Justin Tucker Following In Phil Dawson's Footsteps

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From one Longhorn to another, the torch is being passed.

Ravens second-year kicker Justin Tucker and 16-year 49ers kicker Phil Dawson met at the University of Texas before Tucker's senior year.

The two kicked together and struck up a friendship that has carried over into the NFL.

Now with Dawson in the later stages of his career, he looks at Tucker as the next generation.

"I'm just happy UT will have a kicker in the league for the next 15 years once I'm done," Dawson said after the final Ravens-49ers joint practice. "It'll be fun to watch and see how good he truly gets."

Tucker has already proven himself in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl in his first year and reaching the Pro Bowl in his second.

"Man, what a great start he's off to in his career. It's amazing," Dawson said.

Dawson entered the league in 1999. Tucker was just 10 years old at the time.

Since then, Dawson has put together one of the most impressive careers in NFL history. He has a career field goal percentage of 84.5. He only went to one Pro Bowl, but probably would have gone to more had he not been in Cleveland, which has perhaps the toughest kicking conditions in the league, for 14 years.

"Great kicker, even better guy," Tucker said. "I've always been a huge Phil fan. The body of work he's put together over a long career is really impressive. I can only hope to have as long a career as he has had thus far."

Dawson fully believes Tucker will be around for a long time.

He said longevity is dependent upon a combination of great coaching, a smooth operation with the long snapper and holder and talent. Tucker has all those things with Morgan Cox, Sam Koch and coaches Jerry Rosburg and Randy Brown, who Dawson worked with in Cleveland.

Dawson noted Tucker's "tremendous" leg speed and said that he can tell he's just a natural athlete from his technique.

"He can kill the ball," Dawson said. "All the ingredients are here for a tremendous future. When you sprinkle on top his natural raw ability, it's a perfect formula for a long career."

The two kickers exchange texts during the season and have met up for golf in the offseason, but the three days of practice together was their greatest opportunity yet to compare notes.

Tucker observed Dawson's very smooth approach. For Dawson, it was good to get pushed by the younger, stronger-legged kicker. Tucker boomed a 64-yarder in practice Sunday. On Monday, Dawson was teeing off from the same distance.

"When I see him over there banging them right down the middle, I'm like, 'Man, I better do the same thing,'" Dawson said. "The way he kicks the ball is something I've worked hard through the years to try to get to, a very penetrating ball flight."

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