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NFL Draft

Jake Verity: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • April 23, 2021
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It may not be the flashiest pick on draft weekend, but kickers are a vital part of the NFL game, and they’ve become even more important over the past couple of seasons.

One of this year’s top prospects at the position is Jake Verity, out of Eastern Carolina, who will be vying for a spot in somebody’s draft class this April.

Verity spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about how he improves deep accuracy, the importance of a reliable, effective kicker at the next level, and if “icing” the kicker has an impact on him.

JM: How do you look back on your time at ECU?

JV: It was a fantastic experience. The offer came in kinda late. It actually came in after signing day. It was a bit of a last-minute thing. I don’t have any regrets whatsoever about attending ECU. I got a great education and met a bunch of fantastic people. I was able to develop myself as a player who now has a chance to play at the next level. I had the time of my life at ECU. I’m proud of the person and player I’ve become. It’s all thanks to the fine people at ECU.

JM: It sounds like you had a great time at Eastern Carolina. You did a bit of punting in college as well. You obviously grew up doing both kicking and punting. What was your experience like growing up as a specialist, and how did you eventually decide to focus on being a kicker?

JV: I was actually recruited more so as a punter than as a kicker (laughs). Most of the schools that recruited me were after my abilities as a punter. I came in as a dual-specialist because being able to do both sort of increases your chances of getting recruited. That’s why I did both in high school. It’s very appealing to college coaches. They love that sort of versatility, especially as a specialist. I came in as more of a punter. I still work on it from time to time. Right now, it’s just another club in the bag for me. I’m a placekicker first and foremost. 

Our starting kicker got hurt during my freshman season. They ended up throwing me in after I had only been working as a punter in practice. I kicked in the game at Virginia Tech during the 2016 season. It went well. That’s when my career as a placekicker began to blossom. I’m extremely happy with how things have played out since.

JM: Things always have a way of working themselves out. What’s one thing you can do as a kicker to improve deep accuracy?

JV: I believe that’s more mental than anything. Any kick that I hit from 25 yards should be exactly the same as a kick that I hit from 55 yards. The more I can emulate hitting that long ball in a live scenario at practice, it should continue to improve my make rate from deep. I think any kicker would agree with me there.

I have that same ability to hit that deep ball. It’s just like hitting a short one to me. It’s always an area I can improve in, though. I’m looking forward to getting more reps in a live game situation at the pro level. 

JM: Say you’re down two points with a minute left and your number gets called. How do you respond to that high-pressure situation?

JV: I respond great to pressure. I always pride myself off of my ability to hit my best balls in high-pressure scenarios. Early in my career as a young kicker, I used to get a little nervous. I used to worry about messing up. I turned a corner, though. I turned that nervous energy into excitement. I’m excited to go make a big play for my team now. I’m confident that I can make every kick. I’m helping my team win games. 

When my mindset changed, that’s when I started to see success. I embrace it now. My coaches and I developed a bond. They trusted me to go out there and make every kick. I can make game-winning kicks from 50 yards out. I get excited about that prospect now.

JM: That’s a terrific way to look at it. What’s your opinion on icing the kicker, and do you think it works?

JV: I think it only works to an extent. It depends on the scenario. I’ve been in that situation a few times. We were playing NC State back in 2018. We were down like 57-0. We hadn’t been shut out in more than 10 years. I went out there to hit a  46-yarder with two seconds left in the game. They wanted to shut us out. I hit the kick but NC State called a timeout. They decided to ice me. They really wanted to preserve the shut-out. I went back to our bench during the timeout. Things were gloomy on our sideline. We were losing pretty badly. I was able to go back out there and make the same kick. I hit the exact same ball. I saved the shut-out from happening. I think about that kick a lot. There really shouldn’t be any variables that change just because they called a timeout and tried to “ice” you. That first kick is just like any kick that you hit during the offseason or in practice. That first kick is an extra rep. “Icing” the kicker might work on some people, but I’m confident that it doesn’t impact me.

JM: That makes sense. You’ve spent the last few months meeting with NFL teams virtually through Zoom. What’s that process been like for you?

JV: I’ve met with more than a solid handful of teams on Zoom. I’ve filled out a few questionnaires and taken some tests for other teams. I spoke with several scouts at my Pro Day. I have to respect the team’s privacy at this time, so I can’t give out any names.

I’ve had some really good interactions with special teams coaches and scouts along the way. They’ve tried to get to know me as a person throughout this process. I’m sure it’s the same across the board at every position, but work ethic has been a big deal throughout my interviews. I’ve had a few film breakdown sessions with special teams coaches. We’ve been pointing out my strengths and areas to improve in. I’ve been proving that I’m a coachable player in these meetings. I’ve responded well to every interaction I’ve had. I’m happy to have them identify and point out areas of improvement. I’ve had some great conversations. I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me on draft weekend.

JM: It’s easy to see why so many teams have shown interest in you. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, why should a team use one of its draft picks on Jake Verity?

JV: I’m confident in my abilities as a pro kicker. I have great talent as the future placekicker of an NFL team. I’ll let my resume speak for itself. If I could say one thing to my future team, something that they may not know about me, I’d tell them that I’m excited to join the program and learn from the veterans. I’m gonna find my niche in the pro ranks. I pride myself off of my work ethic. I’m gonna continue working hard at the next level. I’m not gonna let somebody that’s been in the league for 12 years outwork me. I’m gonna come in early and leave late. I’m gonna do everything I’m asked to do and more.

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