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Caleb Sturgis: Crazy Life Of An NFL Kicker

Posted Sep 30, 2015

Light posts. During the days when Caleb Sturgis waited for his agent to call with news of a tryout with another NFL team, he brought his bag of footballs and his kicking cleats and went to a local YMCA in Florida and kicked at light posts ...

Light posts. During the days when Caleb Sturgis waited for his agent to call with news of a tryout with another NFL team, he brought his bag of footballs and his kicking cleats and went to a local YMCA in Florida and kicked at light posts.

"Great targets," he said on Wednesday from the vantage point of the cafeteria in the NovaCare Complex, fresh off a training session with the Eagles. "You find ways to get your kicks in."

Sturgis' NFL path is still in the early going and he hopes to find his place in Philadelphia. The Eagles signed Sturgis on Tuesday after his Monday workout and his every-other-day-routine involved kicking on Tuesday and doing conditioning and strengthening work on Wednesday. A fifth-round pick of Miami in 2013, Sturgis had ups and downs with the Dolphins in his two seasons there, suffered a quad injury in a team-organized kickball game in the spring and then was released in the summer as the Dolphins trimmed their roster.

The two years with Miami did not leave a great taste for Sturgis. He's got a fresh start here after winning the kicking tryout.

"I'm really excited. I needed something new and here I am," said Sturgis, who tried out for New Orleans and Washington before his visit to Philadelphia. "Now it's a matter of getting my timing down (with long snapper Jon Dorenbos and holder Donnie Jones) and getting in my comfort zone and then doing my job.

"During the time when I was out there, I worked out the same. About 40 balls in a session when I kicked. I tried to keep my routine, even though I was by myself doing it on my own.

Sturgis lives in a hotel for the week and has as many belongings as fit into a carry-on travel bag. He's got some underwear and socks. A T-shirt or three. Some shorts. His kicking cleats. Not a whole lot more other than a high level of confidence that always takes a hit when the news comes that he is not wanted in a certain NFL city.

"It's tough. I had always been part of a team, whether it was playing soccer as a kid and then playing in high school and five years in college at Florida," he said. "I had the foundation that there's always something more than football and my relationship with God, knowing He always has a hand in everything. That helped. I was ready for a new start. Miami was ready for a new start.

"You have to keep a positive mindset. There is no reason to be angry. I just wanted another opportunity."

Sturgis was a standout at the University of Florida, a two-time All-America. His pre-draft bio was impressive -- "Flashes the ability to hit strong, high field goals in the 45-52 yard range and drive kicks through the uprights from 55-plus yards away. Has improved his field goal accuracy over time. Shows mental toughness in bouncing back from misses," wrote NFL.com prior to the 2013 NFL Draft -- and despite a 5-9 frame, Sturgis had impressive power. 

Miami was a struggle, though. Sturgis made 55-of-71 field goal attempts with the Dolphins and lost his job in the summer. He knew it was possible.

"The writing was kind of on the wall," he said. "I kind of saw it coming. I never doubted I would have another chance, but to be told I wasn't allowed to be in the building, it was tough to hear and to lose the relationships I built."

New relationships are in the process of being built with the Eagles. Sturgis beat out a host of kickers in a tryout on Monday in the wake of a season-ending groin injury suffered by Cody Parkey in the win over the Jets, including NFL veterans Nick Novak, Shayne Graham, Billy Cundiff and Kai Forbath. Head coach Chip Kelly says that Sturgis has an "explosive" leg, so we'll see how Sturgis harnesses that power. The first test comes on Sunday at FedEx Field against Washington in conditions that could be quite interesting with heavy rain a possibility.

"I just need to do my job," Sturgis said. "That's my focus every day. I have my targets every day."

Those targets are uprights, not light posts, as Sturgis points his career in a new direction.

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