It's August 9, the second half of the NFL Detroit Lions first 2013 preseason game. The opponent is the New York Jets. There is a placekicker who is making an attempt for a field goal of 49 yards - far from being an "automatic" or "gimme" conversion. It will be his first such effort in any real football competition, with a real opposing team.
The kick is up and good, and blasts maybe ten or eleven more yards beyond the uprights
So, what's in a name anyway?
"Kickalicious" is the moniker of the man who accomplished this, and there was no mistaking his sudden joy - as he was jumping up and down celebrating with his Lions teammates.
It might be a trifling notion, and merely a footnote, that Havard Rugland is actually this chap's real name. Make no mistake, he is known by the nickname his cousin bestowed upon him, as they created a video for YouTube, September 2012.
Mind you, there are entities such as Fairy-licious costumes, a Sweetie-licious bakery, and a Cheetah-licious Christmas, so this was just a matter of time for a kicker, right?
As of late August 2013, more than 4,800,000 viewers ( and counting) saw Kickalicious bust onto the scene - a new trick shot artist - the man from nowhere - providing four minutes of sheer enjoymen, as he displayed his mastery of power and accuracy, in a feast of football cleat feats.
Rugland - the -rookie, also went on to kick a 50 yarder, (hardly chump change) in addition to two successful kickoffs, in this 26-17 victory over the Jets.
In the off season, the Detroit Lions had also signed another kicker, the well known David Akers, a 38 year old veteran of 16 years experience. The first half of this game featured Akers hitting field goals of 35 and 47 yards, respectively. To be certain, Akers looms as the heavy favorite to win this kicking job. He brings a strong element of predictability, along with a long track record. Akers did have a poor year last season with the San Francisco 49ers. That remains a factor.
Havard Rugland is a linebacker sized, six foot two inch, 240 pound former soccer player from Algard Norway, where he performed as an amateur. Since November 2012, he's been sharpening his tools as an understudy of Michael Husted, a former NFL placekicker.
Is he a team player?
The smiling Kickalicious is ever popular with his would be Lion teammates in this summer camp. They love his fast paced, novel Norwegian accent and his penchant for laughing out loud, which can be seen on available videos.
"He's a great dude", (Tackle) Ndamukong Suh said. "Obviously his accent is hilarious". "We're all happy to have him as a teammate", quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "The guy's a great guy. It's refreshing to see how much fun he's having. The guy's having a blast, and he's doing a great job. He's kicking the ball great."
Highlights of the multi million view video
It's a fast moving YouTube video - the one that was posted September 16, 2012 - the one that spawned all the fireworks. It includes an invigorating sound track by The Dropkick Murphys, with their song: "The State Of Massachusetts."
Colorful images show Kickalicious place-kicking one thru a basketball hoop, maybe 50 yards away, on a soccer field. A football field features him booming one high into the sky, as a "running receiver" snags it, in stride, while circling behind the goal post; 50 yards...60 yards, in distance?
It's all so picturesque as the man-on-a-mission hooks a kick up a mountain into waiting hands...drives them from hills, valleys, lakes... and from a seashore position, depositing one into the mitts of a waiting row boat receiver.
With large hills in the background, trees along the road, an overcast sky - a postcard perfect setting - the 28 year old finesses one toward a moving vehicle, where a man catches it, as his torso appears thru the car's sunroof. The auto is travelling probably 20 M.P.H., and the kick travels approximately 40 yards. Do you like exacting punts? He does that too.
Back at the football field venue, he launches one from 25 yards out, at an angle of very high improbability, as it splits the uprights. Every scene exhibits a premium on "sense of touch", accuracy and power.
Detroit & Kickalicious, as a marriage
Detroit is quite the sports town. It yearns for the Next Big Thing, the Next Big Story - preferably the Next Big Hero - a modest human being, from modest beginnings. That is the formula for this major city, in major financial difficulty. The town has had its dances and recent love affairs with Joel Zumaya, Brennan Boesch, and Quentin Berry, of the Detroit Tigers - all whose dreams had sadly flickered out with the home team.
The online sports sites are afire with talk of Akers VS Havard Rugland. The sentiment seems to be consistently running about 10 to 1 in favor of Kickalicious. The same stats hold true for local sports radio, where hosts will "fight to the death" in asserting "unimpeachable" logic that Akers (pictured left)
Fans don't buy it. Collectively they fear that David Akers, being age 38, doesn't have many miles left on the tread. Secondly, palpable trembling can be felt at the mere hypothetical - that "our Kickalicious" will be allowed to just walk away and become mega famous for some other team!".
The Detroit Lions are not renowned for having football supremacy, but alas, they are on Pro Football's Mount Olympus for majestic field goal kicking. The last 33 years have seen only two men hold this job - Eddie Murray for 12 years, followed by Jason Hanson for 21. What word can you use here? "amazing"?, "unbelievable"? We can call it unprecedented.
It's a very important year for the Detroit Lions. Their record was 4-12 last year. Jobs are on the line. This means that coach, Jim Schwartz and G.M, Martin Mayhew must remain in intellectual high gear. Last April, that duo sent out a gutty S.O.S for Havard Rugland, the man with the million dollar nickname. (minus the corresponding bank account.)
They did not do it as a publicity stunt, or to extend the cult of Kickaliciousness beyond its "15 minutes of fame". Management surely had to have had certain criteria plotted out for their new contestant to meet; parameters of measurement, if you will. Those will be kept secret, thank you!
The end game is one of real mystery
If "Kick" (as Coach Schwartz calls him) reaches those goals, why would he not be a member of the Lions? Can the team do the unexpected and retain the services of both Akers and Rugland, as many have suggested?
Public perception is a ready to growl watchdog intertwined within this conundrum.
If Kickalicious emerges as initially victorious, but flops midway thru the season - there is a conceivable back-up plan... a shelved David Akers... or... guess who? The newly retired Jason Hanson. He could do it, one more time.
You could do worse than having the greatest kicker in Lion history, as an emergency back-up. But this unlikely tale of carving out a destiny, could add many chapters if the current roster indeed "has their man". If only...
Addendum: It is now Tuesday August 27, and the Detroit Lions have cut Kickalicious from the squad, two days before their final preseason game. First reports show that the local natives are restless. There is an angry segment of Lions fans - the extent of which is unknown, at this point.
Havard Rugland can now only be a "might have been", in terms of Detroit Lions history - only a "might have been".