2017 NFL Season

From shank to sure-footed: Kamu Grugier-Hill’s soccer background kicks in for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA — Kamu Grugier-Hill‘s kicking debut began in rather embarrassing fashion.

The Philadelphia Eagles linebacker was called into duty in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night when rookie kicker Jake Elliottexited with a concussion.

Grugier-Hill started the season as the backup to the backup. Safety Chris Maragos was the original emergency kicker, but duties fell to Grugier-Hill when Maragos was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Grugier-Hill had practiced kicking only once this season before he got the call Sunday night.

It showed. His first warm-up kick on the sideline missed the practice net completely, sailing into the stands and hitting a fan. Team security had to retrieve the ball.

“I teed it up, and it was funny because [punter] Donnie [Jones] was like, ‘Hey, do you want me to move the net up?’ and I was like, ‘No, no, I got it,'” Grugier-Hill said. “First kick, kick it right in the stands. I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a little rough.'”

Things smoothed out from there, though, and to the great surprise of many, Grugier-Hill’s in-game kickoffs were effective. He booted four respectable kickoffs, including two that went into the end zone for a touchback. That prevented the Cowboys from gaining a field-position advantage as the Eagles mounted a 30-0 charge in the second half on their way to leaving Dallas with a decisive win.

“I can’t recall being on a team with the amount of injuries and things that we’ve had to overcome. If there’s any ‘the next man is up,’ it’s the guys in the locker room,” coach Doug Pederson said. “You hope you don’t have to put Kamu in there and kick off and do the things that we did in that second half and really the whole game, but it’s just a credit to the guys. They’ll do whatever it takes to win the game.”

Grugier-Hill was a soccer player until one of his best friends suggested he try out for football when he was a junior in high school. Born in Honolulu, he was a safety and punter at Kamehameha High School. He never kicked in a game, however, until Sunday night. He was hoping to get a field goal or extra-point attempt, but Pederson opted for two-point conversions, and the Eagles converted three of four attempts. That got Pederson thinking about going for two all the time.

The Eagles will need a kicker over the final six games plus the playoffs, of course. Elliott is in the concussion protocol. Pederson said it’s still too early to know if and when Elliott will be available. If he can’t play, the Eagles could explore activating Caleb Sturgis (hip flexor) off the injured list or signing a kicker off the street.

It’s important to get that position right for the stretch run. In the meanwhile, the Eagles learned that they have a semi-decent backup plan when all else fails.

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