Tucker, the undrafted rookie kicker for the
Akers, the 14-year veteran who kicks for the
But even as their lives have taken different paths, their roads have converged at
Tucker — who grew up in Austin, Texas, which is almost an eight-hour drive from the
"Just thinking about it now, you almost get goose bumps thinking about it," Tucker said. "I can tell you, every day when I would go out to the practice fields at Westlake High School with my dad, we always ended on a game-winning field goal. I always end my warm up routine on gamedays with a 48-yarder from the right hash. That's the kick [the
Youth has a tendency to build confidence, but so does completing one of the more successful rookie years in NFL history. Tucker connected on 30-of-33 field goals in the regular season. His 90.9 success rate ranked as the second-best mark in team history and the second-best conversion rate by a rookie in NFL history.
In the postseason, Tucker has nailed two field goals, including the game-winning 47-yarder in double overtime to propel the team to a 38-35 win against the
"Our favorite phrase is, 'We've got that Justin Tucker, please believe it,' Ravens wide receiver and return specialist Jones said with a wink. "That's how much confidence we've got in him."
"I thought he was going to be a great kicker from the start," Cox said of Tucker, who beat out incumbent
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg is usually poker-faced when addressing the media during his weekly Thursday news conference, but he lights up ever so slightly when talking about the team's precocious kicker, who is the third-youngest player on the Ravens' active roster.
"The most important confidence that Justin Tucker brings to the kicking game is confidence in himself," Rosburg said. "He goes out there and plays, and he feels like he's going to make every kick. As a result of his performance this year, all of the players around him have confidence in him as well. And it's good to have confidence in yourself, but it's been now reinforced by reality. He can kick, and he knows he can kick, and his teammates know he can kick. So it just keeps growing that way, and we're happy we have him."
On the opposite sideline, Akers has struggled with his accuracy, making just 29-of-42 field goals in the regular season. Coach
San Francisco eventually cut Cundiff on Jan. 18, but two days later Akers missed his 14th field goal of the season in a 28-24 win against the
Akers said he has leaned on his Christian faith during moments that have tested his character and will.
"I try to give thanks when things are positive as well, but absolutely during that time, I think everybody, as humans, we question a lot of what's going on or we can't see the big picture of what's happening," he said. "Sometimes the answer comes quickly and sometimes it takes a long time before reflection is turned into answers. So I look in and go to the scripture of, 'Lean on our own understanding' and 'His ways.'"
For all of Akers' hiccups, he is still a six-time Pro Bowler who has knocked down 81.8 percent (36-of-44) of his career field-goal attempts in the postseason. That's why Cox wasn't ready to state that anything was out of Akers' range or ability.
"David's been a great kicker for a long time," Cox said. "Sports has streaks. I can't really explain it. I'm not over there with him. But like I said, David's a great kicker, and you just never know."
Akers has the edge in experience, having made nine game-winning field goals in his career versus just three for Tucker. But Tucker has the benefit of recency effect stemming from his game-winner against Denver.
"I think that does help, and that's something that we've been good about doing throughout this postseason, carrying momentum and stacking good plays on top of one another," Tucker said. "For me, Morgan and [holder]