LIONS INSIDER

Kicker David Akers is playing the role of competitor and mentor

Posted May 31, 2013

Akers, a 16-year NFL veteran, was quick to take Havard Rugland under his wing and show him the ropes

Someplace, possibly floating around the Internet somewhere, is a trick-kick video featuring David Akers.

"It was funny, years ago I did a thing with Reebok and I kind of kicked the ball up and did a volley out of the air," Akers said. "They had different kickers and everybody did like a combination of what Havard did."

That would be Havard Rugland Akers was referring to. He's better known as "Kickalicious" around these parts -- a Norwegian kicker who signed with the Lions in April.

He put together a YouTube kick-trick video last year that's received more than four million views and may have helped launch his NFL career.

David AkersDavid Akers (Photo: T. Altman/Detroitlions.com)

"I thought it was so creative, but his technique was awful," Akers said of Rugland's video after Lions OTA practice Wednesday. "You could tell it was soccer 101. Hitting a soccer ball and a football, believe it or not, are completely different."

Akers, a 16-year NFL veteran with six Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl appearances under his belt, isn't threatened by competition. In fact, he was quick to take Rugland under his wing and show him the ropes.

"The thing I'll say is that he comes in with such a great attitude," Akers said of Rugland. "He wants to work, wants to learn, wants to get better everyday and you see that."

Akers knows what it's like trying to make it in the NFL as a young kicker. He saw firsthand how important it can be for a veteran to mentor a young player.

He was undrafted out of Louisville and was cut twice (by the Falcons and Panthers) before earning a job with the Redskins. He was helped along by three successful kickers and is now paying it forward with Rugland.

"I had three great guys that spent time with me in my career – John Casey, Morten Anderson and Norm Johnson," Akers said. "John Casey is who I kind of put my technique in. Morten Anderson showed me how to train and how he was able to do it for such a long time. Norm Johnson was more the day-to-day life."

Akers wants to win the Lions' kicking job, but not at the expense of helping along a youngster playing American football for the first time.

ROUNDING BACK TO FORM

Akers, 38, is coming off an injury-plagued season in 2012 that ultimately turned into the worst of his career. He battled through groin issues all season after undergoing surgery following the 2011 season.

Despite matching an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in the 2012 season opener vs. Green Bay, he struggled through the rest of year, converting just 29-of-42 attempts.

"I fell out in practice (early in the season) and kind of went down from that," Akers said of last season. "It was really rainy conditions and I slipped and fell. I didn't think much of it that day, but the next day I had pain in the area where I had surgery. I thought I had re-tore it. I didn't, but it had this inflammation that bothered me all year long.

"We were doing so great as a team and I was so proud to be a 49er and being with the guys and then to have such a horrible personal season was very discouraging. I'm a competitor and I want to compete at all costs. Nobody wants to go out like that at all."

The 49ers made it to the NFC Championship Game in 2011 and the Super Bowl last year. Akers hit all three of his attempts in the Super Bowl loss to the Ravens in February, but was not retained after the season.

Just one year prior, in 2011, he recorded 166 points and 44 field goals, both NFL single-season records.

CLEAN SLATE

Akers has a clean slate with the Lions, though he is replacing one of the greatest kickers in NFL history in Jason Hanson, who retired this offseason after 21 seasons – all with the Lions.

"I'm not trying to replace Jason," Akers said. "I've had a great career of my own, so I don't feel like I need to hang onto someone else's coat tails.

"The way I look at it, I'm going to try and do the best that I can, whatever Dave Akers can do, and if that's good enough to help, that's what I really want to do. You just can't replace Jason."

Hanson gave a shout-out to Akers during his retirement speech in April, just days after the Lions had signed Akers to be his replacement.

"I also wanted to unretire when we signed David Akers," Hanson said. "I said, 'No, not David Akers,' because David is good. He had a bad year last year, but I don't feel bad for him and I'm not real worried about him because he's good.

"That happens to kickers. So, the Lions are fortunate that he'll be here. Can I say he's going to do my job? It's his job. He'll do well and I think I'm really jealous of him because I think he's going to step into a good situation and he's going to do some good stuff."

Akers had a procedure in February to relieve the pain in his groin from last season and isn't doing much kicking right now during OTAs, but says he's building towards training camp.

"I never try to be 100 percent in the offseason until the training camp build-up," he said. "There is a point of peaking too early, kicking too much and then you go down. I am very much in the beginning stages."

That's left him plenty of time to mentor Rugland and get ready for a good competition come August. A competition that won't involve any trick shots.