Nick Folk is an NFL Kicker who had a breakout season for the New England Patriots in 2020. A 13 year NFL veteran, Folk was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys during the sixth round of the 2007 NFL Draft from the University of Arizona.
Folk’s NFL career has made stops in the National Football Conference (NFC) and American Football Conference (AFC) with 4 franchises: the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Jets, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the New England Patriots. Statistically 2020 was his best season, as he converted 92.9% of his kicks with 3.9º precision according to the Simple Kicking App. Folk does not take the credit, instead he points to the excellent field goal operation made up of Long Snapper Joe Cardona, who played college football at the Naval Academy, and Jake Bailey, a Stanford graduate, who nearly broke the NFL net punting average.
Folk started kicking in high school at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California where he met Chris Sailer, who is now his kicking Coach.
Chris Sailer runs Chris Sailer kicking which hosts kicking camps nationwide. He and Chris Rubio (Rubio Long Snapping) joined the Podcast in the summer of 2020. Listen to that Episode here:
Folk was a soccer player who gave up soccer to pursue kicking full-time after accepting a full-scholarship to the University of Arizona. He was recruited by Coach Joe Robinson, who is currently the UTEP Special Teams Coordinator.
Folk did not have childhood aspirations to play in the NFL, and this episode covers topics of how he made it into the NFL and how he sustained a long career despite multiple injuries, and roster cuts. Folk was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice in 2020 for his game winning field goals vs. the New York Jets and the Arizona Cardinals.
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Hairston: Nick Folk you are legitimately in the living room of Simple Kicking
Folk: Just hanging out having a good time
Hairston: Does it feel like you’re at home you know what back in Dallas?
Folk: it feels like home anytime I can get back here uh this past year I was up in new England all by myself live in a hotel wife and kids sit here my kids are in school we didn’t want to bring them out and kind of in the whole coveted fight try to find a school get them all ready to go and they’ve got their good group of friends they’re sports their school’s great my in-laws were here so they had like a good base so we just kind of said you guys stay there I’ll be the lone ranger and um so it was good to get back um you know in January and get back and see them and stuff so it’s been fun
Hairston: it’s good to have you back brother
Folk: it’s good to be here
Hairston: all right so let’s go ahead and just get right into it you go to Notre dame high school and that’s in Sherman oaks it’s a suburb of Los Angeles
Folk: so long story short I mean I’m not very good at that but I’ll try long story long yeah oh I went to a private catholic K-8 um we had 33 35 kids in my graduating class in eighth grade um two people were both girls went to no we’re going Notre dame because their older siblings went there um a good buddy of mine who I grew up playing soccer with he actually lives here in Dallas he’s played professional baseball um coach for the rangers now Brett Hayes he was going Notre dame but he’s going from a different school and he was going to go play football and a kid who was ahead of me went to Notre dame um the year before I did and he’d like I’m just going to kick okay cool so I said all right I’ll go kick and I did it to like meet people like you know you get there as a freshman you don’t know anyone you know all right this would be kind of like my learning experience you go to hell week or whatever they call it and you learn meets people before school starts and they ask me and I had grown in middle school like I was probably six foot by the time I was in high school so I’ve already grown height wise they’re like all right position you want to play I said kicker you’re like what okay just kick her and cause soccer was like my thing like soccer is like what I wanted to do and uh I still love soccer this day um and they’re like okay but we had a rich tradition in Notre dame of kickers starting with Chris sailer my kicking coach he was there I graduated 94 all-American went to uncle had a great career there and then played a little bit of reno ball and so at Notre dame just kicked my freshman year played soccer didn’t think anything of it I get a call from our head coach Kevin Rooney he said hey um this was in between my freshman and sophomore year here I want you to come train with um a guy who went to school here Chris Sailer and so it was a going to be a senior a going to be junior the guy who went from saint Bernadine’s to Notre dame and then myself and Chris gave probably his very first lesson then to the three of us he brought out you remember you know you know Chris of course every kick is a straight kick right he brought out a hundred foot rope and like pulled it all over the field like see it’s a straight kick it’s a straight kick so I remember that to this day um and we kicked it was not really a competition was just kind of a learning experience and then from then the coach like I want you to be on varsity uh so I went through hell week as a sophomore on varsity and my coach is a great coach he’s like but we’re going to give the starting on to the senior first and then if he kind of stumbles we’ll