I've interviewed Jake Elliott countless times since he joined the Eagles early in the 2017 season, a rookie who nobody knew a thing about and who promptly came in and booted his way into an NFL career. Consistency, range, and a steely excellence in clutch moments have been the hallmark of Elliott's time with the Eagles, which suddenly dates into his sixth season – amazing how fast that's gone by! – and is just now hitting its peak.
In all of those interviews, Elliott has been exactly the same – calm, thoughtful, positive thinking, and always, always, always sharing the credit for his success. He made the Pro Bowl last season after making 30 of 33 field goals and all 44 of his PATs for a career-high 134 points, a performance that included a 10-of-13 success rate from 40 to 49 yards and perfection on all three of his kicks from 50-plus yards, including a 58-yarder to help turn things around in a key road win in Carolina.
Anyway, I always try to see if Elliott will flinch in the course of a conversation topic. "If I have any emotions," he said, laughing on Saturday.
It is not easy. Elliott neither looks back nor looks ahead. He is as unflappable as they come, which is not necessarily the way it is with kickers. David Akers was a perfectionist who would spend most of his time on the sidelines kicking the football into the net. He was an intense guy, but when it came time to kick, Akers practiced the same consistency in his stroke and the result was that he enjoyed a 12-year career with the Eagles that landed him atop the team's list of all-time scorers and a place in the franchise's Hall of Fame.
"I just think I'm the same person every day," said Elliott, who ranks third behind Akers and Bobby Walston with 529 career points and is still 176 career field goals behind Akers' Eagles-best 294. "A lot of it has to with Rick (Lovato, long snapper) and Arryn (Siposs, holder) being super consistent and making me feel so comfortable back there and they've done a great job. I really think it's just staying the course every day and trying to get a little bit better, trying to make good contact, hitting a clean ball, and the rest will take care of itself."
Elliott is the best athlete on the team – ask anyone. The old idea that a kicker "isn't a football player" doesn't apply here because Elliott has the respect of everyone on the team and in the organization. This is just a perfect fit and the Eagles are fortunate to have not a worry in the world about their kicking operation. It is always a work in progress and blips generally happen during the course of the season, but Elliott has found a way to narrow the tension.
"I don't like to get too up and down. I like to stay even keel," Elliott said. "From the start of my career until now, there are a lot of similarities, but there are also a lot of things that have changed along the way. There are a lot of specifics I could probably get into – just a little more vertical, through the ball, trying to be more consistent down the field, and that makes those slight misses a little bit better. That's kind of the name of the game – trying to make those misses better. Trying to make those misses smaller.
"I feel better than ever right now. I think our operation is as smooth as it can be and I'm excited about it. We're really clicking right now and I think it's the best spot we've been in going into a season."
Elliott experienced something in the offseason that tested his nerves and, he admits, made his arms quiver just a bit. He qualified for the Philadelphia Open and took part in the golf tournament
"It was a different feeling for me," he said. "I missed a four-foot downhill slider. ... I just left myself in a lot of bad spots. Those are the ones that sit in your mind. My arms were a little bit shaky and my hands were a little sweaty."
Elliott shot a 77 in the first round after shooting a 72 to qualify for the tournament at Philadelphia Cricket Club. He is a scratch golfer, +1, and someday you may see him out on some kind of tour. For now, it's all about his kicking stroke. He feels great. He's ready to go. The kicking game is sound.
"The guys around me make it easy on me," Elliott said. "They're doing a heck of a job and it's a pleasure working with them."