INGLEWOOD — Sean McVay didn’t use rookie kicker Lucas Havrisik when he had a chance in the first quarter. The Rams were down 7-0 but faced a fourth-and-goal at the Seattle 2 on the second drive of the game. Take the points, right?
Nope. The call was a pass play, Matthew Stafford couldn’t connect with Tutu Atwell in the end zone, and the Seahawks took over on downs and drove to a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Lucky for McVay and the Rams, their defense kept them in the game all afternoon. And lucky for them that Stafford found his second wind – or a reservoir of sheer stubborness – after throwing an interception and getting drilled by Mario Edwards Jr. early in the fourth quarter, playing even better than he had before that hit in directing the Rams to a touchdown and a field goal on their last two drives.
And it was lucky for all of them that Havrisik, 24, an Inland Empire guy who was a practice squad kicker in Cleveland a little less than a month ago, not only was wearing a Ram uniform but was unfazed by the sheer magnitude of SoFi Stadium, or the responsibility of what would be the first game-winning kick of his career.
He drilled it, a 22-yarder with 1:31 left, to give the Rams their first lead of the afternoon and an eventual 17-16 victory over the Seahawks, sweeping the season series and knocking Seattle out of its share of the NFC West lead after Seattle kicker Jason Myers was wide right on a 55-yard field goal try with three seconds left.
Surely the multi-tiered wonder that sits on the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack would be intimidating to a guy kicking in his third NFL regular season game, right?
“I mean, our job is to be prepared to kick a field goal,” he said. “So as simple as that, like, just sit there and be like, ‘Oh, I can be up any time.’ So I’m not really focusing on what’s happening on the field, but just understanding like I can go in at any moment.”
He acknowledged that his adrenaline was up, and his heartbeat was a little more intense – stronger, he said, rather than faster – but consider this:
“I mean, honestly, the most nervous I was (while) kicking was in high school,” he said. “I don’t know why. But (here) it’s just a bunch of random people in the stands and, you know, it’s just an atmosphere. Like you can’t really let any outside conditions affect your game.
“It’s interesting but now I kind of blur out when I kick and everything kind of comes numb and I’m so laser focused.”
That might sound funny, the idea that it would be more nerve-racking to kick in high school than in the NFL. But if you’ve ever been to a game at Norco High, 53 miles east of SoFi Stadium but a world apart as one of the last of the one-town high schools, you’d understand. Havrisik comes from a place with a ton of football tradition, a fairly impressive roster of NFL alumni (Toby Gerhart, Troy Dye and Pat Harlow to name a few), and lots of community investment in the program.
Norco may call itself “Horsetown USA,” but on Friday nights when the stands are filled and parked cars line the street overlooking the field, it most definitely is not a bunch of random people in the stands watching, cheering and hoping when he lines up to kick.
“Norco’s got some great fans … and yeah, it was a great culture there.” he said.
He was the team’s MVP as a kicker/punter, an all-CIF performer and the Big VIII League special teams player of the year as a senior, held the Norco record for longest field goal, most field goals in a season and most touchbacks, and also played soccer and volleyball. That got him a scholarship from Arizona, where he was All-Pac 12 honorable mention in both 2020 and ’21, made 34 of his 53 field goal tries in five seasons (counting the extra year because of COVID-19), including five field goals from beyond 50 yards, and 93.6 percent of his extra points.
The NFL is a tougher nut to crack. He went undrafted in ’21, impressed the Indianapolis Colts enough in a rookie minicamp in 2022 to earn a spot on their practice squad, and had bounced to the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad this season. When the Rams decided to move on from Brett Maher after the Oct. 22 loss to Pittsburgh, former Rams kicker Matt Gay put in a good word for the kid from Norco.
“I was actually at (current Browns’ kicker) Dustin Hopkins’ house the night I got called,” Havrisik said. “And it’s just crazy because I was getting comfortable in (the) practice squad, because it’s kind of an easy gig. I’m like, ‘Dang, this way you can never get comfortable.’ And I was living in a hotel since April.
“I’m super excited, but I was like, you just got to act like it’s normal. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, how does it feel to kick in the NFL?’ I was like, I don’t know. I try to play it down because I can’t get too high or too low.”
When his star turn came up Sunday afternoon, let’s just say he didn’t overthink the moment. The game was close enough that he realized he might have a role, but …
“I was so blanked out that I thought we actually scored (a touchdown) and I hit a PAT,” he said. “I look up at the scoreboard and I was like, ‘Oh, dang, only up one. So they only need a field goal.’ That’s how blurred out I’d be.
“… But yeah, our job is based on just staying ready and trying to deal with the best thing you got, the best situation.”
And this one earned him a game ball, right?
“I think it’s in my backpack,” he said.
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