The mantra for every NFL player in the wake of a bad play is to forget it and move on, and no position relies on that notion more strongly than kicker, the specialist player often seen as expendable if mistakes are made.
Rookie Cleveland Browns kicker Greg Joseph, in nine career regular season games, plays with this mentality as he tries to solidify his position at the suddenly rejuvenated Browns.
Now sitting on 11 out of 13 made field goals for the season, Joseph tells ESPN his mindset has been, “Keep a short memory, on to the next kick. Bounce back and you move on to the next one.”
Having arrived in September, seemingly from nowhere, ‘Who now?!’ was the general reaction to Joseph’s signing when Zane Gonzalez was given the boot after the Browns’ 21-18 loss to the Saints.
Joseph, currently the only kicker in the league from South Africa, was born in Johannesburg, where he lived until his family made the move to the United States in 2001, when he was seven.
“My whole family is from South Africa. My kids will be the first generation not born there,” he says.
“I’ve gone back once, when I was 10, so three years after moving, but I haven’t been back since. But I remember where I grew up, I remember my school, where my grandma worked, friends’ houses, soccer fields I played at.”
Like many South Africans, Joseph is a big Manchester United supporter, and massive fan of former United defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, which explains why playing at the back was his preferred position until American football came calling.
The former centre-back, who still cheers for the Springboks rugby team, put his love for soccer on hold in his teens, as he discovered a talent for place kicking while at American Heritage School in Florida.
“They asked me to come out and try out, see if I could kick and it went from there. My mom didn’t want me to get tackled… but I just took the opportunity and ran with it,” he adds.
Fast forward to the end of his collegiate career, Joseph finished at Florida Atlantic University as the all time leader in field goals for the program. Going undrafted in the NFL draft earlier this year, Joseph signed with the Miami Dolphins but was released from the team after pre-season.
The 24-year-old continued working on his craft in preparation for another opportunity, which he duly received when the Cleveland Browns signed him on September 17th.
His most notable moment to date came in week five, at home against division rivals the Baltimore Ravens. With two seconds left on the clock in overtime, Joseph put a slightly wobbly 37-yard kick through the uprights to help the Browns win their second game of the season.
Now a fully-fledged NFL player, Joseph’s family in America have made it out to watch him play in person, but one family member back in South Africa is last on his list to get to one of his games.
“My half sister,” Joseph says. “She still lives there. She graduated from [the University of Cape Town] and lives there with her mom. She streams [the games] and is looking to make it out soon so that will be cool. That’s the last of the family that’s there.”
As the harsh Cleveland winter sets in and the wind swirls in from Lake Erie, Joseph is going to be faced with making field goals at FirstEnergy stadium, often kicking into the wind. Says Joseph: “Just stay grounded. Take it kick by kick, not even week by week, and go from there.”
Source : http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/25381385/nfl-cleveland-browns-greg-joseph-man-united-fan