Kickers Matt Prater, Steven Hauschka are friendly rivals
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JERSEY CITY -- They are the best of enemies, and with the exception of quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson, the two players most affected by the cold weather and in the best position to determine the outcome of Super Bowl XLVIII.
That would be the two placekickers, Matt Prater of the Broncos and Steven Hauschka of the Seahawks. As fate would have it, they formed a strong friendship when Hauschka was signed by the Broncos late in the 2010 season to replace the injured Prater, who then won a training-camp battle in 2011. When Hauschka was waived, Seattle claimed him, and the rest is history in the making.
Going into Sunday's game, their combined field-goal conversion rate of 95 percent (58 of 61) is the best in Super Bowl history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They have been texting back and forth and enjoying a chance to share the Super Bowl experience.
"He's awesome,'' Denver's Prater said of Hauschka. "When I was on IR and they brought him in, we got along great. He's a funny guy. So, we stayed in touch. Hopefully, we'll be able to go out and go to dinner or do something together before the game. It'll be good seeing him in pregame. It should be a fun game for us.''
Hauschka said the two haven't compared notes on the conditions they'll face at MetLife Stadium but have communicated about everything else. "I sent him texts throughout the season,'' Hauschka said, "especially when he hit the long kick from 64. That was impressive.''
That was a reference to the 64-yard field goal Prater made in a win over Tennessee to break the NFL record of 63 yards set in 1970 by Tom Dempsey and tied by Jason Elam, Sebastian Janikowski and David Akers. Prater didn't realize it was a record until he looked up at the video board in Denver.
"The mascot had a sign: 'NFL record,' '' Prater said. "It was on the big screen. I can't even explain how I felt because I was so pumped up and happy.''
It's highly doubtful either will be able to get a field-goal attempt to fly that far Sunday night, when the temperature is expected to drop to 28 degrees, and MetLife's notorious swirling wind could have an effect.
"Anything under 40 degrees, you start feeling it,'' Prater said of kicking a cold ball. "When it's in the 20s and below, you hope your foot goes numb because it stings pretty bad.''
Both will determine their limits in pregame warm-ups. "In 70-degree weather, my range is 60 yards with no wind,'' Hauschka said. "As it gets colder, probably 30 degrees, the range goes down to 53-54 yards. Those 40 degrees really affect how the ball flies.''
Snow is an outside possibility, but since it's not a grass field that would be slippery, Prater said, "The field should be perfect. It's FieldTurf.''
However, snow would enhance the aesthetic effect, and you get the feeling Hauschka would appreciate it. Growing up in Needham, Mass., as a soccer player, his hero was then-Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, the only player in Super Bowl history to kick two winning field goals. The first was made possible because Vinatieri booted two key field goals in the snow to beat the Raiders in the 2001 playoffs.
"I had a signed photo from him on my wall from the 'Snow Bowl' in Foxborough,'' Hauschka said. "I've been dreaming of that moment since I started kicking. If it comes up, I'll be ready for it.''