LINCOLN — The St. Louis Rams already were among the teams that had worked out Greg Zuerlein individually, but John Fassel wanted to come back and take one last look at the former UNO kicker.
So Zuerlein hopped in his car, drove Tuesday night from Lincoln to St. Joseph, Mo., and was ready for the Rams' special teams coach when he visited Missouri Western State on Wednesday.
The trip from his hometown back to the place where he played his senior season turned out to be worth it.
The Rams on Saturday used the first pick of the sixth round to take Zuerlein in the NFL draft. In the process, the Lincoln Pius X graduate became the first kicker from a non-Football Bowl Subdivision school to be selected since 2005.
“It was exciting,” Zuerlein said. “I'm excited for the chance ahead of me, but I've got a lot of work to do. I'm going to have to prove myself each and every day.”
Believing he was done working out for teams after visiting Houston, Zuerlein said he was unsure what to think of the Rams calling again Monday. Did it mean they really liked him or did they have some unanswered questions about what they saw before?
“I didn't really know what to expect with it,” he said. “It just worked out.”
Zuerlein said he missed a 55-yard field goal Wednesday, but made two from 60. He also worked on some directional kickoffs as well as some other things for Fassel.
Zuerlein made 36 of 49 field goals for UNO between 2007 and '09, then sat the following season because of a hip injury. When the University of Nebraska at Omaha program was shut down, he transferred to Missouri Western for 2011.
With the Griffons, he made a school-record 23 field goals — 21 straight at one point — and was 9 for 9 on attempts from 50-plus yards.
Zuerlein was the second kicker taken in the draft, after Randy Bullock of Texas A&M went to Houston in the fifth round. The last kicker from a non-FBS program to be drafted was Paul Ernster of Northern Arizona in 2005, going to Denver in the seventh round.
“Teams told me I had good ability and I'll get a chance,” he said.
The Rams already have former Nebraska kicker Josh Brown on their roster, as well as rookie Garrett Lindholm. Brown made 21 of 28 field goals last season, and is 220 for 272 (80.9 percent) in his nine-year NFL career.
However, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Saturday that the team plans to release Brown on Sunday, a move that would save St. Louis more than $2 million in cap space, according to CBSSports.com.
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