When Patriots scouts and coaches assessed kicking prospects in the 2006 draft, the tee used by Stephen Gostkowski on kickoffs set him apart.
Gostkowski has always used a one-inch tee. Many other college kickers use a two-inch tee, seemingly putting them at an advantage because it’s easier to strike more of the ball when it sits higher off the ground.
In the NFL, kickers are required to use one-inch tees.
“Every team I worked out for asked about the one-inch tee,” said Gostkowski, one of the Patriots’ fourth-round choices (118th overall). “It’s another transition kickers have to make.”
The fact that Gostkowski used a one-inch tee at Memphis, and had success on kickoffs, increased his NFL stock. Essentially, NFL coaches and scouts didn’t have to wrestle with the projection of how he might fare with a lower-set tee.
In 2005, his first year kicking off, Gostkowski had an impressive 39 of 68 attempts result in touchbacks. College kickoffs are from the 35-yard line. In the NFL, the kickoffs come from the 30.
“Probably the hardest transition in going from college to the NFL will be that kickoffs are more about direction and hang time than kicking it out of the end zone,” said Gostkowski, who is scheduled to arrive at Gillette Stadium on Friday for the team’s rookie mini-camp. “Special teams coaches spend a lot of time on coverages, so it’s not about being five yards deep all the time, but putting the ball where they want it.”
Gostkowski said he’s always used a one-inch tee because that’s what his high school team (Madison Central) had when he first started kicking. After going through the scouting process and seeing the importance NFL coaches and scouts placed on the one-inch tee, he said less turned out to be more in his case.
“I guess what I didn’t know helped me,” he said.