It's not common for a rookie kicker to be successful in his first NFL season. April knows that there are certainly exceptions to the rule. He cited Detroit's longtime kicker Jason Hanson, who hit 81 percent of his field goal attempts and scored 93 points back in 1992. More recently, Nate Kaeding was successful on 80 percent of his attempts for 114 points with the Chargers in 2004.
So, why do the Eagles think that Alex Henery, the team's fourth-round pick in this year's draft, could potentially make a quick and effective transition to the NFL? Note that David Akers, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was tendered a one-year deal by the Eagles, but the team made what April called "a sage move" to get insurance with the labor situation still unsettled.
The biggest reason that April thinks Henery can get points on the board quickly is his mental makeup.
"He's really a confident guy," April said. "He just has that confidence and mental toughness. He's self-assured and you have to be that way."
The Omaha, Neb. native went to Nebraska as a walk-on and as a redshirt freshman he won the kicker job as he beat out Adi Kunalic, who was regarded as the top kicking recruit in the nation. In his sophomore season, Henery provided the go-ahead points on a school-record 57-yard kick to help beat Colorado. To nail a kick in the clutch situation was impressive, but what April really wanted to know was how was Henery's demeanor when he was asked to make the kick?
April said that he asked Nebraska's coaches that exact question; Henery was simplistic, yet stoic as he answered, "Coach, I'll hit it."
What will also aid in Henery's transition, April said, is that he is used to kicking in nasty weather conditions. And while April would love for the work stoppage to end so that he can work with the rookie, the break could actually benefit Henery. April explained that between the season, the all-star games, training for the combine and workouts, Henery will never kick more in his life than he does this year. On top of the kicking duties, Henery was also the punter at Nebraska - he will not punt in the NFL - and worked out for teams in that capacity.
The selection of Henery was a surprise because of the fact he was taken with a pick that is high for a kicker. But April is quick to note that if Henery fulfills his potential, he could lead the team in points for the next decade and score 1,000 points for the Eagles. How many fourth-round picks can you say score 1,000 points in a career?
"You've got to get points to win the game, that's a playmaking commodity," April said. "That's a pretty big part of your team."
Unlike linemen or skill position players, there won't be anyone lining up directly across from Henery when he takes the field for the first time. Kicking is kicking, but for some reason it's rare for first-year players at the position to be successful. April said the Eagles think Henery is "exceptional." How long before fans get to see for themselves?