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Dave Toub on Cairo Santos: “He’s a competitor now”

Posted Dec 20, 2015

The Chiefs kicker worked hard to improve this offseason

It may be easy to forget now, but less than a year and a half ago, the Kansas City Chiefs and their fans were just getting to know Cairo Santos.

At the time, he was 23, an undrafted free agent out of Tulane University who was trying to make it in the pros.

In order to do so, he’d have to beat the incumbent, Ryan Succop, in a training camp battle for the role. As the weeks of camp went on, head coach Andy Reid continually reiterated how close the battle was.

In the end, Santos won the job, and he followed it up with a successful season for the Chiefs, converting 25 of his 30 field goal attempts.

When the Chiefs ultimately missed the playoffs, Santos’ season ended with it, and at that stage, it would have been easy to understand if he was satisfied with all he was able to accomplish. But the funny thing was, he really wasn’t.

He wanted to be an improved kicker in 2015.

“I worked hard,” Santos said, “did a lot of squats in the offseason. I ran. I wanted to be more conditioned to last throughout the whole season.”

Cairo Santos (Kickoff Stats)

Year

KO

TB

Pct

Yds

Avg

Ret

RetYds

2014

79

26

32.9

5074

64.2

53

1278

2015

73

39

53.4

4718

64.6

32

761

To date, Santos has kicked off 73 times, and he already has 39 touchbacks in that span. He had 26 all of last season on 79 kicks. That has equated to a more-than-20 percent increase in touchbacks.

“I'm pleased with the results now, especially in December,” he said. “It can get pretty cold here and at away games, so any time that you can dial in a touchback, it's an impressive thing to do here in this month."

That success and the attitude that has naturally come with it have impressed the coaching staff.

“He’s a competitor now,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said of Santos’ biggest difference from year one to year two. “He competes against himself. He gets mad when he doesn’t get a touchback. Those are all good things. ”

Toub explained that besides just getting frustrated with himself at times, Santos will even get upset when the special teams operation fails, like on one of the extra points in Kansas City’s 34-20 win against the Oakland Raiders.

Now that the extra point has moved from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line, Santos knows that special teams execution is even more critical.

"It's definitely changed the game a little bit,” Santos said. “You've seen teams that have missed quite a few and you've also seen guys that remained really consistent. It's just another thing that motivates you to work even harder.”

So far this season (entering Week 15), there have been 58 extra point misses across the league, and Santos and company only have 2 of them.

Though the best game of Santos’ career came earlier this season in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals (when he set a franchise record with 7 FGM), the biggest kick of his career still remains last year against the San Diego Chargers.

With the Chiefs tied with San Diego, 20-20, with less than 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Santos hit a clutch 48-yard field goal, and the Chiefs won, 23-20, improving to 3-3 in the process.

Santos said that although a kick of that magnitude has yet to come in 2015, it’s the Andy Reid-designed practice situations that keep him ready.

Every day at practice, there is a portion when the only thing happening is Santos kicking field goals, meaning if he were to miss, everyone would notice.

“Everybody's watching you and coach Reid is right there behind me watching, evaluating,” he said. “They're charting. They want me to always do as good or better than the previous day, and that's my goal too.”

That thought process sits well with Toub, who believes Santos will be ready when that high-pressure kick finally comes.

“He has to know that at any time, that could happen,” Toub said. “Hopefully, if it does happen, he can rise to the challenge like he did before.”

Thanks to his rigorous offseason workouts, and with it, the growing confidence in himself, it’s a good bet that when the time comes, that will be the case.

“The next kick is always the most important, so every kick, my mentality is 'I must make it.'”

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