Shane Lechler: The Unsung Hero Of The Oakland Raiders
By Matthew Asher
Edward Shane Lechler, P #9
Weight: 230 lbs
Hometown: East Bernard, Texas
College: Texas A&M
Experience: 13 years
Kickers in the NFL can either be the hero or the goat of a game, with very little in between. You remember Scott Norwood’s last-second missed field goal in Super Bowl XXV, or Adam Vinatieri’s last-second winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI, but not too many people remember Shane Lechler’s punt in Super Bowl XXXVII. While he may end up as an afterthought on a box score, Lechler is always counted on by the Raiders for his consistency. As the current NFL all-time leader in punting average, his ability to turn the field position battle in Oakland’s favor has come in handy often.
Shane attended East Bernard High School where he played football, basketball, baseball and golf. In football he was a quarterback, punter and placekicker, leading his team to the state quarterfinals his senior year of high school. That year Lechler completed 86 percent of his passes (87 for 101) for 1,640 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a punter, Shane averaged 41.6 yards per punt with his longest being an astounding 85 yards.
Lechler attended Texas A&M and just like in high school, he played many positions on the football field. Shane was the Aggies’ punter, kickoff specialist, long field goal kicker, holder for short field goals and extra points and was the emergency quarterback.
Lechler started off strong for the Aggies, selected to the 1996 Freshman All-American team recording 42.7 yards per punt. As a sophomore, Shane broke the Aggie single season record, averaging 47 yards per punt and was selected to the All-Big XII team for his efforts. As a junior Lechler was a member of The Sporting News All-America team and his senior year he was an AP first team All American when he averaged 46.5 yards per punt.
He showed he still had his arm in his junior year in college when he threw a 29-yard pass against Baylor, and against Texas Tech, he threw a touchdown pass en route to a 17-10 victory over the Red Raiders.
In 1998 when the Aggies played in the Big XII Championship game against Kansas City, Shane was the backup quarterback due to the numerous injuries. While he didn’t play as quarterback that game, Shane was told to warm up during the game when it looked like quarterback Branndon Stewart might need to be taken out of the game. Texas A&M won the game 36-33, their first Big XII title.
Lechler finished his NCAA career with the NCAA record for career punts, averaging 44.7 yards per attempt racking up six punts of 69 yards or more and more importantly had 28 “coffin corner” kicks combined in his junior and senior seasons. In college Shane never had a punt blocked and only one punt was returned for a touchdown. Head coach R.C. Slocum referred to Lechler as “the team’s most valuable player.”
Selected in the fifth round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, Lechler has been with Oakland his entire career. In his 13 years in the NFL, Shane has been selected to seven Pro Bowls, including the last five straight seasons. He is also a nine-time All-Pro and a member of the 2000’s All-Decade Team. Lechler has the top five single-season punting averages in Raiders history including a career-best 51.1 in 2009. Only Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh had a greater average in a season (51.4 in 1940).
For his first 12 seasons, Lechler did not have a punt blocked. He has had two blocked this season. The Raiders rewarded Shane for his hard work and loyalty in 2009 when he signed a 4 year, $12 million contract, making him the highest paid punter in NFL history. That contract is well deserved and it will be interesting to see how Lechler performs in the twilight of his career. One thing is for sure, whenever he hangs up his cleats, the wait for Canton, Ohio will only be the mandatory five years.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.