NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As a kid, Ryan Succop didn’t dream of playing in the NFL.
Growing up in Hickory, N.C., Succop played soccer, basketball, baseball and golf. As he got older, he spent his summers cutting grass, spreading mulch and pulling weeds for a landscaping business in town.
It was at the start of Succop's freshman year in high school when his soccer coach convinced him to try out for the football team. And, as they say, the rest of history.
Succop on Tuesday signed a five-year contract extension with the Titans. The 2018 season will be his 10th in the NFL.
With a smile, Succop recalled his introduction to the sport, and how being “Mr. Irrelevant” – the last player picked in the 2009 NFL Draft – helped motivate him to be the player he is today.
The journey began when Succop went to his first football practice, just a few days before the varsity team’s first game.
“And they said to me: “Hey bud, you’re suiting up on Friday night,” Succop said. “I’ll never forget going to that first football game on Friday night. I had never put on football pads. I had no idea where all these pads went. I had to ask one of my buddies: ‘Where does all this stuff go?’ I was putting butt pads where the knee pads go. I didn’t know. But I ended up having a lot of fun. I figured out, ‘This is kind of fun, kicking this football.’ It is really cool how it all worked out.”
Succop became a two-time all-state performer at Hickory High School, and from there he went to play at South Carolina. Succop played in 50 games for the Gamecocks, where he racked up 251 points, the second-highest total in school history.
After four seasons, he was selected 256th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2009 NFL Draft, which made him “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Succop found humor in the moniker, but he also used it as motivation.
“For me, I always looked at it as an opportunity,” he said. “I think some people could look at that, the name Mr. Irrelevant, and you could take that as a little bit of a negative or a slap in the face. But for me, I looked at it as ‘Hey, only two kickers were drafted that year.’ So I looked at it as an opportunity to chase my dream to play in the NFL. It was an opportunity and you take them and run with them no matter what they look like.”
David Buehler was the other kicker drafted that year. He was selected in the fifth round by the Dallas Cowboys. Buehler spent three seasons in the NFL, the final one in 2011.
Succop, meanwhile, is still going strong.
During his time in Tennessee, Succop has appeared in every game, and made 90 of his 104 field goal attempts, ranking ninth in the league with a success rate of 85.5 percent.
Succop ranks 12th among all active players with 913 career points. He has made 209 of his 251 career attempts on field goals, as well as 286 of his 292 career extra point attempts.
In 2017, his ninth NFL season, Succop made 35-of-42 field goals, and he set an NFL record by connecting on 56 consecutive successful field goals from inside 50 yards (2014-17). During his career, Succop has made seven career game-winning field goals, including one from 47 yards in an overtime win at Cleveland in 2017.
On the night before signing his new deal, Succop talked to his family about his career. He joined the Titans in 2014 after being released by the Chiefs just prior to the start of the season.
“It’s been really cool to see God’s hand in it, and the plan He’s had for my life, and for my family,” Succop said. “He’s blessed us in ways more than we could ever imagine when we came here. We found a home here in Nashville. We love our teammates and the organization and we love the city of Nashville. So this is great for our family and we couldn’t be happier.”
After signing the deal, his wife, Paige, and young son, Cooper, by his side in his No.4 Titans jersey, Succop reflected even more on his life, and what’s ahead. The couple's second child is due next month.
Succop said he’s thankful to the organization for believing in him, and he said he’s happy to “keep the band together” with punter Brett Kern and Beau Brinkley. Kern serves as Succop’s holder on kicks, and Brinkley is the team’s snapper. He’s looking forward to working more with new special teams coach Craig Aukerman, who was promoted this offseason under new head coach Mike Vrabel.
After taking some time off at the end of the 2017 season, Succop is gearing up for 2018.
Heading into Year 10, he continues to look for ways to get better. He’s currently working on strength training, flexibility, and running, and he plans to start kicking again in May.
“Every year it seems like I learn something a little new or a little different. And it has been really fun, the process of trying to get better every year. That’s what I really enjoy and that’s kind of the challenge. I am always learning,” Succop said. “I promise you I don’t have it all figured out. I think about guys that play on (the PGA) tour for a long time. A lot of times they get better later in their career. You just learn more about how to handle situations. How to handle wind, all kinds of different things. And being in those situations help. And you can really have some of your best years later in your career, and that is what I want to do.”
Succop doesn’t lack motivation.
He wants to remain one of the league’s top kickers. And he wants to prove the Titans right once again.
In 2017, Succop he set an NFL record by connecting on 56 consecutive successful field goals from inside 50 yards (2014-17). Since Succop joined the Titans in 2014, he's 82-of-89 on field goal attempts below 50 yards. That 92% FG percentage trails only Justin Tucker (97%) and Stephen Gostkowski (92%) among kickers with 50 games in that span, per ESPN Stats & Info.
“When you have those humble beginnings of being Mr. Irrelevant, it makes you even more thankful I think,” Succop said. “I think that ended up being a blessing for me, really, a little bit of motivation. You get a name like that and you kind of want to prove everybody wrong. “… I think going into my 10th year, it is something I never would have imagined. I just feel so blessed and very fortunate to be in this situation. I have certainly put the work in and will continue to do so.”
TitansOnline.com looks back at kicker Ryan Succop's first four seasons in Tennessee. (AP Photos)