Skip to main content

Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Sam Ficken

Catch Up with the Jets Legend from Penn State


As an All-Big Ten kicker as a senior at Penn State, Sam Ficken showed he could be counted on.

In his final game as a Nittany Lion, the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium against Boston College, he became a true Bronx Bomber by kicking a game-tying 45-yard field with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. He then secured the 31-30 victory with an extra point that took the same flight path as a straight-away centerfield home run.

Though he wasn't chosen in the 2015 NFL Draft, Ficken wanted to still be counted on at the next level, and signed as a free agent with the Jaguars. He'd then spend time with the Chiefs, the Rams – where he'd play in four games during the 2017 and '18 seasons – the Seahawks, and with the Packers up until the final cut, before signing with the Jets after one game of the 2019 season.

"When I arrived, the kicking position was a bit of a tornado," Ficken said. "In the couple of weeks leading up to that with (Chandler) Catanzaro retiring, they had Taylor (Bertolet) there, who had an up and down preseason. I actually thought I was going to get signed when all the cuts happened when I was with Green Bay. But then they signed the kicker from the Vikings, Kaare Vedvik.

"Whenever you get signed after a tryout, it's always a bit of a whirlwind because you have like a go bag, essentially. You have about a week's worth of stuff and then all of a sudden, you're there for six months. So whenever that happens, that first week you're getting acclimated to the new team, the new players, your snapper, holder, the special teams coach. So yeah, it's always a whirlwind when that's how you get signed.

"Ultimately, (New York's special teams) Coach (Brant) Boyer was like, 'Hey, look. There's a reason you're here. Have confidence in yourself. You've shown that you can do this.' So I would say, for me, at that point in my career, I've been cut a couple of times, I know how the business works. I played in some games before, luckily, so it wasn't overwhelming. But I think the main thing was just go out there and try and do your job. And that first game, a Monday Night Football game, we played the Browns and it went well for me."

For the most part, that first season went well for Ficken. Through his first 11 games as a Jet, he connected on 11 of 16 field goal attempts and 19 of 20 extra points. And then in Week 14 against division-rival Miami, he booted three field goals, including the 44-yard game-winner with no time left on the clock for the 22-21 victory.

"I mean, that was a wild one. There were a bunch of lead changes in the final quarter. (Dolphins kicker) Jason Sanders had like seven or eight field goals. I think it was with maybe four minutes left, we went down and I kicked a (42-yard) field goal to take a one-point lead (19-18)," Ficken said.

"Kind of in the back of your mind it's, 'Okay, I did my job.' And the defense was doing a pretty good job that day. And when they make a field goal with a minute or so left (to go ahead, 21-19), I'm like, 'Okay, I've got to go back out there and do this all over again.' But there's no better feeling, in my opinion, than a game-winner as a kicker. I think that's as good as it can get."

One problem though, especially for a kicker, sometimes the weather has a gameplan of its own.

"That first season was a bit up and down deal for me. I had some good ones and then I had a couple of missed kicks that you want back," Ficken said. "I thought like I was finishing the year on a strong note. And then we got to Buffalo. It rained about four or five inches and I missed kicks in that final game. That's kind of a bitter way to go into the offseason. So I knew I had my work cut out for me the next year. I had a great offseason and went into training camp kicking really well. And that kind of carried over into that year until I got hurt."

Ficken suffered a pulled groin in the sixth game of the 2020 season after making 9 of 10 field goal attempts, including going perfect on five tries in a 38-27 loss to Denver.

"Yeah, that's the NFL though," Ficken said. "You're sky high one moment and the next moment you're sitting on the bench watching some other guy do your job. That's the reality of the league. Unfortunately, that's just the way it goes sometimes. I felt like I was in the best spot of my career. I was like 95 percent (accuracy on field goals) and then all sudden I pulled my groin and it just didn't feel right the rest of that season."

Released by the Jets in 2021, Ficken would go on to spend time with the Titans and Lions. And by currently participating in regional scouting combines around the country nine years after leaving Penn State, his desire to play in the NFL is as strong now as it was then.

"Coming out, I knew that potentially it was going to take me a couple tries. With kickers, there's just not a whole lot of turnover," Ficken said. "So I made the commitment, 'Hey, I'm going to give this two, three years to make it in.' And that first year, I heard nothing. But I made the commitment to myself that said, 'I don't want to look back and regret not giving this 100 percent effort.'

"I think with kickers, it's one of those things where you could be sitting at home and not hear anything for seven, eight months, and then all of a sudden, you have a tryout in two days. One of the most difficult things about being a free agent specialist is you never really know when that call may come. And you've got to make sure when it does, you're ready to rock. Because you do get thrown into the fire pretty quickly. There's no ramp-up period. It's hey, I've got to go make every kick."

Making his home in Hoboken, NJ, Ficken and his wife, Sophie Heinlein, an attorney in New York City, are coming up on their first wedding anniversary. And while he maintains his training while waiting to be in contact with the next team, Ficken is also focusing on creating a trading algorithm.

"So that's kind of what I've been spending my free time in," he said. "Hopefully, I'll get a call. If not, hopefully, this thing I'm working on pans out and that's my future. If not, we'll figure something out."