NFL Placekicker/Denver, Atlanta
Matt Prater is the placekicker for the Denver Broncos. He was originally signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2006. He played college football at the University of Central Florida, where he majored in psychology.
High school career
Prater attended Estero High School in Estero, Florida. During his tenure, he converted 56-of-58 extra point attempts and also booted 14 field goals, including one of 49 yards. Prater put 84 percent of his kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks. He was named second-team All-State, first-team All-Conference and All-Southwest Florida. He was also selected to the second-team "Dream Team." Prater graduated from Estero High School in 2002. Prater transferred to Estero High school his sophomore year from Cypress Lake High School.
Prater became the starting kicker at University of Central Florida immediately upon his arrival, and ended up earning Sporting News All-Freshman honors. On the year, he converted 14-of-21 field goal attempts and 44-of-47 extra point attempts. He also had a team-high 86 points. Prater recorded a season-high and Mid-American Conference-best 53-yard field goal against Penn State - one of three field goals on the day. He also tied a school record with four field goals against Kent State.
Prater showed significant improvement as a sophomore year in 2003, leading the nation in punting and setting school and MAC records with 47.9 yards per punt. He is known as the perfectionist of the Rugby punt, which is now well known through the NCAA and is used by several teams. As a kicker, he converted 10-of-13 field goal attempts and was a perfect 4-for-4 on attempts of 40 yards or longer. Prater had a career day against Virginia Tech on August 31. He punted six times and had a 55.7-yard average, including punts of 71 and 67 yards. He also went 4-for-4 on extra points and had three touchbacks on kickoffs.
In 2004, Prater appeared in nine games before missing the rest of the season with a leg injury. At one point during the season he made 11 consecutive field goals - the second-longest streak in school history. The streak was snapped against Buffalo on October 4.
As a senior in 2005, Aaron Horne took over punting duties for the University of Central Florida while Prater concentrated almost solely on kicking. He made 17-of-26 field goal attempts on the year, including a season-long 49-yard conversion. He also went 29-for-32 on point-after attempts. He punted four times for 160 yards during the season. In his final collegiate game, Prater set up a text book onside kick, which allowed UCF to tie the game. However, in the first overtime, he missed an extra point, which gave Nevada a 49-48 victory in the 2005 Hawaii Bowl.
In 46 games spanning four years with UCF, Prater converted 50 of 74 field goal attempts, with a long of 53 yards. His 50 field goals ties him for the school record, while his 258 points ranks him fourth all-time in school history.
Prater was signed by the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent on May 4, 2006. He made field goals of 22, 44 and 48 yards in a preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, but had little chance of beating out veteran incumbent Jason Hanson and was subsequently released August 27. He spent the rest of the season as a free agent, but did have workouts with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
Prater was signed to a future contract by the Miami Dolphins on January 11, 2007. He was released by the team on August 27, as fellow placekicker Jay Feely won the job. Shortly thereafter, Prater signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons and beat out Billy Cundiff for the job. Including the Falcons' preseason finale, Prater missed at least one field goal in three games played with the Falcons. Prater missed two field goals against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week two and was cut on September 18. The Falcons signed Morten Andersen as his replacement.
Prater became the starter kicker for the Denver Broncos, replacing Jason Elam who signed with the Atlanta Falcons. The Broncos waived Garrett Hartley on July 21, 2008, leaving Prater as the only kicker on the Denver roster going into their first preseason game against the Houston Texans. On September 28, 2008, Prater made a 56-yard field goal late in the first half of the Broncos' loss at the Kansas City Chiefs, which was the third longest field goal in team history and the longest away from Denver. He made two field goals of more than 50 yards during the game.
On October 5, 2008, Prater converted three out of three field goals, including a 55-yarder, as part of a 16-13 Broncos home win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also recorded four touchbacks out of five kickoffs. His performance during the game led to him being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 5 of the 2008 NFL season. Prater won the award for the first time in his career.