evolved over the years like coming out of college I had a jab used to watch the snap I didn’t know any better my plant foot that you mentioned earlier I used to actually have problems with that so I had to really work hard at that get my plant foot out wide enough and I used to be you know I’m sure you’ve worked with plenty of guys you know that you call it pigeon toe with your plant I used to be a big pigeon toe uh plant foot uh kicking you know kicker coming out of college and I had to really work on that and get making sure it was wide enough and um I tried to have my plant foot aiming direct like dead center of the uprights if we’re playing in the dome um so yeah it’s you’re always working and trying to find things to improve on or else you know you probably I think for me if I didn’t work at it and try to fine-tune things from year to year and make improvements I probably still wouldn’t be kicking
Hairston: yeah you would you’d be out of a job but isn’t it kind of crazy is it kind of crazy to think that the swing that got you into the NFL is no longer the swing that you’re using that’s kept that’s right that’s kept you in the NFL
Prater: yeah it’s crazy I think it’s like you know other athletes as you age you gotta evolve with the game and um you know your some of your old strengths might not be your strengths anymore but you can still like for me I still attack it and you know I give it close to what I have most every kick
Hairston: is there a kick that comes to mind that is you know something that you’ll always remember
Prater: um yeah I don’t know I haven’t been playing a while I think the hardest kick I’ve ever attempted I don’t even remember how many years it was um ago now it’s three or four years ago at Chicago Bears at Soldier Field I remember we’re playing um this I think right around the two minute warning coach Caldwell’s still the coach so I had to be at least three seasons ago and um it was pretty windy cold I think it was December Connor Barth was the kicker still and we were going into the wind and going into the wind um there’s a diagonal win left to right and in my face and I remember in pregame I said my line was maybe 50 that way the other way anything because it was blowing 20 miles an hour at least it was pretty cold and so we we’re down there I think was a tied game and Matt Stafford threw a quick pass or something he gets tackled and I think he got tackled right around the 35 and I remember coach Caldwell looked back at me and I just gave him a nod as I jogged on the field and ever Sam Martin’s like where do you want to play this I said I’m planning it just outside that left upright and I’m going to kick the shit out of it that’s all I added yeah I’m basically and I don’t I don’t ever like to aim outside the uprights but that was it was that type of wind and um when I hit it I hit it about as good as I could and when it first came off my foot it went right on the line where I was playing it which usually doesn’t happen that well so their guys looked up and seen it going on outside the uprights and their guys are all celebrating waving no good and then you watch it just drift back drift back and drops about six inches right over the crossbar and went in and we ended up winning the game from that it was crazy that was the hardest if I kicked that field goal 10 more times I might make it one more time maybe and it was good by probably less than six inches you think it’s yeah maybe I don’t know not much it’s announced three years ago or so yeah three four years ago cool yeah that was a tough one I’ll never forget that one just not just thinking back on it remember I can kind of almost feel the wind as I’m you know getting the spot and Sam Martin was holding then just feeling the wind and in the moment just little deep minor details I can remember all that stuff it’s pretty was it a cold wind yeah it was cold it was probably I don’t know maybe mid 30s oh my god low 30s yeah it was cool my hands my hands are sweating right yeah no I’m not I’m I grew up in Florida
Hairston: I’m not a big cold weather guy either so it’s taken me some time to get used to that oh my gosh I’m from Dallas I’m actually from highland park I mean I can I can see highland park football field for my uh my window and that’s where matt Stafford used to hang out with him in the in the summer times right yeah so you’re not you’re not a big cold weather guy no thanks it’s like 60 degrees here in Dallas this weekend
Prater: 60 would be nice yeah
Hairston: so you had a you’ve had a pretty eventful season so far
Prater: yeah um definitely not my best year um having ups and downs and I don’t know I feel like when you know for guys I don’t care what you do what whatever profession you’re going to have ups and downs um I think just sticking with it mentally being confident going into it may be making minor adjustments but not trying to reinvent the wheel and keep attacking me and it’ll straighten itself out and I think um you know it’s kind of frustrating I’ve been hitting the ball really well in practice and in the games and I just had you know one screw up almost one screw up a week in a team setting and it happened to be in the game so it’s you know it’s been a little frustrating but then and um at the same time in big moments the end of the game where the team needs us to step up and make a kick or whatnot we’ve come through on that so that’s the positive part of it but yeah it’s been frustrating I’m definitely I’ve missed a lot more kicks than I’ve you know that I’m used to and uh I expect to make all those kicks I should have made them um it’s on me and I got to learn from it and hopefully it won’t repeat itself yeah
