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Novak's Success Sourced by Team's Confidence in Him
The ball was in mid-trajectory but Nick Novak already knew the outcome.
His 50-yard attempt with 1:55 left in the game was on target and had plenty of leg, giving the Chargers a 10-point advantage that all but sealed the deal in an impressive primetime win over the Indianapolis Colts. He pumped his fist hard and ran over to his teammates who jumped on his back to congratulate and celebrate with the popular kicker.
The 50-yarder was the cherry on top of a four field goal performance that earned Novak AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors that he credits his teammates for. His other kicks went for 31, 33 and 34 yards. At a pivotal point in the game, the Chargers were a foot short of the first down marker on fourth down. They could either go for it or kick the long field goal.
A tough decision? Head Coach Mike McCoy didn’t seem to think so.
“It was easy,” he said. “No question at all. It was just the situation of the game and where we were in field position. Unfortunately we didn’t get the first down when we threw the ball to Antonio Gates, but we had said before the play we’re kicking it if we don’t get it.”
The confidence McCoy had in Novak meant the world to the kicker.
“He had no doubt,” he said. “He knew that we were going to kick a field goal. The thought wasn’t even in his mind that we were going to go for it on 4th-and-1. That’s huge when your coach has confidence in you no matter where the ball is on the field. That gives me a ton of confidence to go out there and do my job.”
Prior to settling in his hometown of San Diego, Novak racked up a number of frequent flier miles. He played five games apiece in 2005 for the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals, returned to the Nation’s Capital the following season for six games and did not kick in 2007 before returning to action in 2008 with the Kansas City Chiefs for six games.
Novak didn’t kick in the NFL for the next two seasons before the Bolts signed him after Nate Kaeding was lost for the season during the opening kickoff of 2011. Since that point, he’s been the San Diego Chargers kicker for the vast majority of games and the results have been impressive. Overall, he is 58 for 69 during that span and through six games this year, he is 13 for 15 with his only misses occurring on blocked kicks.
While it may have been a long, tumultuous journey prior to landing in San Diego, the success he’s had kicking in America’s Finest City has proven to be rewarding.
“Obviously, it’s a blessing to play in the NFL,” Novak said. “There are a lot of guys that aren’t playing in the NFL that would die for the opportunity, so I know exactly how that feels. I know what it’s like to be in and out, in and out. I really feel like I’m in a rhythm and in a great city…We all just want to do our job consistently at a high level. If you do that, you’ll be around for a long time.”
The day after Monday night’s emotional win, McCoy weighed in on Novak’s long path that landed him in San Diego.
“I think with every position in the NFL it’s hard to get a job, but a kicker is very similar to being a starting quarterback in the NFL,” he said. “Each team has one of them for the most part. Teams in the past have maybe carried two for certain situations, but in those positions there are only 32 jobs out there. Punters and kickers don’t come around very often. You have to make sure when you have the opportunity you jump out there and get (a good one). He’s done a great job.”
According to Hardwick, that sentiment is shared by the entire football team as they are among the biggest cheerleaders for their popular kicker making his game-clinching kick that much sweeter.
“Just to have that moment to lock the game in and feel clutch and have the stadium erupt around you, and that bit of psychological warfare that kickers go through, that was a big moment for him,” he said. “It was a momentous moment. It was big for him and for us as a team. We have all the confidence in him as does the coaching staff to go out there and kick a 50-yarder to ice the game. That’s awesome. That was unbelievable for him, and us, and we couldn’t be happier for him with all he’s been through to get to this point in his career.”
When asked about the job Novak has done this season, Philip Rivers was emphatic in his praise. In fact, the quarterback said the team doesn’t look at Novak as simply a kicker. He’s a true football player.
“I think a lot of guys when you’re a kicker you get labeled a kicker, but Nick’s one of the guys,” he said. “You see him running down on kickoffs wanting to get in action. He’s always in the weight room. He’s one of the guys so we’re happy for him to receive the (Player of the Week) honor. It was really huge what he did helping us win the game. “
For Novak, being known as “one of the guys” is the highest praise he can get.
“That’s probably the biggest compliment they can give me,” he said. “I pride myself on working out and being there every workout in the offseason. I don’t say much. I’m kind of seen and not heard a lot of the time. But I try to take care of what I do out on the field and be a good teammate. They’re always there for me and I try to be there for them whenever they need me. I guess it’s like a family.”