KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — One of the very last entries under Ryan Succop’s biography in the Kansas City Chiefs’ media guide, under the section marked “Personal,” is the pronunciation of his last name.
“Full name: Ryan Barrow Succop (pronounced SUCK-UP)”
It’s a name that could lend itself to snickers, punchy headlines or flat-out ridicule, assuming he ever missed a kick. But the truth is that Succop is banging the football through the uprights with record-setting dependability.
The third-year kicker has made 21 consecutive field goals for the Chiefs, the longest active streak in the NFL. With one more Saturday against Oakland, he will tie Pete Stoyanovich for the franchise record — putting such company behind him as Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud, Nick Lowery and Morten Anderson, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer.
“I don’t necessarily think about all the records or anything like that,” Succop said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to go out and make the next one, and if we do that, we’ll kick the one after that.”
Succop has been the one constant in a season of upheaval in Kansas City.
The Chiefs have gone from doormats to the top of the AFC West, and then all the way down to the bottom again. They’ve fired their coach, lost a handful of stars to season-ending injuries, and now find themselves in a position to possibly squeak into the playoffs as the division champions.
That certainly wouldn’t have been possible if not for their kicker.
Given the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant” after he was the 256th and final selection in the 2009 draft — all things considered, not the worst nickname he could have — Succop knocked through all four of his attempts last Sunday against Green Bay. Kansas City wound up beating the previously unbeaten Packers 19-14, and Succop was voted the AFC special teams player of the week.
Succop has bailed out Kansas City at other times this season.
After starting off 2 for 5, he hit all five tries in a 22-17 win over Minnesota in Week 4. One of them was a career-best 54-yarder, and the total matched Stenerud and Lowery for the single-game franchise record.
Succop also hit from 30 yards in overtime to beat San Diego on Halloween night.
The former South Carolina star said he got off to a rough start this season because he was rushing himself, and in a position so fickle — an inch here, an inch there, and a kick could sail wide of the uprights — anything that affects the timing can have disastrous consequences.
“I do know one thing, mechanically I’ve slowed down a little bit,” Succop said. “It’s not a big difference, it’s a small difference, but it makes a big difference.”
Succop doesn’t have the strongest leg in the league, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever boot a 63-yarder like the Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski did earlier this year. But he is making a push for the claim that he’s the most accurate. Only seven kickers have connected at a higher rate this season, and of course, none since the soft-spoken Succop started his streak of consecutive made field goals.
“It’s his work ethic, the way he approaches his job, the way he goes about it,” said Chiefs interim coach Romeo Crennel. “He takes it very seriously, and any time he feels like he’s off, he’ll do extra work, kick extra balls, work with the holder and the snapper, anything he can do.”
It’s been that way since Succop joined the league.
He made 25 of 29 field goals his rookie season, breaking Stenerud’s franchise mark for a first-year player set in 1967. His conversion rate of 86.21 percent that season tied the rookie record for kickers with at least 20 attempts since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
He was nearly as good last season, hitting on 20 of 26 attempts, including the overtime winner against Buffalo — a kick made even more important when the Chiefs managed to slip into the playoffs.
“Being a kicker in the NFL, the coaches talk all about it, one kick here or there can make a difference. A lot of games are decided by seven points or less,” Succop said. “Whether I make or miss could be the deciding factor in the game.”
In a drawl that stems from his upbringing in Hickory, N.C., Succop is quick to lavish praise on everybody else on the field goal unit for any success that comes his way.
Long snapper Thomas Gafford doesn’t get nearly enough credit, Succop said. The same goes for punter Dustin Colquitt, who has to put the ball down and spin the laces out in the split second just before Succop’s foot comes swinging through to make contact.
When the game is on the line, though, Succop is the one who has everyone’s attention.
Good thing he’s not easily rattled.
“I just focus on one at a time — I know it sounds cliche, but it’s so true, because if you start thinking about going after records or anything like that, it’s easy to lose focus,” he said. “Thomas and Dustin and those guys do a wonderful job. It makes my job much easier.”