Hairston: you know there’s a lot of high school kids and middle school kids and then all kinds of people that are that are listening and how do I deal with a missed field goal right and here you are talk you know right in the thick of it so how are you dealing with it emotionally yeah cause you sound pissed off like you don’t like missing
Prater: No I definitely get really pissed off anytime there’s a miss because I like I said I expect to make everything I go out to attempt um yeah it’s frustrating um because there are definitely kicks I expect to make um but you just got to keep working at it and you know try to learn figure out what the reason is that you’re missing these kicks and whatnot and try to I don’t attack it head on and get it straightened out you know if you have everyone’s going to miss here and there um I think you know for the younger kickers if you know say you’re hitting the ball really well all day then maybe you pull one in the game I don’t think you need to you know plan on pulling it again I think you know what that’s the human factor I made a mistake I pulled that one I felt it or I saw the result and figure out what why you pulled it and don’t repeat it but I don’t think especially for the young guys if you know you push one pull one you don’t need to adjust everything you’re doing because of one bad kick everyone’s going to screw up once
Hairston: in no way am I trying to compare you to Tiger Woods and what happened at the Masters because I don’t think it’s you know a full comparison but this is what I want to draw tiger had a 10. he had a 10. this was the first double-digit score on a hole in his entire professional career this is the greatest golfer to ever play and what I found so interesting that was not talked about much was the dude went out and birdied every single hole after that at Augusta and it’s like you’re at the later start later part of your career you could have honestly been cut a couple of weeks ago because you didn’t get out of your own way right dude you just kicked the game winner this past week and I think three weeks ago you had the game-winning Extra Point from 48 yards on the left hash
Prater: that was insane by the way that wasn’t as the longest extra point I’ve ever attempted or even thought about trying to kick an extra point it was crazy
Hairston: it’s the cool thing about your career and again it kind of like I said earlier I’ve been watching you for a long time you know at least from the like we were talking about earlier the you know technical side man I’m learning a lot emotionally from you right now like I feel like I’m growing up with you right
Prater: it’s cool yeah um yeah but you’re right like I said before you’re always you know learning evolving and um trying to improve but yeah I don’t know I try to keep it as simple as I can
Hairston: this is Matt Prater he is the current kicker for the Detroit lions coming off a big game-winning field goal and he also had a big game winning PAT which happened to be longer than the field goal that I think you kicked no I’m wrong you had a 59 yarder yeah jeez yeah stressful games can I mean dude can you just go straight up to Stafford and be like hey man like I understand we all have a job here and look I’m happy to come out here and like you know clean up your mess but like can you can you like it’s like my wife can you be a little bit less messy out there
Prater: no he often you know it’s crazy is to set that up they kick the field goal to tie it and then when they were kicking off there was only 16 seconds left in the game so and you know uh Hopkins kicked the touch back so we get the ball to 25. Stafford goes bam I think um their rookie dean had a personal foul we’re at the 50. Stafford I think there’s six seconds left quick slant to Marvin get down call timeout and field goal so he I can’t complain about Stafford he moved the ball all the way down the field basically in 16 no 13 seconds to even set up a long field goal it’s just crazy in it it’s just one thing too with Stafford you know quarterback and it doesn’t matter how much time is left if we need someone to drive the you know the team right down to getting a touchdown or a field goal that guy comes through almost every single time it’s like we get the ball and we had a couple timeouts I start kicking the net and like dude he’s going to get it close to at least give us an opportunity to kick a field goal here wow it’s fun to watch it’s fun it’s fun it’s kind of like I’m watching and like oh he’s really going to make this happen but then at the same time I’m trying to kick in the net and make sure I don’t screw it up
Hairston: yeah because you’re like wow oh wait that’s me who’s the uh the final character of this play so to speak
Prater: for sure
Hairston: so when did you start warming up again like for that for the game winner?
Prater: basically as soon as uh they were getting ready for um the field goal I think it was a 41 yarder from the right hash um as soon as they were getting out there for it and I saw how much time was left I was like yeah you know I should get loose just in case I hit a few and then kick the touch back and I’m standing there by the dead I got it on the stand and then quick pass and move it down about 20 yards I’m like okay they only need realistically another 15 yards to have a shot so start kicking it and then uh they got it to the 50. so I’m looking like well they’re either going to throw a short pass and complete it or they’re going to send me out there for a crazy long field goal which what the hell I’ll try it you know
Hairston: were you excited?
