In the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings surprised a lot of people by grabbing a kicker, Blair Walsh out of the University of Georgia. How good to the Vikings feel about Walsh? Good enough to release incumbent kicker Ryan Longwell after the team's post-draft mini-camp and tell Walsh that the job is his.
Walsh was installed as the Bulldogs' kicker immediately after arriving in Athens, and was named to the All-SEC team as a freshman. His first career field goal was a 52-yarder against Georgia Southern. In his freshman year, he connected on 15 of 23 field goals and all 50 of his extra point attempts.
In his sophomore year, he was second in the nation in field goal accuracy, connecting on 20 of his 22 attempts, a 90.9% conversion rate. He hit four of five attempts from beyond 50 yards, and was named to the All-SEC second team for his efforts.
As a junior in 2011, he was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza award, given annually to college football's best kicker. (The award for that season wound up going to Dan Bailey, who is now with the Dallas Cowboys.) He was 20-for-23 on field goal attempts that season, and his 106 points was good for fifth on Georgia's all-time single-season list.
He experienced a bit of a hiccup as a senior, going just 21-for-35 on field goal attempts, but he did top his personal best by scoring 109 points, which is fourth-best on Georgia's all-time list.
Overall for his career, Walsh was 76-for-103 on field goal attempts and 184-for-185 on extra points. On field goals of 50 yards or more, he hit 10-of-17 attempts. He holds the all-time NCAA record for consecutive games with a field goal, successfully converting attempts in 45 consecutive games (the previous record had been 40). He scored 412 career points, which is a record for both the University of Georgia and the Southeastern Conference. It's no surprise, then, that he was named to the Bulldogs' all-decade team for the 2000s.
And, by golly, we have KICKER HIGHLIGHT FOOTAGE!
I could talk about what kind of impact Walsh is going to have on the Vikings, but I'm pretty sure we already know. With the Vikings cutting Longwell, the Blair Walsh Project is officially underway. He's the guy as far as placekicking is concerned for the Vikings now. Here's hoping that our favorite football team made the right decision. If Walsh's accuracy returns to what it was during his sophomore and junior years, there's a very good chance that they have.