Kicking it up a notch
The Tigers’ Jeff Wolfert slips into the record books
Kicker Jeff Wolfert added five points to his career total Saturday to become the highest-scoring individual in Mizzou history, surpassing quarterback Brad Smith.
Mizzou’s all-time individual scoring mark was set on the opening drive Saturday night in a 28-23 loss to Oklahoma State, but it it didn’t generate the fanfare it might have if a different player had set it.
It was neither the brilliant quarterback Chase Daniel, the electrifying receiver/return man Jeremy Maclin nor the dependable tight end Chase Coffman who is now tops with 289 points. Kicker Jeff Wolfert — tied with former quarterback Brad Smith at 284 career points scored going into the game — hit the field goal and two extra points Saturday night to officially rewrite the history books.
“I think it’s a testament to our offense,” says Wolfert. “We’re really powerful and always in the red zone, so when they’ve been short of touchdowns, I’ve been able to knock down three points. A lot of touchdowns, too, and extra points with them.”
Since joining the Mizzou football team as a walk-on his sophomore year in 2005, Wolfert has been astoundingly good. He is 191 of 200 on point-afters and field goals combined, good for 95.5 percent accuracy. He was perfect (60-for-60) in Big 12 Conference play up until this season, but even then, two of his three misses were longer than 50 yards, and one was blocked. In 2006, he was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best kicker. In 2007, Sports Illustrated named him to the Honorable Mention All-American team, and last year Wolfert was named first team All-Big 12.
“I go out there and expect to make all my kicks. All of them,” says Wolfert, embodying the mentality coaches say is necessary to excel as a kicker.
Surprisingly, though, he almost didn't play football at Mizzou.
It was no small feat for Wolfert to earn a spot on the Tigers as a walk-on. He had a $5,000 diving scholarship and had finished a 2004-05 freshman season in which he was a consensus pick as an all-conference diver. To even have a shot at making the football team, he had to not only give up the scholarship but also beat out the incumbent junior once he had.
Wolfert caps Mizzou's opening drive Saturday with a field goal that sets the new individual career scoring record.
The risk paid off. After an intense battle for the position, Wolfert was named MU’s starting kicker for the 2006 season, validating his decision. Another obstacle was that Wolfert had kicked in only one game in high school. And in that game, he just hit the opening kickoff before breaking his hip on the play. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says he never knew that aspect of the story, which might have altered the course of events. For a team seeking some consistency at the position, the injury and inexperience might have scared the coaching staff off from pulling the trigger.
In 2006, Wolfert set team records for most points scored in a season by a kicker (99); most field goals made (18); most point after attempts made (45); most consecutive point after attempts made in a season (45); highest percentage of field goals (.900) and PATs (1.000) made; and longest field goal made on the road (54 yards at Nebraska). A scholarship offer from the football team soon followed, capping off the feel-good story.
The records continued to fall in 2007 as Wolfert set a new school scoring record with 130 points. This season, even more could be rewritten as his work puts him at the top of the pack in the hunt for All-America and Groza honors yet again.
“It’s nothing I set my dreams on, but it’s something I ran in to,” says Wolfert. “I’m really proud to have this career mark for the Missouri Tiger offense.”