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Though History Suggests Otherwise, Kai Forbath Only Focused On The Future

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – Kai Forbath graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a history degree, but, understandably, it didn’t cover the recent lack of success the Washington Redskins have had with their kickers.

Forbath

It didn’t take long for Forbath to learn of it. When he was signed by the Redskins on Oct. 9 to replace the struggling Billy Cundiff, Forbath became the 19th kicker to play for the team since Chip Lohmiller was released before the 1995 season.

Now, the team is looking to him as its answer to the kicking woes. Forbath has made all 10 of his field goal attempts to begin his career, with few of them coming easy. Seven have been from farther than 43 yards – including a season-long 50-yarder against Minnesota on his first try.

“Looking back, that was a great way to start my career,” Forbath said.

The Redskins have made only 73.7 percent of their field goals since the 1995 season – the worst mark in the NFL over that span. Five kickers attempted at least one field goal for the Redskins in 2000.

Shaun Suisham, who made a team record 80.2 percent of his field goal attempts, brought some stability to the position from 2006-09 – as did Graham Gano, who replaced Suisham in 2009 before being released by the Redskins during the last week of the preseason.

Cundiff struggled during his five games in Washington, making only three of his final eight attempts after converting all four in the opener at New Orleans. The Redskins then turned to Forbath, the Lou Groza Award winner in 2009 as the top collegiate kicker, after also hosting Olindo Mare and Josh Brown in an open tryout.

“I mean, of course you’re thinking they’re bringing these veterans in because they want someone reliable,” Forbath said. “Fortunately, I kicked well during the workout, and they thought I was deserving of a chance, and I’m just gonna take that and keep going with it.”

A soccer player when he was younger, Forbath attended a clinic held by a traveling kicking coach as a high school freshman growing up in Los Angeles. Realizing there was a possibility he could earn a college scholarship through kicking, Forbath continued to do so through high school, eventually choosing a scholarship offer from UCLA over Notre Dame.

It was at UCLA where he began to refine his technique. He learned to wear a smaller shoe on his kicking foot – a 7.5 on his right, compared to a 10.5 on his left – to increase the surface contact with firmness in his foot. He meticulously spends time preparing the smaller cleat, first stripping it of extra padding, then soaking it in water and letting it form to his feet.

The lengths Forbath goes to for success isn’t surprising, long snapper Nick Sundberg said. Neither is the way he’s handled the pressure of making several long field goals, mostly because of his relaxed approach to each kick.

“It’s just nice to see him be even-keeled and not really care about pressure or how many kicks he’s made or anything like that,” Sundberg said. “He takes it one kick at a time and he understands that what happened in the past doesn’t matter, and it’s all about the next kick. It’s really nice to see that out of a young guy.”

Head coach Mike Shanahan had an idea of Forbath’s potential success during that workout when, against two players who have a combined 26 years of kicking experience, he remained calm.

Brown and Mare, Shanahan deduced, had been released by their last teams for a reason, and Forbath’s unproven past was a curious draw. He spent last season in Dallas, but never kicked because of injury, then was with Tampa Bay for the preseason.

“If they’re out there on the street, and then this guy really has never had an opportunity, I’m just going to judge them from what’s on the field,” Shanahan said. “When a guy comes through like he has, you know, you’re just glad he took advantage of the opportunity, and we’re glad he’s on our football team and hopefully he’s kicking good for a long time.”

At no point in learning about the Redskins’ kicking struggles did Forbath immediately assume he could be the answer. Most kickers look forward, not back – but then again, Forbath isn’t like most kickers.

“I mean, I was confident in myself coming in, and it was definitely a confidence boost winning the job over two great veterans,” Forbath said. “But like I said, I don’t try to get ahead of myself. I just take it one week at a time and one kick at a time.”

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