Apocotos marches into NFL | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Apocotos marches into NFL

After completing his all-star senior football season at UC Davis, kicker Dusty Apocotos couldn’t convince an NFL franchise to draft or sign him.

Now that he’s kicking less and remodeling homes in the Lake Tahoe area, Apocotos’ chances of kicking in the NFL are surprisingly better than ever.

The former Whittell High School soccer star was signed by the New Orleans Saints earlier this month, putting his construction work on hold and further delaying an eventual career in civil engineering.

“It’s crazy that it has all happened,” Apocotos said. “I never talked to the Saints. I had tryouts with the 49ers and Bucs, so I thought I’d call some other coaches and see if there was any way I could get a tryout for NFL Europe. All of a sudden this fell into my lap.

“It’s still a long road, but it’s nice to have a team and it’s nice that they have given me a shot to possibly play.”

Apocotos is the second Whittell High graduate to sign with the NFL team. Former NFL middle linebacker Mike Crawford played for the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings.

The Saints signed the 24-year-old Apocotos to a two-year nonguaranteed contract and have allocated him to NFL Europe. Apocotos is one of eight players the Saints assigned to NFL developmental league. However, special teams’ players must try out for the league since there are only six teams. That tryout is March 1-3 in Tampa, Fla.

“I’ll have to beat out six guys to make the team and nothing is guaranteed,” Apocotos said. “If I don’t make an NFL Europe team, it’s not 100 percent chance but a pretty good chance the Saints would cut me.”

Complicating Apocotos’ goals is a nagging hip-flexor injury. The hip injury originated when he was kicking with the Aggies and resurfaced recently while he was training in San Diego.

“It’s a bummer that it happened, but it’s something I’ll have to deal with,” he said.

To ensure that he’ll be close to 100 percent by the tryouts, he has returned to the Davis campus and looked up his old football trainers. Apocotos has been doing a variety of stretching exercises to correct a misaligned hip caused by overusing his left side.

“The best way to heal it is to rest, but that really isn’t an option for me,” he said. “I’ll get through it. I’m just glad to have the help of the trainers who know what they are doing and who care.”

Apocotos won’t resume kicking until next week.

“I’ll do my best to be as healthy as I can be when I’m out there. It’s not going to be an excuse, unless I absolutely can’t kick,” Apocotos said.

The former UC-Davis kicker was undrafted last year after a senior season that included 15 successful field goal attempts. He also converted a field goal and three extra points in the Whataburger Cactus Bowl. Apocotos had a private tryout with the San Francisco 49ers last May and one during the season with Tampa Bay.

“A kid who comes out of smaller college is lucky to get a sniff their first year,” said Ray Pelfry, who runs a professional kicking service and is Apocotos’ grandfather.

Apocotos was pleased with his tryout with the 49ers, but they let him know abruptly that veteran Todd Peterson was their man.

“Their special teams coach told me that I could kick for him, but he didn’t have any spots open. At least it put me on the radar and gave me confidence that I can do this,” Apocotos said.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ workout in October didn’t go as well. Apocotos arrived the night before an early morning tryout.

“We were kicking by 8:30 (a.m.), which is like kicking at 5:30. I’m used to waking up early for work, but at that time your juices just aren’t flowing,” Apocotos said. “I didn’t kick terrible, but my kickoffs didn’t have their normal pop and I hit the crossbar on a 51-yard field goal attempt.”

Hence, Apocotos is flying out to Tampa several days in advance this time.

“There shouldn’t be any excuses,” Apocotos said.

If Apocotos makes the NFL Europe grade, he’ll begin his season on April 2 or 3. The short season continues through June 11, which is a little over a month before NFL training camps open.

Waiting in New Orleans is John Carney, a 16-year veteran who will make it tough for any free agent to replace him.

“I don’t see any reason why they would cut John Carney,” Apocotos said of one of the NFL’s top-10 all-time scorers. “But they are showing me a little extra commitment by signing me for two years. If I can do well in Europe and do well in training camp, maybe they’ll put me on their eight-player practice squad and possibly give me a shot to earn a spot the next year.”

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