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HAMMOCK: Patient Coutu gets his chance with Bills

To survive as an NFL kicker, it takes the right opportunity. It takes luck. It takes a great performance.

And sometimes even that isn't enough.

Not the most stable of jobs, the NFL placekicker role is the dream job that Collins Hill product Brandon Coutu has been pursuing since he was one of only two kickers drafted in 2008. He's been on and off NFL rosters since, putting in his share of practices as a backup on top of a tryout after tryout with interested teams.

Through it all, the former University of Georgia kicker has never played in an official NFL game. That will change this week.

The Buffalo Bills, going through kickers lately because of injuries, signed Coutu to the active roster on Wednesday. The 27-year-old isn't guaranteed anything more than Sunday's season finale at New England, but that shouldn't temper the enthusiasm surrounding his official -- and long-awaited -- NFL debut.

For whatever reason, Coutu has been overlooked since high school, when he was an exceptional kicker and punter at Collins Hill. I assumed he was destined for greatness at the college level and I was right. But it took him walking on at Georgia and earning a scholarship, eventually building an exceptional career with the Bulldogs. He made 53 of 66 field goals in college, making him the program's only kicker to make more than 80 percent of his career attempts.

The Seattle Seahawks drafted Coutu in 2008 and thought enough of him to carry him all season long on the practice squad (veteran Olindo Mare held his starting job -- a rarity since NFL teams rarely keep two kickers on the roster. Coutu was a perfect 7-for-7 in the preseason that year, but not even 100 percent accuracy is a guarantee for an NFL job.

He stuck with Seattle for the following season before being released just before the 2009 season. He spent the next few years staying in shape, biding his time for the next opportunity.

He kicked this season for the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives and briefly spent time on the Jacksonville Jaguars' practice squad before his latest shot with Buffalo. His one-game audition could turn into an opportunity next season with the Bills or with another franchise that likes what he's done.

Here's to hoping Coutu does well this weekend -- he deserves it for his hard work and patience.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.