Growing up in South Korea, Koo Young-hoe learned from an early age how to get his kicks.
Now, as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, he’s earning $200,000 a month to keep’em coming.
“I didn’t know what football was or anything about it when we moved to the United States when I was in the sixth grade,” the 5-foot-10,190-pound (1.78-meter, 86-kilogram) placekicker said in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I played soccer all the time back home, but during lunch and recess the kids here were playing touch football. That’s how I got into it. I kind of punted the ball the first time I got my hands on it, and all the kids were really surprised how far it went.”
Koo was 13 when he played his first game.
“It took a little bit to figure it out because it’s a different swing of the leg, but at the end of the day it was just kicking. It kind of came naturally, because of all the soccer I played,” he said.
His strong right leg became the ticket to a college scholarship－and eventually the pro ranks.
“My parents had no clue what football was, so my middle-school coach kind of explained to them that ‘hey, your son has an opportunity here.’ A coach from Georgia Southern came up to my high school and recruited me. I visited the campus and fell in love with it.”
Koo went undrafted after his final collegiate campaign in 2017, but signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as a free agent and won the opening-day job. Cut from the squad after just four games, he made up his mind not to give up.
“I didn’t want to quit. I just worked harder on perfecting my craft,” he said. “Just working on it every day to get rid of the errors. I worked with (former NFL kicker) John Carney for a while. That helped a lot, learning from a guy who had been in the league for 23 years.”
Koo’s dedication paid off when he was offered a job with the Atlanta Legends of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, where he was a perfect 14-for-14 on field-goal attempts in 2019. His propensity for splitting the uprights from long distance earned him a spot on the New England Patriots’ practice squad after the Legends folded.
“I kept believing and working on my craft and what I can control and not the things that I couldn’t control,” said the 26-year-old. “I was just staying ready, waiting for the next opportunity. When the Falcons got hold of me, I knew it was my time.”
The Falcons signed Koo in late 2019 and named him their No 1 kicker when veteran Matt Bryant was released after going 2-of-6 on field-goal attempts from 50 yards or more.
“It’s been easy so far,” said Koo, who was 29-for-30 after Sunday’s 43-6 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s 5-for-5 from beyond 50 yards, including a career-best 54-yarder.
“The guys have really made me feel welcome. I’ve found a home.”