The Cincinnati Bengals have had their fair share of kicking woes over the years. Could recently signed college soccer star Jonathan Brown finally be the answer?
In November 2016, Chad Johnson found his way back into the news when he said he’d be willing to kick for the Bengals. Morale was at an all time low, and with all playoff hopes dashed partly due to spotty kicking, some fans almost wanted to throw good-ol’ Chad out there at kicker—just to see what would happen.
While Johnson probably won’t be on next year’s roster, he’s technically got a chance. Marvin Lewis announced that competition for the team’s kicker spot is wide open. And besides Johnson, he’s got one very interesting option.
Jonathan Brown – K, Louisville (Undrafted in 2016)
Jonathan Brown is a bit of a unique story. Often mistaken for a DB because of his athletic build and tall frame, he doesn’t quite look like a kicker. But that makes sense, because until a few years ago, he wasn’t one. He was a soccer player.
A star at Kentucky and a member of the U.S.A. Under-17 national team, Brown transferred to Louisville as a junior to play soccer. He ended up quitting the sport entirely and giving up his scholarship to walk on as kicker for the football team. A hard decision, but one he made to open up more doors for himself. It looks like it might have worked.
Brown only played in three games at Louisville, averaging 62.8 yards per kickoff in 2015. He tore his oblique early in the year and was out for the remainder of his senior season. His real opportunity, though, came from Louisville’s pro-day, where the Bengals noticed his workout and signed him to a future contract. But, with Mike Nugent still firmly entrenched in his starting spot, there was no place on the roster for Brown at the time.
But, the signs were always there. Nugent was extremely complimentary of Brown during their offseason workouts, calling him consistent and extremely coachable. As someone who’s sacrificed their childhood dream of soccer to get to this point, Brown knows what’s at stake if he can’t perform. He’s worked on kicking all of this past year as a free agent, desperate for another chance.
“we can not go through what we went through this year.”
With Randy Bullock‘s contract set to expire before the next season, the Bengals’ kicking competition is wide open. Head coach Marvin Lewis is keeping an open mind going into the process, saying he’s willing to take anyone that can perform. Whoever they sign to kick next year, it’s just imperative to Lewis that “we can not go through what we went through this year.”
While the road from soccer to the NFL isn’t well-traveled, it’s been done. Most notably, Los Angeles Chargers kicker Josh Lambo was an MLS goalie before trying out as a kicker. He beat out the Chargers’ incumbent kicker Nick Novak in his first offseason. Maybe Jon Brown can be the star the Bengals need in 2017.