By Ryan Leong
Sebastian Janikowski, K #11
College: Florida State
Experience: 13 years
Since he was drafted by late owner Al Davis as the 17th overall pick in the first round back of the 2000 NFL Draft, Sebastian Janikowski has more than delivered for the Silver and Black. One of only five kickers all-time to be a first round draft pick, Janikowski has been more than able to use his left leg to routinely make field goals that are 50 yards or longer.
The 2012 season is no exception. Even though the Raiders are 0-2 and have problems on offense, Janikowski isn’t one of them. He is a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals and his longest so far is 51-yards.
When embroiled head coach Lane Kiffin was unceremoniously fired by Davis for insubordination in 2008, his last noted act as coach was having Janikowski try a 76-yard field goal. While that decision was obviously absurd, it doesn’t seem as far fetched as you might think given Janikowski’s ability.
Among his career accomplishments, he tied the all-time record of a 63-yard field goal on September 12, 2011 at Denver. He also tied an NFL record by kicking three 50-yard field goals in Houston on October 9, 2011, the game played the day after Davis passed away. He set NFL single-game records with eight touchbacks and eight PATs at Denver on October 24, 2010.
Hard to believe then that it wasn’t until 2011 that “Sea Bass” was chosen to participate in his first Pro Bowl. In that game, he set a Pro Bowl record with eight extra points and a field goal in the 59-41 victory for the AFC.
When Janikowski was drafted in 2000, Davis gave him a five-year, $6.05 million contract. At the time, he replaced veteran Joe Nedney, who was making $350,000 a year. Kickers like Janikowski are rarely drafted because many general managers and front office executives feel that kickers can be found for much cheaper if the scouts are resourceful and willing to look for them. Often times, the salary cap is another major obstacle, since teams are often trying to find ways to stay under the cap and paying less for kickers is one way to ensure that.
Janikowski and Oakland punter Shane Lechler are good friends, and both were chosen in that draft class of 2000. No other kicker-punter teammates in the NFL have been with one team longer than them. In fact, only two other duos at any position have been with the team that drafted them for more than 11 years.
Early in his career, Janikowski made headlines for off-field problems, getting arrested in college for fighting in a bar, then arrested for another fight in 2003 while with the Raiders. He was also arrested for driving under the influence in 2002.
Janikowski was born in Wałbrzych, Poland. His father was a soccer player and he emigrated to America when Sebastian was 15. Sebastian excelled at soccer and helped lead the Orangewood Christian team to the state championship scoring 15 goals in five games. He later moved from Orlando, Fla. to Daytona Beach. In his senior year at Seabreeze High, he played both soccer and football. During his only season on the football team, he kicked a 60-yard field goal and in practice, he made an 82-yarder!
He had offers to play soccer in South America, but declined. He was also heavily recruited by colleges and decided to attend Florida State University. In three seasons, he became the second leading scorer in school history with 324 points.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.