Dallas Cowboys

It took this Dallas Cowboys kicker years to reach NFL. How does he plan to stay?

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Catch up on the top ten picks from the first round of the NFL Draft.

Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher needed just three words to describe his first season in the NFL.

“Good, not great,” Maher said during the Cowboys’ minicamp earlier this month at The Star.

Nobody would argue with that evaluation.

Maher missed his first career field goal attempt, a 45-yarder in the season-opener at Carolina, but redeemed himself in Week 4 by drilling the game-winner in a 26-24 victory over the Detroit Lions.

He finished the season by making 29 of 36 field goal attempts (81 percent) and 32 of 33 extra-point attempts. The 81 percent made ranked near the bottom of the league, but Maher tied for the most field goals made of at least 50 yards with six.

His struggles were mostly in the mid-range distances, going 13 of 19 on kicks between 30 and 49 yards. He was a perfect 10 for 10 on kicks inside 30 yards, and 6 of 7 on kicks of 50 yards or longer.

“There’s obviously some parts of it that were really good, some parts of it that we’re going to look to improve on going through this off-season and leading up to next year,” Maher said. “It’s exciting for me to have something to chase next year.”

Simply reaching the NFL has been quite the journey -- and feat -- for the 29-year-old Maher.

This is a guy who went to Nebraska as a walk-on out of small-town Kearney High School. He then went undrafted following his college career as a kicker and punter in 2013, spending time with the New York Jets and Cowboys those off-seasons.

He opted for the Canadian Football League for several seasons with stops in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Hamilton, undergoing a hip surgery along the way.

Maher tried his hand again at the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2017, but couldn’t beat out Zane Gonzalez. At that point, Maher could’ve easily given up on his football dreams.

But, as Maher said, “I probably have as much confidence in myself as anybody. I’ve seen enough people to know that at least I thought I had a shot somewhere in this league. Maybe two years ago, people thought I was crazy and here we are now with another chance to prove myself and prove I belong.”

Maher returned to the CFL for the 2017 season, and became a surprise candidate for the Cowboys roster when he signed in the 2018 season.

At the time, most viewed Maher as an extra leg for training camp, given his ability to kick field goals and punt. But Maher beat out longtime kicker Dan Bailey for the starting job.

That shocked most Cowboys fans, but not Maher. He’s never wavered in his belief that he belongs at the highest level.

“I definitely took a moment when everything was done, came up for air so to speak, to reflect back on my journey and what it’s been like,” Maher said. “Coming out of college and going to the CFL and hip surgery and bouncing around and doing all that stuff, I definitely had a nice perspective day or two.

“But, at the same time, very anxious to get back to it because none of us had a great taste in our mouth with how last year finished. I feel like I left some out there as well as everyone else did. It makes you anxious to get going again.”

For Maher, this off-season has been nice to focus solely on kicking, rather than punting too. But he knows he’ll have to win a job again and prove himself again.

Nothing has been handed to him to this point, and grading kickers is as clear-cut as sports can come.

“It is pass/fail,” Maher said. “It’s easy to see pass/fail. I try to get a little bit deeper into it than that, but at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. You try to give yourself the best chance to make every single kick.

“A lot of that comes to being mentally and emotionally ready, and making sure your technique is on point. Those are things I’m really trying to hammer right now at this time of year, so that way it can be more second nature for me come the fall.”

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