Prater: yeah for sure I was so excited after any time after like a longer kick like that for the game um you know once it leaves your foot you can’t do anything but then when you once she peek up and you see and you know it’s going through that’s I almost black out I don’t even know what I say what I do who I hug I don’t yeah it’s fun is that what keeps you like coming back to the game ah man I don’t know I love it it’s so much fun playing and uh you know there’s nothing like me in the locker room and the relationships um the coaches players management owners just football’s done so much for my family and I and it’s just I don’t know I don’t think I’m ever going to completely leave the game at this point that’s the number one thing I’m grateful for sure it’s the friends it’s the relationships for sure that’s what the game’s really all about
Hairston: we could talk about plant foot and like you know technique and all that stuff but I think we’re unique I think even as kickers it’s like you really have the ability to become you know make special bonds
Prater: for sure and it’s almost like uh you know you going to foot week going to work I get to go play football and hang out it’s I enjoy myself it’s like an escape from reality with you know everything with the COVID stuff going on and politics and everything going on the last few months when we go into you know you go and go to football in the locker room the facility and everything else it’s like your own little happy place almost you know it’s there’s no stress and the only pressure you have is what you put on yourself and I think uh if you expect the you know to make everything and you’re confident in it usually the results come with it so I really enjoy myself going into work hanging with the guys relationships and just being a part of it it’s a lot of fun
Hairston: well you didn’t have to teach Jack Fox that that mindset I think he kind of has that
Prater: for sure that’s just who he is hey just kind of enjoys hanging out
Hairston: it’s kind of a unique situation that both you guys got paired up
Prater: yeah no it’s awesome we definitely you know get along and gel pretty good and have a good relationship for sur
Hairston: hats off to the general manager or whoever made that decision I mean at the end of the day you’ve seen players come and go and I’m sure there’s holders and you don’t have to give me their names but those probably weren’t you know the best holders or best guys and you just didn’t connect but hey there’s a connection that you’re making with this young guy
Prater: right for sure and Jack’s coming in he came out early he actually um stayed with my family and I for I don’t know a month maybe two months before season started we’re working out in my garage because we couldn’t go to the gym or do anything so I you know I bought some equipment we were working out going to the field a few times a week it was awesome I usually train on my own and do everything on my own and this year we were going out to the field working out with other college kickers punters snappers it was it was a lot of fun I plan on doing that every off season moving forward and try to get more and more guys because when you get out and I don’t care who you are you’re going out and you’re doing you know kicking field goals putting kicking off you’re always competing yeah any time I go kick I don’t care who I’m kicking with I’m trying to be the best you know I don’t need to say anything or act a certain way I just go out approach it and I’m confident and I expect to make them all and someone else does the same awesome they’re that’s great but I expect anytime I go out and compete and I’m always trying to be the best kicker on the field
Hairston: well you’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s really been fun to watch your career
Prater: I appreciate it dude
Hairston: you really have done it not only just for one team but Detroit’s your second franchise that you’ve been full active when it’s hard to and I always ask this question you know what’s the difference in getting a job and keeping one in the NFL getting a job
Prater: I think is probably the hardest just because the opportunity there’s only 32 jobs and once a team especially has a veteran in there they don’t they want to have to worry about the specialist and keeping a job I think is just being consistent it’s the best you can yeah and for kickers and punters too like those crucial moments at the end of games are you know right before half time those are big kicks those are important kicks um so coming through on you know a lot more of those than you miss and just being consistent man this is a great quote from you quote just go out and swing hard and hope it goes straight type thing I don’t need any more pressure on myself or think that it’s anything more than it is yeah right so you trust in your preparation your techniques and you know you put the work in you can go out and let loose on game day swing hard and then everything your body the muscle memory and everything just takes over
Hairston: let it rip man let it rip this is Matt Prater he’s the kicker for the Detroit lions dude thank you so much for joining the simple kicking show uh one last question are you in your pre-shot routine is that little smelling salts that you that you use
Prater: I you know honestly I started doing that so long ago when I was in Denver um and I honestly now it’s just part of my routine I always do it um I don’t know I honestly don’t know what it does for me but uh kind of just part of the routine now I got to tell you something really quick when
Hairston: I played at LSU they would put literally the when I say they the strength coaches to get us so amped up they would take a mini Powerade bottle and put probably 20 or 30 in there and then shake it up and then stick it in my face and I was like yeah it’ll make your eyes water it’ll make your eyes water
Prater: for sure
Hairston: hey man this was a lot of fun look I mean thank you having a crusty old veteran like you just like we had Thomas Morstead a couple weeks ago it’s a rare occurrence and it’s a really cool thing and I’m really grateful that you joined and man keep up keep it up and we’ll see where this uh the season goes for you guys
Prater: for sure I appreciate it was actually a lot of fun coming out here talking to you and I appreciate you having me yeah