When Matt Prater was a little boy, he did not pretend that he was an NFL player facing the do-or-die kick at the end of a Super Bowl.
“I never did that kind of stuff growing up,” the Denver Broncos kicker said. “I guess I was a weird kid. I didn’t even want to be a kicker growing up; I wanted to play baseball.”
As things turned out, Prater grew up to be a kicker. And even though he never pretended it, come Sunday he actually might face a game-deciding kick when his Denver Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The thought does not faze him, although it is not his first choice.
“I’m hoping we win by about 10 or something, where it doesn’t come down to a kick,” he said. “But if it does come down to a kick, I’ll be ready for it. I don’t mind those kicks. I actually like doing those.”
Prater also is exceptionally good at those.
Over his seven-year NFL career, he has converted 47 of the 50 field goals he has attempted in the fourth quarter (.940), and all four in overtime.
He’s also good in the other quarters, ranking first in Broncos’ history with an .829 overall field goal percentage.
And he’s also good from distance, having hit 21 of 27 (.778) field goals from 50 yards or farther – the best percentage among NFL kickers having begun their careers after 1970 and with 20 or more attempts.
This season, Prater was named to his first Pro Bowl after leading the league with a .962 field-goal percentage and setting a Broncos record with 150 points.
Three of those points came on an NFL-record 64-yard field goal, launched Dec. 8 against Tennessee.
“(That record) was definitely a goal for me,” Prater said Wednesday at Super Bowl Media Day. “Just being in Denver with the altitude, I knew I could do it. I always knew I had a good leg; it’s just getting the opportunity at the right time in a game. … It was just an awesome experience. (Former New Orleans Saints kicker Tom) Dempsey held the record I think for 43 years, so hopefully if we get another chance at it again soon, I’d love to break it again.”
That brought the obvious follow-up of how long a field goal Prater might be able to kick.
“In Denver, early in the year, I can get up in the low 70s,” he said. “I’ve kicked a 70 in Florida in the summer. But like I said, it depends on the day.”
Neither Prater nor anyone else is expecting that kind of distance on what is expected to be a wet and sub-freezing Super Bowl Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
“We’re a cold-weather team … so it’s going to be like any other game, as far as kicking,” Prater said. “The ball might not go as far … but it’s just like another game.”
In terms of weather, Prater and Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka agree on the main points: The cold causes a harder ball that doesn’t travel as far. And while the MetLife turf should provide dependable footing for kicks, the biggest potential weather challenge would be gusty winds.
“There’s no open end to the stadium, so the wind kind of swirls around,” Hauschka said last week.
“It does have a prevailing direction depending on which way the wind is coming in, so you can kind of predict what the wind is going to be like depending on the prevailing wind. But it still swirls in there, so you’ve just got to hit a good ball. It might take it a little bit left or right, but you can still make them.”