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Prater returns to college stadium for Pro Bowl

Matt Prater's career has come full circle down in Orlando this week at the Pro Bowl.

Prater grew up in Estero, Florida, a few hours from Orlando, where he starred at Estero High School and earned a scholarship to the University of Central Florida, located in Orlando.

Prater is back in the place he called home for four years at UCF as one of the NFL's best kickers.

"It's exciting," Prater told about being back in Orlando for the Pro Bowl. "And I'm happy it was here in Orlando instead of Hawaii where it's a shorter flight for the one year old.

"I got to go over to the (UCF) campus, meet some of the new football staff and the new AD. Everybody was great, welcomed me with open arms and it was just a lot of fun. I'm excited the way the program is moving in the right direction."

In 46 career games at UCF, Prater finished his career tied for first in school history in field goals made (50) and ranked fourth in scoring (258). He made 17-of-26 (.654) field-goal attempts as a senior with a 49-yard long.

Prater went undrafted in 2006, but was signed by none other than the Detroit Lions as a camp leg for Jason Hanson. He made three field goals in a preseason game vs. Cleveland, but was never going to beat out Hanson for a roster spot.

Prater went to Atlanta, and then Denver, where he spent seven terrific years, including a Pro Bowl season in 2013.

He signed with the Lions for a second time in 2014, and he's continued to be terrific in Detroit. It seems fitting he's taking part in the week's Pro Bowl festivities in the city that groomed him for four seasons to be an NFL player, representing the team that gave him his first NFL opportunity.

Prater made 33 of 38 field-goal attempts (including the playoffs) for the Lions this past season and all but two of his 33 extra-point tries.

"It was pretty good, but it can always be better," Prater said of the season. "I missed a few kicks that are definitely make-able kicks.

"You always look back on any position and say there's a few plays here and there you wish you could have back, but at least none of the kicks I missed were last-second kicks to win or tie a game. I was happy with that part of it, but you can always improve and get better."

He made six game-winning or game-tying kicks, and his seven 50-yard-plus field goals made is a career single-season high, surpassing the six he made in Denver in 2013.

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