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The Underdog: The Detroit Lions' Newest Rising Star

When you think of household names in the National Football League, your mind most likely resorts to a quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker, or cornerback. Those are arguably the most important positions in the game whether it be the quarterback Patrick Mahomes leading a game-winning drive, the wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr making an improbable one-handed catch, the linebacker T.J. Watt nearly breaking the all-time sack record, or Logan Ryan's pick-six to end Tom Brady's storied career in New England.

But rarely does anyone consider the kicker one of the most important positions in sports. After all, some quarterback's game-winning drives are actually won by the kicker. On the other hand, some games are lost by the kicker. Just ask the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills after a missed kick practically ended their seasons.

The greatest kicker of all time by many, Justin Tucker, is still playing at a high level. And with the new kickoff rules making it easier to score off a kick return, it will be very important to have a reliable player at the position. So it's no surprise that the Super Bowl-hungry and determined Detroit Lions did not waste much time before signing standout UFL kicker Jake Bates.

Jake Bates Is Finally Getting His Chance In The NFL

The 24-year-old Jake Bates wasn't always a kicker. He started out at Central Arkansas on the soccer team before switching to play college football at Texas State during his junior year. He transitioned to kicker full-time and finished his career at Arkansas. He got his first chance in the NFL with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent but did not make the team.

Bates signed with the newly formed United Football League "UFL" spring football league with the Michigan Panthers. In his first-ever game with the team, he made the game-winning 64-yard field goal to defeat the St. Louis Battlehawks. He became the face of the league and had many NFL fans try to recruit him to their favorite team. Bates finished the season with 17 field goals made on 22 attempts, including three kicks over 60+ yards, and made the All-UFL team.

Now Jake Bates will get his chance to be a hero once again in the Motor City, this time in the NFL. He signed a two-year contract with the team and will compete with Michael Badgley for the kicker job in Detroit. The 28-year-old kicker was signed late last season by the Lions where he made all seven of his field goal attempts and 13 out of 15 extra-point attempts. Everyone is rooting for you, Jake!

Who do you think is the sleeper team of the NFL this season? Colin Hackshaw has three ideas. Check out his new piece right now!



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