The shadow of a man who has 19 years of NFL experience, is fourth all time in NFL scoring, and currently has a Madden '09 ranking of 95 can be quite tall. **Matt Stover’s **shadow can seem even taller when you're an incoming rookie trying to compete for his position. Luckily for **Piotr Czech**, he casts a pretty tall shadow himself.
At 6-foot-5, the Ravens have a new kicking prospect in Czech, and if he can make the final roster, he will be in the company of San Francisco 49er's Joe Nedney and former Indianapolis Colt's kicker Mike Vanderjagt, both 6-foot-5, as one of the tallest recent kickers in the NFL.
"There are positives and negatives to my height," Czech noted. "The positive is that I can generate a lot more leg speed, but the negative is that you stand out more and that leaves less room for mistakes."
But mistakes are something that the young 22-year-old Czech rarely makes. A graduate of Wagner College, Czech put up record breaking numbers while playing at a collegiate level. His 56-yard field goal, and 37.9-yard career punting average are both school records.
In his senior year, he was successful on 16 of 19 field goal attempts, going three of five from 40-49 yards and two of three from 50 yards or beyond. Czech also tallied an impressive 235 points over his four years, including 75 points in his senior season.
The jump from college to the NFL can be a difficult one to make for even the most prominent college stars. In the case of Czech, that jump is even bigger when you come from a small school like Wagner College. Located in Staten Island, N.Y., Wagner has a student enrollment of 2,000 and a football stadium with a 5,000 seat capacity - a far cry from the 70,000 seat M&T Bank Stadium.
"The difference coming from a small school to a big team like this is that everyone is going full speed," Czech said. "Every practice, every snap, your job is on the line. Everybody is conscious of that."
One number Czech will have to be conscious of is Matt Stover's No. 3. Stover's number and leg are legendary to the Ravens/Browns franchise and his 5-foot-11 frame has been seen pacing the sideline since 1991. While Czech will undoubtedly be battling for a roster spot with Stover, he will be the first to acknowledge that there is a lot he can learn from the NFL veteran.
"It's beautiful to have a 19-year veteran ahead of you," Czech said. "He's definitely been around and he's had his years going to the Pro Bowl. I have to learn everything I can from him."
Czech will do his best to learn as much as he can before the roster is narrowed down to 53 players on Aug. 30. Considering his booming leg, he could even land a spot as a kickoff specialist alongside Stover. If Czech can make the final roster, than he will be one step closer to making a name for himself in the NFL.
In order to do that, it might be helpful to know how to pronounce his name. Piotr Czech (pronounced PEE-tur) was born in Olesnic, Poland in 1987. When he was only 2 years old, his family moved to the United States in search of a better life for Czech and his brothers.
"My parents decided that it was time to move to the land of opportunity and they did it for my brothers and I," said Czech. "It was a huge transition for us."
Growing up in the land of opportunity, Czech has excelled in many areas, most notably in football.
Another area he excelled at is in his studies. A chemistry major and biology minor, Czech hopes to one day use his degree to work in pharmaceuticals.
But for now, the only thing on his mind is making the final cut.
"I'm not going to even touch my degree right now, I'm just focused on football," Czech affirmed.
"This is what I have my heart set on."
Let's recap, one of the tallest kickers in the NFL – check, phenomenal college career – check, successful in making the final roster – Czech?