While some may have been thinking that the Rams search to replace kicker Greg Zuerlein would begin in the draft, Les Snead had other plans. LA’s GM reached down into his deep scouting roots and plucked not one, but two kickers. First, the team added Canadian Football League All-Star Lirim Harjrullaju, owner of a career 82 percent field goal percentage. Almost immediately after that they also added XFL standout, Austin MacGinnis. At first glance, it seems the Rams are just going cheap. The Rams brought in two kickers on minimum salaries, both of which have never kicked in the NFL before, to battle it out in training camp. But after digging deeper, it seems that neither of these kickers is a slouch by any means. Replacing Greg Zuerlein, who left for Dallas, won’t be easy. The Rams kicker battle could come down to two kickers. Here are those two.
Hajrillahu has a fascinating background. Born in Kosovo, He and his family had to leave their country because of the Kosovo War. The settled in Canada when Lirim was 8 years old. Growing up playing soccer and having to the take time to learn English, he didn’t even start kicking a football until the tenth grade. After High School he kicked at Western Ontario College, and for the Canadian National Team in the 2011 World Championships before joining the CFL.
While kicking in 6 seasons in the CFL, Lirim has hit below 81 percent of his field goals only once. To go along with the good percentages, he has also made 19 of 22 kicks from beyond 50 yards in his career. He was the team’s punter every year, something he isn’t expected to do with the Rams as long as Johnny Hekker is around, and he kicked the game-winning field goal in the 105th Grey Cup. The man is accurate, clutch, and has a big leg; leading many Rams fans to think he was set to be the team’s new kicker. Then Les Snead and his team threw everyone a curve ball and immediately signed another kicker to compete with him.
Austin MacGinnis was born in Sacramento but moved to Alabama and played his High School football there. He was one of the top-three kicking recruits in the country and he chose to play at the University of Kentucky. MacGinnis left Kentucky after four years and as their all-time leading scorer. He was also named as the first-team All-SEC kicker every year he was on campus. Even after all the accolades and accomplishments, MacGinnis was not drafted in 2018. He tried out for the Bears that summer, and then again when Chicago had their infamous 43-yard field goal tryout in 2019. He tried out with multiple other kickers but ultimately lost out to Eddy Pineiro.
Not being deterred, MacGinnis turned to the AAF. After going nine of ten on his field goals and being named the AAF “player of the week” for week 4, the AAF folded. MacGinnis showed resiliency and kept kicking. He waited for a chance to kick again, and that came when the XFL re-launched. Once again, MacGinnis more than held his own as he hit all 10 of his field goal chances. But also, once again, the league he was playing in ceased operations. Not being drafted despite a stellar pedigree, and being a part of two failing leagues has proven that MacGinnis can handle adversity. Now hes trying to prove he can handle the LA Rams kicking job.
Who Will Win?
The kicking position for the Rams has been the epitome of peaks and valleys. The team has had two great kickers in Jeff Wilkins and Greg Zuerlein, but also a 4-year run with Josh Brown that had everyone pulling their hair out. In bringing in these two kickers to compete, the Rams are seemingly trying to avoid the Josh Brown debacle. By competing all of the training camp, it will give the team a kicker who is motivated and in a groove. That being said, I think the edge here has to go to Hajrullahu. He has more professional experience, can be an emergency punter and has made huge pressure kicks in the past. This isn’t to say that MacGinnis has no chance. Coach McVay will surely let the kicking in camp decide who is the winner, but Hajrullahu seems to have a leg up in the competition.
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