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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
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Another chapter in the books for Nick Novak
SAN DIEGO – Nick Novak never gave up despite struggling to find an NFL job for three years. Through a series of events, Novak suddenly found himself kicking for his hometown Chargers in 2011, where he had a solid campaign and improved his chances of staying in the league moving forward.
Novak made 27 of 34 field goals for San Diego this season, setting team records for makes of at least 40 and 50 yards (12 and four).
After being waived on Aug. 30 by the New York Jets, a seemingly annual event for the 30-year-old, Novak never let his sorrows interfere as he returned to San Diego. He conducted daily workouts just miles from Chargers Park at San Diego State University, often accompanied by former Chargers kicker John Carney.
Novak also spent his 2010 training camp with the Chargers. But with Nate Kaeding, the NFL’s most accurate regular season kicker of all-time and a special teams fixture in San Diego occupying the only spot, Novak never thought he’d get the chance to kick in his hometown.
When Kaeding went on Reserve-Injured with a torn ACL, the Chargers immediately signed Novak to a two-year contract, 14 days after the Jets cut him.
Novak opened the season with 12-straight successful field goals. He hit a career-high five field goals at Denver in Week 5 and didn’t miss until Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs on a 52-yard attempt. He recovered to make three field goals in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium.
Novak set a new career long with a 53-yard field goal in the first quarter against Denver in Week 12. His 51-yard make Week 17 against extended both team records and provided a fitting conclusion to his first NFL season since 2008.
“It definitely was a dream come true to have the opportunity to put all of the hard work and preparation into actual games,” Novak said. “I never believed I wasn’t going to play (in the NFL) and I never stopped preparing.”
Before spending training camp this season as a member of the Jets, Novak had stints with the Washington Redskins (twice), the Arizona Cardinals and the Chiefs. He’s also spent time with the Dallas Cowboys and with the Chicago Bears (twice).
Novak played for the Cologne Centurions in Germany during NFL Europa’s final season in 2007. The Florida Tuskers of the United Football League signed Novak for the 2010 season, where he earned the UFL’s Special Teams Player of the Year honors.
“There are some great kickers in this league. I think I’m right around 80 percent,” Novak said entering the final game of the season at Oakland. “Five or six years ago that might be a Pro Bowl-type season. Now a Pro Bowl season is in the 90 percent (range).”
Novak finished the season making 79.4 percent of his attempts, all but one of his 42 extra point attempts and his 122 total points ranked 11th in the NFL.
He knows there’s room for growth, but he can’t help but reflect on 2011.
“It was a great opportunity to play an entire season. There are kicks I wish I had back, but overall I was happy with the way I did,” Novak said. “This offseason I’ll be working on my consistency and I’ll always be working on my strength.”
Novak heads into the offseason again without a guaranteed future, but hopes he can parlay his solid season into an opening-day NFL job with the Chargers or one of the 31 other teams.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m not going to stop preparing this offseason. All I can do is compete, just like I did in camp against (Jets kicker) Nick Folk this year,” Novak said. “In 2010 it wasn’t an open competition with Nate and I, but I approached it like it was. Regardless if it is or isn’t, my mentality is I want to be one of the 32 kickers in the National Football League.
“Wherever I go there’s going to be a competition and I’m going to have to try and earn my job again. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that nothing is given to you.”