Throughout the season, Aldrick Rosas would get calls and messages from his folks.
They were the types of things any proud parents would say with their child embarking on the early stages of his career, in the NFL or elsewhere. They’d tell him how well he was doing. They’d marvel at how consistently he was performing. And they’d speculate about what it could all mean,
“Achievements and accolades aren’t out of the picture!” Rosas said they told him more than a few times in the past weeks.
To which he would always respond with the same reaction.
“Stop,” he’d say. “I’m just trying to get to the next game and still be on the team.”
So it was appropriate that on Tuesday, when Rosas learned that he would be receiving the ultimate achievement and accolade by representing the Giants in the Pro Bowl next month, the first people he called were his parents.
They were in town for a quick visit, so he just said he had some good news to share with them when he got home from work.
They probably knew, but when Rosas saw them, they acted surprised. The happiness? That was no act.
“When it finally happened, they were pretty, pretty ecstatic,” Rosas said. “They were probably the most excited I’ve ever seen them.”
Rosas said it was “perfect” that he was able to share that moment with them.
“They,” he said, “were a big part of the journey.”
And what a journey it has been.
Rosas has connected on 28 of 29 field-goal attempts this season, including a franchise-record 57-yarder in Week 13 against the Bears. His 96.5 field-goal percentage is tops in the NFL.
His only miss was a 52-yard attempt against Philadelphia in Week 6. Rosas appeared on the injury report in the short week leading up to that Thursday night game with a quadriceps issue in his kicking leg.
That’s a far leap from last year, his first in the NFL, when he scuffled, missing seven field-goal attempts (two of which were blocked) and three extra-point attempts (two of which were blocked).
No one would have batted an eyelid had the Giants’ new regime decided to part ways with the young but untrusted kicker.
Instead, they saw his potential, his powerful leg and his desire to improve, and stuck with him.
“Last year, he was a young guy,” special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. “Young guys are young guys. They make mistakes, they’re all over the place, they’re inconsistent. It’s just like how we all were when we were young. We made mistakes and we did things that weren’t good for us, but eventually you learn from those mistakes and you don’t become a repeat offender.”
The Giants have been pleased to have their patience pay off.
“You hate to say you have favorite players, but he’s one of my favorites,” Pat Shurmur said. “You’ve heard me talk about how he’s not just a kicker, he’s a football player. He’s a big guy, he’s got a presence and he’s competitive. So I appreciate all the good in Aldrick, and the fact that he was recognized is great.”
Rosas fixed last year’s shaky mechanics, which had him falling off to one side after his kicks.
“A lot of his misses last year weren’t bad misses,” McGaughey said. “They were just kind of leaky off to the right, or just leaky off to the left. It wasn’t horrible. When I came in last year and saw him, I just knew we needed to make a couple of tweaks. He did that this year, and you’re seeing the results of them.”
He also fixed his mindset. For that he turned to former Giants kicker John Carney. They worked together in the offseason.
“I could sit down with Carney, who actually played here and went to the Pro Bowl here, just to sit down with him and talk about every little situation,” Rosas said. “It was great just to sit down with him and really pick his brain about everything and all the situations that happened. I really learned a lot.”
It led to him blocking everything out except for the ball and his target. He doesn’t even know how far his kicks are when he attempts them. Nor does he know his range in warmups. It’s just football and goalpost.
Yet 2017 to 2018 probably isn’t even the biggest jump Rosas has made in his career. For that, you have to go back to the beginning, when he was kicking for a tiny Oregon high school and Southern Oregon University in the NAIA — not even the NCAA. He played in front of crowds that were scored in the dozens, not the tens of thousands like the packed NFL stadiums he now performs in.
In the 2014 NAIA championship game, he attempted to make a tackle and tore his ACL. That was the end of his college career. Until he made the Giants’ roster, it looked like possibly the end of his kicking career anywhere.
All of that went through Rosas’ head as he tried to come to grips with his new status as the top kicker in the NFC as voted on by fans, players and coaches.
“Yeah, it’s starting to kind of hit now,” Rosas said. “Just how, NAIA and small high school, just to last year, to kind of now. The story is still kind of getting written. When you’re around a great group of guys and a great organization, great fans, it’s just a huge blessing.”
Rosas said he was thrilled to get the second opportunity with the Giants at the start of this season. Back then, the Pro Bowl wasn’t even something he dared think about.
“Given last year, just to be in the conversation this year was real special to me,” he said.
It was something he tried hard to ignore, even as his parents asked him about it and even as McGaughey began to think it was a possibility. But just like his kicks, Rosas wanted to focus on the task and not the surrounding circumstances.
“I’ve been trying to keep it all out,” he said. “I kind of wanted to wait and just kind of put my head down and grind every day. When we get to the end of the season, just kind of reflect back on every game and every moment, and kind of see where I was.”
Until, of course, Tuesday — when it became impossible to avoid and impossible not to share.
Aldrick Rosas: Best kicker in the NFC.
“Yeah, that’s cool, that’s amazing,” he said with a shy chuckle upon hearing that sentence. “I really don’t have any words for it.”
Kicker No. 2
Born: Dec. 30, 1994 in Chico, Calif. (Age 23)
College: Southern Oregon
Undrafted: 2016; Signed with Giants in 2017