November 5, 2008

Wolfert making mark as the best ever

The term best ever has been thrown around a lot with some of these Missouri seniors. Chase Daniel is probably the best ever to play quarterback at Missouri. Some say Chase Coffman is the best ever to play at Missouri, period. But one Tiger senior has the stats to back up beyond a shadow of a doubt the claim he's the best ever.

In the history of NCAA football, no kicker has ever made a greater percentage of his kicks than Missouri's Jeff Wolfert.

In just under three seasons, Wolfert has lined up to attempt a field goal or an extra point 225 times. The ball has sailed through the uprights 215 of those times.

"He was gold," Gary Pinkel said.

"To do the things that he's been able to do is really something special," said fellow senior Brock Christopher. "That's something to be proud of for a walk-on guy that nobody expected anything out of. He's done a great job of getting the job done over the years."

Three years ago, to say no one saw this coming would be an understatement. The Tigers returned Adam Crossett, a senior kicker who had made a 50-yard fourth quarter field goal to give Missouri its first lead in a 38-31 Independence Bowl win over South Carolina. Missouri seemed set at kicker.

Crossett emerged from spring ball as the starter, and stayed that way through the majority of fall camp. Despite impressive accuracy day after day on the practice field, Wolfert was still the backup.

"He came in when he was trying to win the job, he came in and said, am I going to allow him to win it?" Pinkel recalled. "If I win it, are you going to allow me to play? Because I don't have the experience."

"It wasn't quite that direct," Wolfert said. "I did approach coach Yost and coach Pinkel because when I was battling to get that spot, it wasn't quite working out my way."

Finally, five days prior to Missouri's season opener against Murray State, Wolfert's consistency was rewarded when he was named the starting placekicker.

Wolfert promptly missed the first field goal of his career, a 41-yarder in the second quarter against the Racers. He bounced back to hit a 38-yarder, but there were certainly some lingering questions about the reliability of the unkown former diver. He went 2-for-3 the following week, missing from 36 yards against Ole Miss. Crossett was used for a longer kick, a 56-yard attempt, which also missed. That field goal was the last kick of any kind Wolfert would miss in 2006 and the storybook tale had its beginning. Wolfert made the first 95 kicks of his career in Big 12 play. Since that miss against the Rebels, he has hit on all but eight kicks. He has made all but one field goal inside of 50 yards in this, his senior, season.

There are at least four, and perhaps five, games left in Wolfert's career. As he preps for his final home game, Wolfert has a comfortable lead over former UCLA standout John Lee on the career accuracy chart. Despite attempting 16 more kicks than Lee, Wolfert has made 95.6% of his kicks. Lee is the current record holder at 93.3%.

"I never thought of that," Wolfert said of the record. "I just wanted to play for the University here and once I became the kicker, I wanted to play at a high level. The rest just kind of fell into place."

Things have a way of doing that when you're the best ever.

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