Cairo Santos, the latest Latin American placekicker in the NFL
Since the mid-60s, when Hungarian-born Pete Gogolak became the first soccer-style placekicker in Pro Football, many teams began signing foreign-born placekickers who were more effective than their American-born straight-style counterparts. Most of them eventually played college football in the United States, and many of them were drafted in the NFL. Eventually, the American-born kickers began to adopt the soccer kicking style, and nowadays most of the kickers in the NFL have been born in the USA for the past thirty years.
But for nearly 50 years there has been at least one foreign-born kicker in the NFL each season. Although most of those kickers were born in Europe, since 1974 also there has been an almost continuing present of Latin American-born placekickers in the National Football League. But for the previous five seasons (2009-2013) there wasn't a Latino kicker in the NFL. But this year the Kansas City Chiefs have signed Brazilian-born Cairo Santos. Santos, who was born in Sao Paulo, came to the United States as a foreign-exchange student to a High School in St. Augustine, Florida. There he played for the football team, although he hadn't know American football in his native country. Soon Tulane University offered him a scholarship, and he won the Lou Groza Award as the Nation's top placekicker in 2012 as a junior (that same season he was named Consensus All-American). This year, as an undrafted rookie, he beat incumbent Ryan Succop for the Chiefs' kicking job.
The Chiefs have a long tradition with foreign-born placekickers, with two of the greatest (Hall of Famer and Norwegian-born Jan Stenerud and German-born Nick Lowery) playing thirteen seasons each in Kansas City.
Let's look at the Latin American placekickers who have played at least one game in the NFL:
- Sergio Albert (Mexico) 1974 Cardinals
- Efren Herrera (Mexico) 1974-1982 Cowboys, Seahawks, Bills
- Alan Pringle (Venezuela) 1975 Lions
- Benny Ricardo (Paraguay) 1976-1984 Bills, Lions, Saints, Vikings, Chargers
- Rafael Septien (Mexico) 1977-1986 Rams, Cowboys
- Frank Corral (Mexico) 1978-1981 Rams
- Raul Allegre (Mexico) 1983-1991 Colts, Giants, Jets
- Joaquin Zendejas (Mexico) 1983 Patriots
- Fuad Reveiz (Colombia) 1985-1995 Dolphins, Chargers, Vikings
- Tony Zendejas (Mexico) 1985-1995 Oilers, Rams, Falcons, 49ers
- Max Zendejas (Mexico) 1986-1987 Redskins, Packers
- Luis Zendejas (Mexico) 1987-1989 Cowboys, Eagles
- Jose Cortez (El Salvador) 1999-2005 Giants, 49ers, Redskins, Vikings, Colts, Cowboys, Eagles
- Martin Gramatica (Argentina) 1999-2008 Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Saints
- Bill Gramatica (Argentina) 2001-2004 Cardinals, Dolphins
- Cairo Santos (Brazil) 2014-? Chiefs
Herrera, Allegre and the eldest Gramatica were Super Bowl champions; and Herrera, Septien, Corral, Reveiz and Martin Gramatica were chosen to the Pro Bowl in their careers. Will Santos join them? Only time will tell.