NEWS- Booted: AHS's Novak released by 'Skins
Less than two months after the Washington Redskins signed him to be their kicker, Albemarle High School alum Nick Novak finds himself looking for work. The 'Skins made the announcement Monday, December 4 that Novak had been given the boot.
When he sat for the Hook's HotSeat a month ago ["Kickin' it: Novak believes in second chances," November 9], Novak was already in danger of losing his roster spot after successfully converting only two of five field goal attempts. He knew then that he couldn't go much longer with that kind of inaccuracy. "There are only 32 jobs out there, so the pressure is higher. But that's why you do it," he said.
Looking for work became an especially real possibility after Novak had missed five of his ten field goal attempts in his first five games with the Redskins, including a relatively easy 37-yard kick in a November 26 game against the Carolina Panthers that nearly cost the 'Skins a close victory. Two days after that critical miss, Novak had company on the Washington roster when the team signed kicker Shaun Suisham to the practice squad. Novak did not play in the December 3 game against the Falcons, in which Suisham missed his only field goal attempt, a 50-yarder.
When he got the news Monday night, Novak called his father, Robert, a former UVA professor and current professor of audiology at Purdue University.
"He was obviously sad about it but just determined to keep working on it and be ready for the next call," says the elder Novak. "I told him we're behind him all the way, and that we know he has the preparation, the work, and the skills to be successful."
AHS football coach Rick Vrohovac, who got the news Tuesday morning, says he spoke with his famous former player last week. "He knows it's a business," says Vrohovac. "He knew when they signed Suisham that they would compete and that Suisham won the competition."
This latest development is a far cry from Novak's situation five weeks ago in sold-out FedEx Field against the archrival Dallas Cowboys. In one of the year's most bizarre finishes, Novak missed a 49-yard field goal with 35 seconds that would have broken a 19-19 tie, only to see Cowboys' kicker Mike Vanderjagt (the most accurate in NFL history) have his own 35-yard attempt blocked. That gave Novak a 47-yard chance at redemption that barely squeaked through the uprights.
As tears streamed down his face, Novak told reporters, "Everybody hopes for a second chance."
Immediately after that game, Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs told reporters, "I sure like him, and I think he has a real future."
Asked about his change of heart in Monday's press conference, Gibbs told reporters it wasn't ultimately about Novak's accuracy, but, "Shaun gives us the best chance to get more distance [on kickoffs]."
Novak's average distance of 60 yards was fourth-worst in the NFL among kickers with more than 10 kickoffs.
It's a fate Novak seems to accept. "It's my fault," he told the Washington Post on Monday. "They wanted to see how [Suisham] kicks for the rest of the year."
So what's next for the 25-year-old former Patriot?
"It's kind of up in the air what his immediate plans are," his father says. "Right now he's going over his options."
In spite of Novak's uncertain future, Robert says his son remains bullish about his future NFL prospects.
"He's very optimistic," he says; "that's just who Nick is."
If that doesn't pan out, Vrohovac says Novak may want to explore other career options. "He has a pipe dream like all athletes to compete at the highest level," he says. "But the good thing is he has his degree from Maryland and his mind to fall back on."
It's not the first time Novak has found himself outside the NFL looking in. After becoming the all-time leading scorer in ACC football as Maryland's kicker, all 32 teams passed on Novak in the 2005 draft. But when 'Skins kicker John Hall pulled up lame later that year, they called the former Terrapin for his first stint in Washington. After that, he signed with the Arizona Cardinals, only to be released after almost an entire off-season spent training with the team in the hot desert sun.
It's been reported that Novak may continue to reside in the D.C. area for a few weeks and continue to work out and practice in the hopes of signing with another NFL team in the run-up to the playoffs or the chance to play in NFL Europe.
Regardless of what the future holds for Novak, it appears he's learning the meaning of what he told the Hook was the best "advice" he ever received.
"If you've never fallen," he said, "you don't know what it's like to get back up."
Nick Novak converted only five of his ten field goal attempts in his second stint as the Washington Redskins' kicker.
PHOTO BY WILL WALKER