This NFL season marks the 15th anniversary of both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers. I recently chatted with one of the original Jaguars, former Pro Bowl kicker Mike Hollis. We discussed the early days of the franchise under Tom Coughlin, where the Jags have gone since the 1995 inaugural season, and the life of an NFL kicker.
Mike Hollis spent seven of his nine years as an NFL placekicker with the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his career, Mike converted 200 of 250 field goal attempts, which included a streak of 20 consecutive conversions. Additionally, Hollis was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 1997 season, and still ranks among the best in NFL history in a number of kicking categories, including highest conversion percentage of field goals of 50 or more yards and post-season field goal kicking accuracy. All tolled, Mike scored 879 regular season points.
In 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars played their inaugural NFL season. Far from the prototypical NFL city, this unexpected winner of one of only two new teams since 1976 quickly rose to the top of the league. By only its second year in existence, the Jaguars had earned the right to play in the 1997 AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. An incredible sophomore season ended just one game shy of the Super Bowl. Mike shared some of his memories of that group, led by Tom Coughlin.
“We had a very unique group of guys that had one goal in common. Tom Coughlin did a great job of getting those kinds of guys together on one football team”, said Hollis.
That Jaguars team seemed to thrive as the underdog, much as the city did during the franchise selection process that preceded inception into the NFL.
Success continued for the team, as the Jags reached the playoffs the following three seasons. Although a Super Bowl appearance was not to be, the fledgling franchise was able to go from “new kid on the block” to perennial playoff contender almost instantly. As Mike would reveal, however, the decline in Jaguar victories seemed to coincide with a change in philosophy around the locker room.
Speaking of his frequent visits to the Jaguars facility after his retirement, Mike says, “I didn’t see the same chemistry or the same camaraderie”.
When I asked Mike what he thought was the biggest difference in the game today, versus when he was playing, he said, “I just don’t see the same sort of commitment amongst the team and players that I did back then”.
The same lack of commitment has reached the fan base as well. Whether it’s due to the floundering economy, or just simply the shortage of victories in recent years, the Jaguars “faithful” have failed to consistently attend games the way they had in the early years.
Hollis seems to believe that the swoon in fan support stems not only from a down economy, but also from the aforementioned change in philosophy by the organization as a whole.
“Tom Coughlin had an addendum to every player’s contract, and that was that we were required to make at least three public appearances during the season, and that I believe is no longer a requirement”, explained Hollis.
Less visibility in the community is something that Hollis feels is contributing to the growing apathy among Jaguars fans. Mike does not, however, believe that the proximity of the Florida Gators program affects the overall interest in the Jaguars, citing, “If that was the case, I don’t think that the Arena League would open a franchise here in
With regards to Mike’s specialty, the kicking game, he had much to say about the coaching and development of today’s players.
“Kicking has not gotten to a point where it’s got a consistent, basic fundamental. There are too many coaches out there that don’t know what the heck they are talking about, and they are teaching different styles and different techniques”, says Mike.
To address what he believes are serious inefficiencies in the handling of young kickers, Mike launched his Jacksonville-based “Mike Hollis’
“I can kick the ball as far, sometimes, as Sebastian Janikowski. It’s not about size, it’s about the technique and how you utilize 100% of your body behind the ball”, contends Hollis.
The “Mike Hollis’ ProForm Kicking Academy” was started by Mike Hollis, after seeing so many kickers from the high school to the NFL level make subtle and correctable errors in their kicking game.
Mike has worked with some of football’s most talented kickers, including former NFL kickers Shane Andrus and Nick Novak, as well as Florida Gator kicker Caleb Sturgis. According to Hollis, Novak recently auditioned for a return to the NFL with the Washington Redskins.
The academy is not for everyone, as Mike is focused on teaching those that truly have the passion to commit themselves to the craft long-term. “The ones who are expecting to get a quick fix, they will not succeed. They will not have any success in our academy. We don’t want to take their money”.
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