ATLANTA — Not many kickers have enjoyed the success and stability that has made up Stephen Gostkowski’s career.
He was drafted by New England in 2006, when the Patriots took him in the fourth round out of Memphis with the 118th overall selection. No kicker was selected that high again until 2016, when Tampa Bay took Roberto Aguayo 59th overall.
And Gostkowski has kept the job ever since. The four-time Pro Bowler is in his 13th year with New England, a span in which he’s converted 87.4 percent of his field goal attempts. He was named to the All-Pro team in 2008 and 2015.
When he kicks in Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta against the Los Angeles Rams, Gostkowski will be appearing in his sixth Super Bowl. The Patriots have missed the playoffs only once during Gostkowski’s tenure (though they still finished 11-5 in 2008), they’ve won the AFC four of the past five years, and won Super Bowls XLIX and LI.
“I’m very grateful and excited for the opportunity to play in this game again,” Gostkowski said Thursday during the team’s Super Bowl media session. “You’ve got to pinch yourself sometimes just to be sitting here getting a chance to play in the Super Bowl. It’s pretty epic.”
Gostkowski is perhaps more grateful this year than any other year. He told Sports Spectrum that a near-tragic incident with his wife, Hallie, shifted his perspective on a lot of things. He grew up in the South (born in Louisiana, high school in Mississippi, college in Tennessee), where “faith and football go hand in hand,” but felt like God taught him an important lesson early in 2018.
“I remember after we lost last year in the Super Bowl, I was pretty down,” Gostkowski said. “Not two or three weeks later, my wife was driving in a storm and a tree fell right on her car. Huge tree, came within inches — she could have been dead. Literally it was on her lap and she walked away unscathed.
“From that moment on, I told myself, ‘I can’t feel sorry for myself for a game like this. There’s a lot more [important] things in life.’ And that was a huge lesson, it almost seemed like it was a sign. For her to get that close, my life could have been turned upside down big time with that. And that’s definitely changed my whole perspective on a lot of things in my life.”
Especially when someone has played the game as long as Gostkowski, it can consume a large portion of an athlete’s life. Gostkowski says he leans on the Lord to stay balanced.
“To have something to believe in more than this game is important, because you get really caught up in this game — wins and losses and everything else,” Gostkowski said. “But at the end of the day, having faith in something bigger than that makes it a lot easier to deal with the pressures of the game and the craziness that can come with being a professional athlete.”
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