A year ago, Kai Forbath was hoping for a chance. This week, he headed home to California in possession of an NFL record, with a football in the Hall of Fame and, more important, a job lined up with the Redskins next season.
But the next few months, he said, aren't the time to be satisfied.
“I’m definitely going to work hard in the offseason on the things I need to work on,” Forbath said recently. “It was a good start, a good run here, and I’m going to continue to work hard so I can make the kicks I have to make when the team needs me to.”
Forbath provided the Redskins with exactly what Coach Mike Shanahan sought when he signed the free agent five games into the season to replace Billy Cundiff: reliability at a position that had been defined recently by inconsistency.
Forbath connected on his first 17 kicks, breaking the record for most consecutive kicks to start an NFL career. The ball from the Redskins’ 27-20 win over the Eagles on Dec. 23 was sent to Canton, Ohio.
Forbath, in fact, did not miss a kick until plunking a 37-yarder off the upright against the Cowboys in the regular season finale. Before that, he had been 13 for 13 from 30-49 yards, including an impressive 11 for 11 from 40-plus.
Indeed, the past three months have been quite a ride for the California native, who starred at UCLA and attended training camps in Dallas and Tampa Bay before getting a tryout in Washington. After claiming the job, Forbath signed a three-year, $1.44 million contract with the Redskins in October.
“It was such an amazing time with this group of guys,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team to be on. What a first year opportunity I got. It’s definitely a year I’ll never forget.”
He added: “It’s a nice feeling knowing you have a job coming back next year. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to take any time off.”
Forbath returned to Southern California this week to resume working out with his kicking coach and former Bruins’ teammates. One area he’ll no doubt aim to fine tune will be the distance and hang-time of his kickoffs. Forbath put only 24.2 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. (For comparison’s sake, the top-10 in that category all had 50-percent or more of their kickoffs result in touchbacks.)
“I got a little more comfortable with it,” said Forbath, who did not handle kickoffs in college. “But there’s definitely some things that me and [special teams coach Danny Smith] are going to talk about that I’m going to work on.”
The kickoffs, though, did little to detract from the 25-year-old's memorable debut season.
“To step in midway through the year, and do what he’s able to do, has shown that he’s got his head in the right place,” veteran punter Sav Rocca said. “He’ll get a good offseason with his kickoffs, and get a lot stronger that way, and he’ll become a well-rounded kicker.”