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Harty: Future looks bright for Kaeding

[ 0 ] May 2, 2013 |

Nate Kaeding is retiring from the NFL at the age of 31, which is old by league standards, but not necessarily for a kicker.

Many kickers have withstood the test of time and lasted well beyond their 30th birthday, and in some cases, their 40th birthday. George Blanda kicked in the NFL until he was 48, while Jan Stenerud had three of his best seasons as an NFL kicker after he turned 39.

It’s hard to say what Kaeding will be doing when he’s 39 because his options seem limitless.

Kaeding said he plans to settle down in Iowa City with his wife, Samantha, and their three children. He owns a house near the University of Iowa campus and is part of a group that is starting a youth flag football league in the Iowa City area.

Combine that with his investments in two local restaurants and his responsibilities as a husband and father and there is plenty to keep Kaeding busy while he transitions away from the life of a professional athlete.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do in the immediate future,” Kaeding said. “We’ve got three young children and I’m really just focused on them and really getting settled back here in the Iowa City community.

“I’m getting my house organized and doing some work in our house and getting that set up and getting all of our stuff moved back in. That will probably be an all spring and summer project for us. And then in the interim, just kind of survey whatever options come up.”

Kaeding signed a free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on April 2. He could have tried to stick around for his 10th season in the NFL and tried to overcome the nagging groin injury that has plagued him recently.

But the good thing is he doesn’t have to. He doesn’t have to withstand the pain to keep a dream alive because Kaeding has dreams that go way beyond splitting the goal posts.

Football has been good to him. It paid for his college education. It made him rich beyond his wildest dreams. And it helped him gain exposure and build relationships with people from all walks of life.

But it never defined him as a person.

That’s why Kaeding is ready and willing to take the next step in his life. He’s ready to test himself in ways that kicking field goals never could.

He’s always had an interest in teaching and working with children. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kaeding returned to his high school or college alma mater to coach in some capacity.

Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me if he became the mayor of Iowa City someday.

Kaeding’s success as an athlete, coupled with his popularity, could carry him a long way in politics.

“My ultimate goal will be to try to find work where the needs of this community and my talents intersect,” Kaeding said.

I remember the first time I heard about Nate Kaeding. It was the spring of 1998 and former Press-Citizen reporter Rob Howe told me about this kid from West High who he saw kicking field goals all the time.

Kaeding was entering his junior year and Howe was covering a West softball game when he heard the sound of a football being kicked over and over, one loud thump at a time. He looked over and saw Kaeding practicing by himself.

“You could hear the ball hitting off his foot,” said Howe, who is now the publisher of Hawkeye Insider.com. “After a while, everybody at the softball game started looking over there because he was drawing so much attention.”

Kaeding has been in the spotlight since.

He was a multi-sport star at West who had the rare distinction of winning a state title in football, basketball and soccer as a senior in 1999-2000.

He became an all-America kicker at Iowa and helped lift the program to elite status under coach Kirk Ferentz.

And he spent nine seasons kicking in the NFL, mostly with the San Diego Chargers. He twice earned all-Pro recognition and he retired as the second most accurate kicker in NFL history at 86.2 percent.

Kaeding wasn’t as successful in the NFL playoffs, making only 8-of-15 field-goal attempts.

But he didn’t let that define him, either. He always accepted responsibility after missing a key field goal and he moved on with his career without making excuses.

He’s now moving on with his life, but don’t assume that his best days are behind him.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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