David Akers


Eagles all-time leading scorer

“Kickers,” Buddy Ryan once said, “are like taxi cabs. You can always go out and hire another one.”BR>
This is the way most football coaches view kicking specialists. Ryan certainly did: In five seasons with the Eagles, Ryan went through seven kickers. To Ryan, kickers were as disposable as paper towels.

In the ‘90s, it was more of the same. In seven years, the Eagles had seven kickers, most of them journeymen veterans like Matt Bahr, Eddie Murray, Gary Anderson, Chris Boniol, and Norm Johnson.

So when David Akers walked into the Eagles locker room in 1999, having already failed tryouts with Atlanta, Carolina, and Washington, he looked like just another gypsy kicker passing through. He would be here today, gone tomorrow.

The Eagles signed Akers midway through the ‘99 season as a kickoff and long field goal specialist. Veteran Norm Johnson who played 18 seasons with four different teams, handled all the kicks inside 40 yards. “I was always confident I could kick in the NFL,” Akers said. “I felt I had the ability. I just needed to find the right situation. I found it in Philadelphia.”

When Akers hit a 53-yard field goal against Miami, coach Andy Reid decided to give him a shot at the full-time job. In 2000, Akers was successful on 29 of 33 field goal attempts and locked up the position for a decade.

Akers set the Eagles record with 294 field goals. Paul McFadden is a distant second with 91. Akers’ field goal percentage of 82.3 is remarkable when you consider he played most of his games in the cold, swirling winds at Veterans Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field.

He set a league record by kicking 17 field goals of 40 yards or longer in 2004. When you combine his accuracy that season (27 of 32) with the fact that his average field goal attempt was 40.8 yards (longest in the NFL), it is definitely Hall of Fame stuff. He led the NFL in scoring with 143 points during the 2010 regular season and was a six-time Pro Bowl selection.

“David has become so compact and so consistent with his technique and that has been developed through really hard work,” said John Harbaugh, who was Eagles special teams coach in those years. “I think he’s the best in the business.”

Akers set an NFL record by successfully converting 19 consecutive post-season field goal attempts. In the 2003 NFC Divisional playoff against Green Bay (the famous fourth-and-26 game), Akers provided the winning points with a 31-yard field goal in overtime.

“If it comes down to David making a kick to win, we’ve got all the confidence in the world in him,” said Koy Detmer, who held the ball for most of those kicks. “He’s made so many big kicks, game winners, that you never have a doubt. You know David will come through.”

Akers didn’t have the easiest road to NFL success. He went undrafted after his college career at Louisville. He had tryouts with three teams and signed with Washington but was released after missing two field goal tries in his first game. He spent a year with the Berlin Thunder while continuing to pursue a career in the NFL. In the meantime, he supported his wife Erika and family waiting tables at a Longhorn Steakhouse in Lawrenceville, GA. The Eagles called and the rest is history.

The 5’ 10”, 200-pound Akers was a tailback at Tates Creek High School in Lexington, KY, and he demonstrated that toughness when he came to the NFL. In 2005, he kicked the game-winning field goal against Oakland with a partially torn hamstring. The left-footed Akers injured his leg on an earlier kickoff, but gritted his teeth with the game on the line and kicked the winning field goal from 23 yards out.

“You know it’s going to hurt for one second and then the game is over,” said Akers who missed the next four games with the injury. He returned to convert 14 of 17 field goal attempts to finish the season.

David Akers appeared in a club record 188 regular season games and finished his Eagles career with 1,323 points, the most in franchise history. He finished his career with stops in San Francisco (where he kicked 44 field goals and scored 166 points in 2011) and Detroit, but his heart will always be in Philadelphia. He proved it when he represented the Eagles at the 2018 NFL draft which was held in Dallas. He went on stage to introduce the Eagles second round draft pick. With a huge grin, he trolled the Dallas crowd.

“Hey, Dallas fans,” Akers shouted. “The last time the Cowboys were in the Super Bowl, these draft picks weren’t even born!”

By Ray Didinger - Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame Inductee

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