give it to the junior and then you but you’d be ready I’m like okay so I played the first game on varsity and I just sat on the sidelines I’m like man I don’t want to do this I just want to play I had no aspiration of kicking then at all and so I said hey can I go play with my buddies on jv like let me just play yeah sure so played we all got pulled up to varsity in the playoffs and had a good run and it was probably so that’s 99 1989 is when I met Chris um probably the spring of 2000 Chris started doing small little camps just he boots on the ground randa or wrote letters to all the high schools called the high schools hey Chris saylor I kicked Notre dame and then he started his business that way and then we started just at Notre dame and it was I have one of the original shirts still like not the Chris Sailer kicking thing it’s just a little weird football thing um cotton shirt not the dry fit stuff um and it was fun and then he helped me kind of progress as a kicker i’d go to you know camps regularly and then my senior year helped me get my scholarship to Arizona and then I had a decision to make and um you know I went on my visit to Arizona and I looked at my mom I had soccer scholarships as well and I said mom I’m playing football and to this day I can honestly tell you I don’t know why I chose it I just kind of did so that’s kind of my high school story like I said not super short
Hairston: no but it doesn’t sound like college football was the dream it doesn’t sound like NFL football was the dream?
Folk: it wasn’t at the time I mean soccer was what I did I mean I you get a kid now who commits to a school as a football player in December or whatever signs the letter of intent I signed my letter of intent I still played high school soccer club soccer until my national team duties were or our national cup duties were done and so I didn’t want to leave my team kind of high and dry we actually came out here at Dallas cup I already committed Arizona we won Dallas cup out here so I still kept playing I enjoyed soccer I loved to play it and to the today if that were to happen if I kick her or a blind bag whoever I’m going to go play basketball coach but no you’ve signed your letter of intent you’re not doing anything you’re just going to train for football and you know they don’t want you to get injured but back then I had no idea and then I walk onto campus and um kind of after my soccer career ended I took kicking a little bit more seriously because I went from when I was in high school they just had the big t’s the you know the two inch field goal tee or the ground so I was going from that to the ground where now most kickers don’t even use that anymore they just use that little one-inch tee and go straight to the ground so that summer I had to work real hard to kind of get ready for training camp in Tucson um and I got there and it was a little kind of a shock to the system like okay football only football only so I red-shirted Arizona um and then my redshirt freshman year I kicked off and then at the end of that season’s kicked a couple field goals and then I picked my sophomore junior scene
Hairston: so, joe rob was your special teams coach
Hairston: well, that’s what you and I both have in common yeah, he I never got to play for him, but he did uh he did recruit me at LSU okay and then bounced um so did you did you have fun kicking in high school did you have fun playing soccer or was it more stressful like that whole experience of going from because it doesn’t sound like it was too stressful
Folk: no I had a great time I had a great time uh I kicked the game winner one game in high school and it was just fun like I didn’t think anything of it I didn’t to this day I can look back on it and like I was just kind of excited to be out there excited to be part of the team and I tried to really do that with the guys starting in high school and high school was a little bit different because I was going to soccer practice so we would do all of our special teams at the beginning because coach Rooney knew that only way that a lot of the good kickers were going to continue to kick for him were if they go play soccer club soccer so he would do we call the early outs from 2 30 to 3 we would kick punt kick field goals or kick off and kick field goals and punt and then we would stretch as a team at three o’clock we’ll call that three to three ten and like 310 to 325 was special teams period right after stretch whatever they were of the day we would do that and then I would leave I would literally walk off the field go get him take a shower we’ll get in my car go home do homework and then go to soccer practice from 6 to 8. and a lot of my classmates knew that I was doing that they’re like all right you’re going to play soccer so I would train with them I would lift with them run with them not I didn’t get super into lifting until college I didn’t want to bulk up too much for soccer um but I had a great time I had a great time playing soccer um it was just fun and I think that’s where a lot of young kids they get stressed out they forget that you’re playing a game like that’s one thing rex Ryan told me when I was playing for the New York Jets um you know he told not just me but the whole team remember guys you’re playing a child’s game like you are that’s what we’re doing we’re playing a game it’s a kid’s game yeah it’s really complicated and you got to know a lot of stuff but in a day it’s a game and you can tell I would venture to say most of the time the teams that are prepared the best and the players that are prepared the best have the most fun because they know they’re prepared and ready to go same thing for me if I’m kicking and I’m doing the things I need to prepare I can go out there on Sundays and have a good time and if I’m smiling and having fun I know I’m going to be kicking well when I’m like oh god I didn’t have a great week of preparation I didn’t do this I didn’t do that then like certain things just go in your mind and then you’re not ready to go so one of my kind of goals all the time is like make sure we’re having fun on the field practice games in the locker room in the white room in the meeting room have a good time learn and do the right things but have fun doing it
