JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Like a lot of kickers, Steven Hauschka has been, putting it nicely, well-traveled during a six-year career that has seen him suit up for six NFL teams and one UFL team.
He got his start as an undrafted Viking in 2008 and has wound his way through Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, the Las Vegas Locomotives, Denver and finally Seattle, where he’ll play for the NFC champion Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot along the way.”
In 2008, then-Vikings coach Brad Childress was exploring the possibility of having a young leg take over kickoffs from the aging but still highly accurate Ryan Longwell. The Vikings didn’t draft a kicker but did sign Hauschka after the draft.
The idea of sharing kicking duties with a rookie never set well with Longwell. But Hauschka said Longwell kept their brief relationship professional. Longwell also stepped up his kickoffs enough that the Vikings released Hauschka before the regular season.
“Ryan was a great, great kicker who had been through it all and had a great career,” Hauschka said. “I learned a lot from him, especially the mental part of the game. Just how much it takes as a professional to perform at this level, all year ’round. You have to be constantly preparing yourself.”
Hauschka wasn’t sure what to expect when cutdown day arrived that summer. He knew he wasn’t going to beat out Longwell for the placekicking chores.
“I was young,” he said. “I didn’t really know any better. I was just trying to kick the ball as far as I could and hope someone saw me. I had nothing to lose and wasn’t expecting anything. Sometimes, that’s a good place to be.”
The Ravens signed Hauschka to their practice squad in September 2008 and made him active for kickoffs and long field goal attempts as a partner with another aging vet, Matt Stover. Hauschka’s first professional field goal attempt was a successful 54-yarder, which remains his career long.
Hauschka played in Baltimore for parts of two seasons, Atlanta for part of one and Detroit for the 2010 preseason. He also played for the Locomotives in 2010.
Late in the 2010 NFL season, Denver needed a kicker when Matt Prater went down with an injury. So the Broncos signed Hauschka to finish out the year. Sunday, Prater and Hauschka will square off in the first outdoor Super Bowl played in a cold-weather city.
The weather is supposed to be mild, in the upper 30s to low 40s with no snow expected.
“The weather shouldn’t be a factor,” Hauschka said. “I think we’ll be fine.”
Seattle signed Hauschka in 2011 and has leaned on him ever since. This year, he was nearly perfect, connecting on a career-high 33 of 35 field goal attempts for a career-high 94.3 percent.