Kicker Wil Lutz's game-winning 52-yard field goal to down the Green Bay Packers on Sunday was the type of clutch play that young athletes dream about, but Lutz said such a moment hasn't always been his goal.
"My goal in life was to be a professional soccer player, so I didn't even start kicking until my junior year of high school, so it's hard to say when I wanted that moment," Lutz said on Monday. "I fell in love with the game of football first and I really enjoyed being a part of a locker room, being on the field on Sundays and in college on Saturdays, and I don't think there's anything better."
Since switching over to football, Lutz has become one of the sports' premier kickers at the college and NFL levels, though his journey to the Broncos hasn't been a linear one.
Lutz reflected on his unique journey, which has included kicking for Head Coach Sean Payton in New Orleans and Denver. The Broncos' kicker was previously with the Ravens when Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh called Payton to offer his endorsement of Lutz, Payton said this week.
"Everyone's journey getting into this league is different," Lutz said. "It takes a little bit of skill and sometimes a lot of luck. I'm very grateful for the Baltimore Ravens organization. Seven years ago, I was able to learn under one of the best to ever do it [in Justin Tucker] and I took advantage of that opportunity. Thankfully, Sean brought me to New Orleans then and now to Denver, and I'm very grateful for [our] relationship.
"I've been fortunate to be able to make a lot of big kicks for Sean Payton-coached teams. Sean has seen me go through the ups and downs that every position goes through and he has kind of stuck with me through all that, so [I'm] grateful for that."
Lutz hasn't missed a field goal since Week 1, and both of the Broncos' wins have featured game-winning field goals by Lutz from beyond 50 yards in the final minutes. That confidence and technique comes from years of growth, both from the makes and the misses.
"As far as how I handle [late-game kicks], as cliché as it sounds, I do my best to treat every kick the same," Lutz said. "I think in football you learn through experiences. I've hit a lot of big kicks in my career, but I've also unfortunately missed a few. I've grown from all those kicks, the good and the bad. The way I approach the game winners is I take the lessons learned throughout my seven-and-a-half-year career and you grow through all of that."
The locker room environment that Lutz said he loves most about football was lively once again after the Broncos' 19-17 win, and he said he appreciates his crucial role on his new team.
"My goal is to affect every game in a positive way," Lutz said. "I feel like special teams as a whole has done that this year. I'm just grateful to be a part of that."