Hairston: so, this is nick folk he’s the current uh kicker at the new England patriots he played at the university of Arizona has his jersey littered across the NFL the Dallas cowboys the New York New York Jets Tampa Bay Buccaneers and like I said most recently the new England patriots I’m talking about fun do you work for the NFL or do you play in the NFL
Folk: that’s a tricky question um I think a little bit of both um because a lot of a lot of the times if players don’t do the right things off the field that hurts the NFL brand and then that in turn hurts us as players so you work for them a little bit but then for the most part you play in the NFL yeah you are it’s an it’s a rough business uh you’re a commodity you’re as soon as you’re not wanted you’re kicked to the curb and next man up so um I’ve been part of that a few times where just hey we you know you’re not performing at the level you need to perform at whether that’s for injury or whatever and we’re going to go different direction so um it’s frustrating but if you look at if you take a step out of your own shoes and you look at the big picture they have teams to run they have championships to win and their job is on the lineup they don’t do that so um it’s a little bit of both I would say I mean you’re they call it protecting the shield and so you have to help do that because if you do that your bottom line goes up as well as the NFL’s bottom line so it’s a little bit of both but i’d say majority we play in the NFL not necessarily work for it but you got to do a little bit of both
Hairston: yeah, and like you were talking about do you still enjoy it even though and let me preface this Nick you were drafted in the 2007 NFL draft out of Arizona sixth round picked by the cowboys you spend three years three years here in Dallas cowboys you get a hip injury and it didn’t seem like you were really ready to come back so just like you said whether it’s performance or injury next man up they’ve got to run a business
Folk: yep um and so a little bit of extra there is after my like end of my second year hip started bothering me we thought you know it was a hip flexor strain so that beginning of that offseason I just took time off and it got better to a degree and then finally it stopped getting better it just kind of stayed the same and so um I got my second opinion but by the time I got my second opinion the cowboys had drafted David buehler so I’m thinking okay I gotta like go compete with this guy and try to you know keep my job even though I just had two really good years so I had surgery may 5th um torn labrum my right hip surgery may 5th and that was 12 weeks to the day that we started training camp my goal was I’m going to be back and at the time if you pushed it you could get back there was nothing structurally wrong with your hip you couldn’t hurt your hip anymore um but I just wasn’t strong enough to keep competing I just couldn’t do it uh at that by the end of that year kicking a 40-yard field goal felt like I had to bang it 60 yards so I just couldn’t I didn’t have the strength left in the leg to do it I didn’t get it I had I didn’t kick from the end of the season which we’ll call it January 1 until probably a week or two before training camp that’s when I started kicking footballs I was kicking soccer balls and volleyballs to try to get that up but I didn’t have kicking legs right and I could tell you I kicked yesterday for the first time this soft season and my legs a little bit sore right so I’m kind of building back in and I take my time to ramp that up over a course of time and that sees off season I did it in two weeks and I just was full go and if I could go back and change it yeah I would have had surgery early I would have got my second opinion earlier and I would have if I had surgery that when I did I would have said hey look we got to take our time building up and you know get ready for the start of the season not getting ready for day one of training camp training camp is two weeks and you have four preseason games so you’re about six weeks out of the regular season I should have ramped up slowly and probably played in the last two preseason games instead of trying to get ready and playing in the first one to compete against David and um so I mean it was a little bit of a circumstance thing but um you know it everything works out for a reason and went up to new York and you know had a good time there and then kind of bounced around a little bit but it’s been it’s been fun so bouncing around a little bit is a an easy way to say you went through some really crappy times
Hairston: I mean you went from being drafted that’s a high point yep coming to the Dallas cowboys I mean you were that year was the first year of Dallas cowboys AT&T stadium right or did you play one year at Texas stadium?
