A once in a lifetime kicker. That’s what Sebastian Janikowski was.
He was the first placekicker selected in the first round since 1966 and his legend continued into his 18-season long NFL career. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to fans of football that Al Davis would be the one to break the mold and choose a kicker so early in the draft. While some remember the draft as being the Tom Brady draft, looking back at the players selected after Janikowski, there wasn’t much to be had.
Aside from Shaun Alexander, who was selected by the Seattle Seahawks two picks after Seabass, the rest of the draft was filled with players most know little to nothing about. However, Alexander’s career spanned just eight seasons as he fizzled like most running backs do from the grueling nature of the game.
Shortly after being drafted by the Raiders, Sebastian Janikowski was arrested for the second time in just over a year. It was a rocky start to his Oakland stint, but it was just the beginning. In his first season, Jano made just 68.8 percent of his field-goal attempts. Clearly, the transition from two-time Lou Groza Award winner (for best collegiate kicker) to NFL place kicker was a challenging one for him.
However, Janikowski proved able in the coming years and would go on to have a career rivaled by any kicker a statistician could compare him to. He is near the top on all statistical categories for kickers and has the record for most 50-yard field goals with 55.
The big-bodied Polish kicker fit right in with the Raiders. After his first season struggles, he connected on 82.1 percent of his field goals the next year.
When the Raiders drafted Seabass, the team was at the pinnacle, but the wins quickly vanished and for much of the next decade, Janikowski was the one player the team and fans could count on. Jano will leave the Raiders as the team’s all-time leader in points and games played and is currently 10th in field goals made and 12th in field goals attempted.
To watch a player like Janikowski warm up was a sight to behold as he knocked in 65-plus yarders. He attempted what is believed to be the longest kick in NFL history when he drilled an attempted 76-yard field goal attempt waaaayyy short. But still it was something only a player with the mystique like Jano could even attempt.
It’s not every day a player like Sebastian Janikowski enters the NFL and while there’s so much put into the elite levels of running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks that enter the league, Seabass did an incredible job of locking down his position for almost two decades. Some would say he’s a future Hall of Famer and some would say he’s one of the greatest kickers of all time.
There may never be another placekicker selected in the first round of the NFL draft and there will never be another Sebastian Janikowski.
Featured Image: 2000 Bowman’s Best #134