Belleville West grad Austin Seibert breaks NCAA records at Oklahoma
Reaction in Cleveland to the Browns’ selection of Belleville West graduate Austin Seibert in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft was a mixed bag.
Analysts and Cleveland media liked the pick. Browns fans? Not so much.
To the Browns, Seibert brings rare skill as a placekicker, kickoff specialist and punter, all jobs he handled over four seasons at Oklahoma University. He left OU as the all-time leading scorer in school and Big 12 Conference history and ranks first among FBS kickers in career points and extra points.
Kicking, meanwhile, has been an issue in Cleveland each of the last two years. Greg Joseph last season was good on 17 of 20 field goal attempts as a replacement for Zane Gonzalez, who converted just 40% of his attempts the season before.
Still, Joseph missed four extra points while the 7-8-1 Browns lost four of their games by a total of 11 points. Seibert will challenge him for his job.
Browns’ fans nevertheless widely panned, not just Seibert, but the entire notion of expending a fifth-round pick on any kicker.
The knock on Seibert, according to the draft magazines, is that he doesn’t have an NFL leg; his longest field goal his senior season was just 42 yards. He still hit 17 of 19 attempts and made 87 of 88 PATs.
The perceived lack of range can be pinned on Oklahoma’s historically good offense and head coach Lincoln Riley’s tendency to go for it on fourth down in the opponent’s territory. Seibert, meanwhile, routinely hit on 55-yard field goals during his pro day. His training-session kickoffs also sailed through the back of the endzone.
Josh Cox, who scouted Siebert for Cleveland, said the’s is no question that Seibert has a “huge leg” to go with a wide streak of competitiveness.
“He is very, very competitive,” Cox said during a post-draft press conference. “It is a young career for me, but I haven’t seen a kicker as competitive as he is.”
Seibert also had the backing of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, a teammate for three seasons at Oklahoma.
Browns’ sideline reporter Nathan Zegura interviewed Siebert for the clevelandbrowns.com last week during a rookie minicamp. Seibert, wearing the familiar brown jersey with No. 2, instead of the 43 he wore at West and Oklahoma, proclaimed his excitement at having simply been given his NFL shot.
“I knew they were looking, but I honestly didn’t think I was going to hear from the Browns during the draft,” Seibert told Zegura. “But it happened, so I’m here and I’m excited.”
Here are some highlights from that interview:
On working with Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer: “We met at the combine and I’ve talked to him multiple times. He’s a good guy and a very smart coach. That’s what I want to be around. He can help me improve my game, mold me and get me ready to go. He’s business with a side of humor.”
On his role as a do-it-all kicker at OU: “I think very few guys do that … It worked out for me because I ended up being decent at all of them.”
On hearing name called at the draft: “Oh, it’s a dream come true. I always wanted to hear my name called and I did. You can’t really explain what the feeling is like. It’s just so much emotion and then you realize, ok, it’s time to go to work. It’s just starting now. To have that process with the combine and Senior Bowl and all that, now it’s starting.”
On his few attempts from more than 40 yards: “Well, one, our offense was historically one of the best ever. In a lot of our games in the past year, we’d come down to a fourth-and-3 and be on the 30-35 yard line and go for it. I understand where (the coaches) were coming from on that because a lot of our games came down to the wire -- every game this last year -- and we needed to score touchdowns. If we kick field goals and don’t score touchdowns, we’re losing games, not winning Big 12 championships … At the same time, you make those kicks in practice. …”
On the opportunity to kick in the NFL: “I’m a big work-ethic guy. Everything I do is to make myself better as a field goal/kickoff specialist. I pride myself on it. I know this is a blue-collar city, and I come from a blue-collar town. They’re all about working and that’s how I am, too.”
On Baker Mayfield: “He’s been proving people wrong since day one. He’s a good guy to get behind and a good guy to lead the team. He’s a good quarterback to be kicking field goals for … It could come down to me winning games for him and that’s what I want to do. I have all the respect in the world for Baker because he’s proven so many people wrong. So much of his moxie has worn off on me as a kicker.”
Are you a big Ted Drewes fan?: “I am. I love Ted Drewes. I don’t eat it much because I’m not home too much.”