Folk: I played two at Texas, so my third year was the first one in I have the first points in that stadium in call in the new stadium and I had the first points in MetLife stadium
Hairston: that’s incredible so it’s pretty cool wait okay I don’t think you that’s going to go on an Instagram post okay that’s cool so you’re the last you have the first points at jerry world any of the first points at MetLife yeah both those fields combined are a four or five billion dollars I mean two of the best stadiums you know in the in the 2010 decade yeah okay but how did you go through that adversity being unemployed
Folk: um so when I when I got released from Dallas you know that was the first time i’d ever been released um so a little bit of a shock there um and then I kind of just put my head down um after you know I took well take that back after I got released I went and had a workout with the falcons um I think matt Bryant at the time had injury concussion something like that um and so I had a workout with Stephen Hauschka um he was I forget where he was coming from and I didn’t kick well in the workout and I was supposed to go from that workout directly to the New York Giants and work with a giant and so um kicked very poorly in Atlanta I mean it was really bad and I called my age and said look I cannot go to new York I can’t I’m not going to put that foot forward I mean this was week 16 17. so I said if let’s just hold off and I don’t think the New York Giants were making a playoff run or if they were they were going to stick with tines and kind of go that way so um I put my head down um started almost from scratch I started working at exos up north in Frisco um worked out there pretty hard and then I was able to get on an SMU MUSTANGS and kick at SMU Mustangs and I just kind of retooled everything I calmed it down I built up the strength the proper way instead of trying to get going super-fast and um so for about uh let’s see yes I went to New York Jets in the middle of February so yeah about six weeks I pushed it pretty good but at a good pace my own pace no one was pushing me up and when I was ready I called my agent and said hey we’re ready to go and he goes okay so he scheduled back to back workouts with the New York Giants and the New York Jets um and the New York Jets were just coming off their first afc championship game uh when they played Indianapolis and I kicked pretty well at the New York New York Giants and they were like they knew I had to work out the New York New York Jets because I just fly to new York go to one drive to the next um and they said let us know how that goes and we’ll be in touch and it’s okay had a great workout with the New York Jets uh go do my physical and everything fine and they didn’t want me to leave they were like you’re not going to leave until you sign this contract and I said let me talk about it with my family I’ll get back to you and this was uh probably on a Friday let me get back to you by Monday you know and they said okay so I ended up signing with the New York Jets and um it was just hard work just determination put my head down grinding not worrying about the past you can’t change it just learn from it um take the positive things that you can learn from the negative things and move on and that was what I did then um in new York I had a couple injuries uh didn’t get released for him I put an ir one time with a uh pulled quad um but same thing and that’s just kind of been my mentality is all right you’re going to get through this you’re going to grind you’re going to be all right um and then in Tampa Bay Buccaneers same deal had a knee injury there after four games I wasn’t kicking super-hot anyway and a lot of that was like to go up and down my stairs was it was a pain with my knee so I got that taken care of put an ir and from when I got put in ir until the end of that season which was I guess it was like you know beginning October so for two and a half three months I just I went did rehab on money I lifted I wasn’t kicking I took the time off to get this right and then once I came back here after that season I was able to start kicking and started building back up and I had had a rough go of it but I knew I was going to be all right so 2018 I sat out the whole year um we had all four of our kids so we were here we’re just kind of getting settled here at st Rita um finding schools for our kids and stuff like that and I just started grinding and at that time I was actually getting my MBA through Indiana university so I had a little bit of stuff to take my mind off things so that was a goal of mine was to do that and we did that um the aaf came around um in 2019 right before then I had to work out with Chicago Bears so I kind of got a little bit back on the workout circuit I did nothing in 18 and my thought at that time I was uh 11-year vet so my thought was a team that is going to sign me is going to be a team making a playoff run wanting a veteran kicker that was where my head was at um 2018 a lot of the changes that happened in 18 were young teams not necessarily in playoff mode so I didn’t really I would love to have gotten workouts I just didn’t happen um I worked out with Chicago Bears after the whole cody parky