If Cade York is drafted next week, he believes he’ll owe Evan McPherson a thank you.
A year ago, McPherson left Florida after his junior season, was drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round and quickly became one of the top clutch kickers in the NFL in his rookie season.
Not only did McPherson connect on 28 of 33 field goals for an 84.8 percent success rate, but he kicked the Bengals into the Super Bowl with a game winner against Kansas City in the AFC Championship game. And, the week before that he kicked a 52-yarder as time expired to give Cincinnati a 19-16 divisional playoff victory. He was 14-for-14 on field goals in the postseason.
This spring, many scouts believe York, out of LSU and following in the footsteps of McPherson as he’s leaving college a year early to enter the draft, is the best college kicker in this draft class.
“I would like to agree with that,” York told The Post over the phone this week. “I’d like to think that I’m pretty confident about getting drafted. It’s been a while since there hasn’t been a kicker drafted. I’ve done everything I can do so far. Now it’s just the waiting part, and I’ve got to be patient and know that it’s not in my hands.
“Sometimes you start thinking about where you’re going to be. I wouldn’t call it stressful. It’s more the unknown. Because no matter what, I’m going to end up playing professional football as a 21-year-old making money as I do it. It doesn’t get much better about that.”
York took note of what McPherson did as a rookie last season, and it’s buoyed his confidence. He knows McPherson well, having played in the SEC against him, sharing the same kicking coach, Jamie Kohl, and he’s consulted him on occasion.
“That was awesome,” York said of McPherson’s magical 2021 season. “Honestly, it probably helped all the future kickers’ draft stock rise, because it showed that if you do spend a draft pick on a top [college] kicker, maybe you’ll get someone like that who’ll help take you to a Super Bowl.”
York finished up a stellar career at LSU, where he made 54 of 66 field-goal attempts (81.8 percent) and was 164-for-168 on PATs. In 2021, he was 15-for-18 on field goals, had five of 50 or more yards and made all 39 of his PAT attempts. In 2020, he was 18-for-21 and made six from 50 or more yards out.
Perhaps York’s most memorable moment in college came when he kicked his way into the LSU record books with a game-winning 57-yard field goal in heavy fog to lift the Tigers over No. 6 Florida, 37-34, on Dec. 12, 2020.
York sounds like a kicker who’s oblivious to pressure. He dismisses the added pressure that comes with kicking in the NFL, which is a lot more cutthroat than college and can be a transient world where job security is floating.
“There’s added pressure, [more] than in college, but you’re playing on the same field with the same-size uprights, so it should be the same as college,” he said. “But there is more outside pressure added in. I feel pretty confident about handling it. I know that it’ll probably be harder, but I’m not someone that really backs down from a challenge.
“I feel pretty excited about it. Making money as a 21-year-old for kicking a ball, that seems like a pretty great life to me, and that’s worth dealing with the extra stress that comes with it.”
York is just the fourth kicker since 2000 to leave school early for the NFL. The other three are Sebastian Janikowski, who kicked for nearly two decades in the NFL, Roberto Aguayo, who lasted only one year in the NFL, and McPherson.
“There wasn’t too much more I could do with making a better name for myself,” York said of coming out early. “I thought I was the best field-goal kicker coming out. I definitely want to put together a long career. I know that’s a long-term goal that’s going to take a lot to achieve. First, I want to make a team and then try and put myself out there as one of the better kickers in the league sooner rather than later.”