Allen Park — As specialists booting their way through a fringy niche of the sports world, kickers and punters stick together.
On Sunday, that was plainly — and loudly — evident.
Not only was Lions punter Sam Martin serving as kicker Matt Prater’s biggest cheerleader on the sidelines on Sunday after his first career touchdown pass, but Prater also had a fan in the announcers booth.
Pat McAfee, the spirited former Indianapolis punter who served as the FOX color commentator for the game, shared the viral moment with Prater with his unbridled enthusiasm.
“Oooo, touchdown!…” McAfee declared well before the 8-yard pass to tight end Levine Toilolo was completed. “Let’s go! Let’s go!
“Matt Prater has the NFL’s longest field goal. He’s a man who is a legend. He’s kicked long balls, he’s kicked game-winners, and here in Lambeau, in December, gives the cadence with the leg lift like Peyton Manning, no laces, and delivers a dime in the corner of the end zone.”
Prater saw the video on Twitter of McAfee’s joyful hyperbole and said Monday that it added to the moment during the Lions' 31-0 victory.
“His commentary was hilarious,” Prater said. “Celebrating after with everybody was fun because it’s not something I typically would even attempt to do, even in practice. It was cool that it worked and it was a lot of fun.”
Or, as McAfee screamed on the telecast: “What a beautiful moment!”
It was the second career pass attempt and first completion for Prater, 34.
“We had it up for the week, so I kind of had an idea it was possibly coming,” Prater said. “But when it was called, I said, ‘Oh wow, we’re really going to do this.’
“The faith in the coaches to say it would work and I didn’t screw it up. I almost screwed it up so I didn’t. I almost dropped it, I couldn’t get the laces, kind of just threw it out there quick without throwing it out of bounds or right into the ground.”
Prater and his wife have three children and stay in Michigan near year-round, he said.
“Lots of diapers and kids time,” he said of the offseason.
Prater’s 87.5 percent field goal rate this season was better than his career mark of 83.8. He was a perfect 30 for 30 on extra points. The two-time Pro Bowl kicker said he was pleased with the growth of the 6-10 Lions throughout Matt Patricia’s first season as coach.
“It’s a tough program, high expectations,” Prater said. “That’s it. It is what it is, pretty black and white, but the expectations are real. They’re not something we can’t do or shouldn’t do. We’re learning, just like everyone else. Anytime there’s change, it takes a little getting used to.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.