Report: Lions inquire about heroic Michigan Panthers kicker

St. Louis Battlehawks v Michigan Panthers
Photo by Nic Antaya/UFL/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have reportedly reached out to heroic Michigan Panthers kicker Jake Bates.

Over the weekend, the UFL—the latest spring league that combined the USFL and XFL—kicked off its inaugural season. The local Michigan Panthers won their opener at Ford Field in heroic fashion. Kicker Jake Bates made a 64-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Panthers an 18-16 victory over the St. Louis Battlehawks.

According to Detroit News’ Tony Paul, the Detroit Lions are among several teams who have already inquired about Bates.

The story of Bates is a fascinating one. Prior to this 64-yard field goal, he hadn’t attempted a regular season kick since high school. That’s because his college career was spent as a kickoff specialist. In 2020 and 2021, Bates only participated in kickoffs for Texas State behind field goal kicker Seth Keller. He transferred to Arkansas in 2022, where he was the kickoff specialist there, leading all FBS schools in touchback percentage (64 of 75, or 85.3%). At Arkansas, Cam Little was the field goal kicker. Little is now considered one of the top kickers in this year’s draft class.

Bates did sign with the Houston Texans in August of 2023. He played in the preseason opener against the New England Patriots and went 2-of-3 on extra points. He was waived two days later.

The Lions have openly said that they want to bring in more kicker competition this offseason. They re-signed kicker Michael Badgley in February, but Badgley has struggled from long distance. Last year, Badgley initially lost the kicker competition in training camp, before winning it back midseason. That year, he went 4-for-4 on field goals (an additional 3-for-3 in the playoffs) and made 13-of-15 extra points, with one of those being blocked.

An interesting wrinkle, as noted by Paul, is that Steve Kazor, the current Michigan Panthers general manager, worked alongside Lions general manager Brad Holmes for several years with the Los Angeles Rams. Kazor was a long-time scout for the Rams (2007-2022), while Holmes worked his way up from scout (2003-2012) to director of college scouting (2013-2020) before becoming the Lions general manager in 2021.

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Title: Report: Lions inquire about heroic Michigan Panthers kicker
Author: Jeremy Reisman

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