double doink uh I feel bad for cody um great guy um I worked out with the group there and then I went straight from there to the aaf played in that for uh what the eight weeks and my goal wasn’t my goal was simply to showcase that I could kick and I was healthy um I think my first field goal there was in phoenix I was playing with the Arizona hot shots and first field goal was 53 yards so I’m like all right I think I’m back a little bit nothing really came of that and then uh new England called steve uh Gostkowski was hurt hurt his hip he had the same injury that I did but on his left hip uh they signed mike Nugent um my agent got on the phone with him and like hey what about giving nick a call a chance and then they um had another workout I went in there worked out well and you they were a little bit surprised at how well I worked out and I talked to them that we’re not going to make a move now but if we are we’ll give you a call um two weeks later uh my agent gets a call from Jacksonville jaguars cause um oh what’s his name lambo josh lambo was a little banged up and they were going to London so they’re like you need to give a passport like I got a password I’m ready to go and so they’re like uh we’re going to see how he is and but you may be flying directly to Jacksonville jaguars and getting up and I’m like all right cool and the new England patriots found out about it and then I got time with the patriots and I just said hey we’re going to have a good time because you never know how much longer it’s going to last so um enjoyed my time up there um and then they brought me back this year and it’s been an interesting ride but I wouldn’t change anything I mean it just makes you the person you are and I’ve enjoyed every second of it what makes this this ride with new England interesting I mean is it because you just relied on a process of just working hard and making it through adversity
Hariston: what stands out to you about new England that’s so interesting
Folk: new England you have like the lure of new England like they’re you know people talking about the patriot way you know all that um so it was fun to get up there fun to interact with the coaches interact with the guys on the team who have been around you know winning ways um and they have a program that works uh bill belichick runs an awesome program um he has a huge emphasis on special teams he was a special teams coordinator when he first got in the NFL so he understands the importance of it he understands that we can win or lose games or affect the way games are played within the special teams group whatever that is from field goals all the way to punt returns everything so it was fun to play for a coach like that and who took it seriously and it wasn’t um you know I played for coaches who were okay we got a long field goal here in the first half or first quarter go kick it well you know his mentalities let’s play defense let’s not give them a short field right away let’s play a little bit so um it was just it’s been interesting to learn I’ve learned a lot up there um just being in those meetings and understanding the game of football um as a kicker it’s fun for me I mean I may not need to understand offense and defense but I get to learn a little bit about it in case my kids ever want to play or something so um it’s been fun to be up there and kicking in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and learn and it’s a in my opinion one of the top three toughest stadiums to kick in in the NFL and they got that open end over there where it’s just a you never know what you’re going to get there um so if you can kick well there you can almost kick well just about anywhere and um you know I have a great operation with joe cardona the Snapper and jake bailey the Punter there they take their job super serious so it’s been fun to be around those guys and uh and just kind of get the love of football back so it’s been a great time up there
Hairston: so I just pulled up your chart oh here we go all right I can tell you kind of where all these are what games too I mean dude you had 3.9 degrees of precision so this season that ranks in the top 10 in the NFL and what that precision means is your the angle of your kick clusters tightly down the center of the goal post yep you got better and here’s the thing you had two misses to start early on in the season you’re 36 years old and you get better as the year goes on in a tough stadium what happened what is what does this really show
