COSTA MESA — Younghoe Koo has been waiting for this.
The Chargers’ rookie kicker had been a star at Georgia Southern, a Lou Groza Award finalist who became the first FBS All-American in school history. He had become a viral sensation, courtesy of an acrobatic backflip. And he had earned an NFL roster spot – a minor miracle considering that he moved to this country having never seen a football.
So on Monday night, when the Chargers gave him a chance to send their season opener into overtime, he was ready.
“As a kicker,” Koo said, “you dream about those moments.”
But dreams can take odd twists and turns. So it was at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, where Koo made a 44-yard field goal – only to see it waved off thanks to Denver coach Vance Joseph’s timeout call. He lined up for a do-over. This time, defensive end Shelby Harris shot through the line, tipping the ball off course.
No matter. The Chargers like what they’ve seen out of Koo so far – even if he’s officially 0 for 1 on NFL field-goal attempts.
“He would have made the second one if it wasn’t blocked,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Tuesday. “He has ice in his veins.”
Koo wasn’t able to stave off the Chargers’ 24-21 loss to the Broncos, but he did show off some of the traits that helped him beat out former kicker Josh Lambo. Although the rookie didn’t noticeably separate himself on preseason field-goal attempts, what he did in practice convinced the team’s top brass to keep him around. After the 90-to-53 roster cut, General Manager Tom Telesco pointed out Koo’s mentality, makeup and demeanor.
Lynn echoed those thoughts on Tuesday.
“You talk about body language — just watch his body language,” he said of Koo. “He has a lot of swag. He’s very confident in his skills. His teammates believe in him. He’s a team-builder.”
“You don’t see that out of rookies a lot, especially at that position. A lot of times, kickers are a headcase. But I guess this young man, he doesn’t know any better right now.”
Teammates have noticed too. Before the season opener, quarterback Philip Rivers said the Chargers have “nothing but confidence in him.” After Monday’s loss, Rivers’ faith in the rookie sounded unshaken.
Receiver Tyrell Williams said he picked up on Koo’s poise even during OTAs, which ended in early June.
“He was just confident, and just knew he was going to make every kick,” Williams said. “I think definitely kickers have…