When the Detroit Lions first signed Havard Rugland back in April, nobody really knew what to expect out of him. After all, he had never played American football before, and all we really knew about his kicking ability was based on his viral "Kickalicious" YouTube video.
When training camp began, Rugland quickly proved that he wasn't some sideshow who was only on the team because of his unique background. The story itself is undoubtedly great -- a Norwegian earns a shot in the NFL thanks to a YouTube video -- but he wants to actually win the Lions' starting kicker job. David Akers has been and continues to be the favorite, but Rugland has performed well enough that we're at least still talking about the possibility of an upset happening in this position battle.
On Friday night, Rugland passed his toughest test yet by kicking in an actual NFL game. As good as he had been in training camp, it's much different to be kicking in full pads in a stadium in a live game against another team. I certainly wouldn't have blamed Rugland if his nerves got to him, but that wasn't the case one bit. Rugland made both of his field goal attempts against the New York Jets, and they weren't gimmes by any means. He let his kicks fly from 49 and 50 yards, and he showed off his big kicking leg in the process.
Perhaps the best part of Friday night's game was how excited all of Rugland's teammates were. Especially after Rugland's first field goal, the entire sideline could be seen celebrating. His teammates were aware of how big of a moment this was, and it was cool to see all of the joy on Rugland's face and on the faces of other Lions players.
Now, it's important to remember that this was only one game, and again, it would be an upset if Rugland makes the team over Akers, who also went 2-for-2 on field goals on Friday night. Rugland has a lot of potential for sure, but I'd be stunned if the Lions pass up on Akers' vast amount of experience to go with someone who just played in his first American football game. It just doesn't seem like something the Lions would do in a make-or-break year.
All that said, roster cuts aren't until the end of the month, and a lot can happen in the next few weeks. For now, let's give Rugland a big round of applause for putting together an impressive football debut.