Folk: um number one uh it was a unique year with covid we didn’t have any preseason games uh at the up in new England we tried to do a mock preseason game so we could kind of get the feel for it etc. there’s nothing like being out there against other guys and competing against those guys um and then number two we had no fans so a lot of times if it’s a screaming stadium you just hear the white noise you don’t it might be loud but you can think and you’re not distracted by anything you know if you’re a Miami dolphin and it’s super quiet and then you hear a bird you hear that same thing in an empty stadium and you could hear the other team just talking trash and you could hear guys on the sidelines talking trash because it’s so quiet in there so the first two kicks um you know you’re the first one I mean I was kind of wow this is unique it’s strange and you don’t have any practice reps you’re nothing ready to go off of so um and the second one was in Seattle Seahawks same scenario um and then after that I just said all right nick you just got to calm down smooth it out and I calmed down I got in a little rhythm there and a lot of a lot of it goes to jake and joe because they like I said they take their job seriously in their position seriously and so um Jake Bailey especially being a young guy he’s like look whatever you need I’ll I got you so it’s been good and a lot of fun to work with him um I’m a little unique in my holding patterns I guess I use a few different leans depending on the wind so um you know and then I’ve helped him with some holding drills to make sure that we’re already on the same page so um but as the season went on I just a confidence thing um I had a little back thing flare up this year which was um unfortunate but was able to kick through that and we kind of managed that well and you know it was just a good year to end you know good way to end the season making a bunch in a row so um hopefully we can keep it going
Hairston: well, that back thing he’s being humble y’all he kicked a game winner that that day and it was fun to watch that that post-game press conference but yeah, the ball sounded you could hear it through the tv I know you said it’s quiet there well oh yeah and that it was because you could really hear the thud of the ball and that’s what I noticed towards the end I mean the thud was really there
Folk: yeah I was I was making good contact yeah that’s I think the one of the biggest things if you’re trying to get yourself out of a funk or anything just worry about making good contact and hitting a clean ball and I was able to do that a lot you know the back half of the year back a little bit of the year so that was a big thing especially in crummy weather the crummy weather if you’re not hitting a good flighting ball and it’s going to get eaten up especially in new England buffalo Bills so the clean ball making sure that for me I’m doing all the little things right and I’m not worrying about my swing or anything like that I’m worrying about the little things if I can do those right I know my swing will be right on plane right where I want it to be so um I was just able to kind of focus on those little things and then you know hit him where I wanted to hit him which was a big thing and um a lot of times in new England you’re not aiming on the middle of the post you got to pick a different target line you got to pick sometimes an upright depending where we’re at depending on the weather um and the one thing I’ve learned is I’ll never give up and upright anymore I kicked the way it my first game in new England when I was with the New York Jets yeah we played up there on a Monday night football on ESPN they beat us 45 to 3 they killed us uh we had a 50 53 yarder pregame going one way there’s a hard win coming from the open and into like across the field like corner to corner and I picked the line pre-game I hit a 53-yarder made it all right cool right hey it was the right hatch kick uh first quarter of the game same thing same kick same spot I picked the same line and I nutted it right through and I missed I’m like I’m never giving up the uprights again I’m never going to do it so I just haven’t uh that’s kind of one of my things that I want I mean there’ll be times I probably need to like you know we get really windy days in England on the practice field there’s nothing blocking it and you have to but I don’t like doing it it’s one of my one of my things I’m just not a big giving up upright guy but you know there are days you probably have to so
Hairston: well this has been fun man uh great what a cool podcast and I really appreciate you coming by you know your story strikes me again this is nick folk he’s uh most recently played for the new England patriots and as we were talking was 92.9 percent with 3.9 degrees of precision for all you kicking nerds out there this dude if you want to write him a letter you can write him a letter any zip code it’s just here is the address right down the goal post he’ll get the letter because that’s where his kicks are but yeah man you’ve just you’ve faced adversity time and time again and you’ve relied on a process you’ve lied on relied on your coaches and that’s why you are considered a pro’s pro and you’re a 13-year NFL vet I mean there’s guys that you came out with that are now not in the league yep and there are a lot of people that go through what you go through and they just say look I’m done and you haven’t so that’s why I think this was so much fun and man we’re going to have to do this again yeah for sure I mean definitely do it again I mean we’re down here you know we’re in the same almost the same zip code and
Folk: man let’s go out to your stomping grounds and bring these pro posts out have some fun hey I go kick at Jesuit all the time that’s where I go so uh, we can go do a fun one on the on the field out there so I’m in I’ll chart you I’ll do whatever let me get back in the swing of things first and then we’ll get it