Last year, Kansas City Chiefs fans were losing their minds in the middle of September. A team coming off a playoff season was 0-2, including losses to the Denver Broncos and the lowly Tennessee Titans. The anger had to be directed at someone, and the undrafted rookie kicker from Tulane University, Cairo Santos, was the scapegoat.
Santos had struggled badly after replacing veteran Ryan Succop during that time, making one field goal off the uprights while missing two of his four four attempts. However, Santos would prove his worth. Over the final 14 games, Santos went 23-of-26 without missing an extra point. Suddenly, the Brazilian looks like he could be a mainstay for an organization steeped in a tradition of quality kickers.
Last week, FanSided’s Lauren Draper went to an NFL media event in the United Kingdom and caught up with Santos, who spoke at length about his feelings entering 2015 and more.
Santos believes he is more comfortable now than he was entering the league last season, knowing he has experience under his belt.
“Much more. I feel like I understand what it takes in terms of expectations from coaches. And on Sunday’s being on the field, how much pressure there is – I understand that now and feel more prepared. I also think my kicking game has improved. I’ve gotten stronger, added some weight. I feel like I’m kicking the ball a little better than last year, certainly with better rhythm with our holders and the snappers.”
Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt has been the holder for years, but there will be a changing of the guard at long snapper. Thomas Gafford was not-resigned, perhaps opening the door for rookie Andrew East or James Winchester.
Santos also stated that special teams coach Dave Toub has been instrumental in his development. This comes as no surprise with Toub being regarded as the best in the business by many.
“He gave me my first chance. He was very honest with me in the beginning. He was very honest in what he said. He said I was going to get a chance to compete for a job, and I was going to get to play some preseason games too to showcase myself. And that is what happened. He believed in me. Even in the tough times early in my carer, in the first two games he believed in me and gave me confidence. He’s a great coach. I’m biased but from what I hear from other coaches he’s one of the best special teams coaches in the country. I’m very pleased to have him as my coach.”
Of course, no interview with Santos would be complete without asking the 23-year-old about his game-winner in Week 7 over the San Diego Chargers.
“I definitely want to have those moments in my career. To have it so early in my career, it meant a lot. It lifted me. I had a lot of doubts, there wasn’t much confidence from outside the team but to kick those field goals and win the game, it totally lifted my confidence, the fans and the coaching staff. It was a real boost to my game.”
Here’s to hoping there are plenty more of those in 2015.