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Award-winning kicker Chandler Catanzaro realizing he’s ‘born for this’

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week Wednesday after connecting on all three of his field goal attempts and all three of his extra points in his team’s 30-20 win over the Washington Redskins.

“Now they jinxed him, see,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians joked in relation to the voters choosing Catanzaro for the award. “I was very happy for him. He’s earned it. He’s done a heck of a job and he continues to work hard and work in some other onside kick things, another thing to improve his game, but overall he’s coming through for us every time.”

It was quite an accomplishment for the rookie, who won a training camp battle with veteran Jay Feely to get the job and has done everything he possibly could to keep it.

“It’s just obviously a huge honor and it’s only going to make me hungrier for more I guess and just trying to get better each week and focus on controlling what I can control,” Catanzaro said Wednesday. “And I guess we’ll see if the awards keep coming.

“But it’s obviously a huge honor, so definitely happy with where I’m at right now.”

Where Catanzaro is at is in the midst of an amazing start to his career. The undrafted rookie out of Clemson has made all 14 of his field goal attempts — five of which have come from 40+ yards out — and is a perfect 8-of-8 on PATs. And through five games, 26 of his 29 kickoffs have left the opponent starting a drive no further than their own 20-yard line, including 20 touchbacks.

While his ability to blast kickoffs may have been the reason he won the job over Feely, there may have been some initial concern over his ability to consistently put the ball between the uprights. However, his perfect start has given him the second-longest streak to open a season in franchise history, and also leaves him one behind St. Louis Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein for the longest streak of consecutive field goals to start a season by a rookie.

Needless to say, it’s been quite a ride for Catanzaro.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” he said. “Just in a great spot. I’m very confident. The biggest thing is I’m just having fun. I’m having fun playing with these guys and winning football games. And that’s what I’m here to do, help this team win games and put it through the uprights for them and kick it off high and deep and save the kickoff coverage guys.”

In 2014, only New England’s Stephen Gostkowski has made more field goals than Catanzaro, and only Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri, the New York Giants’ Josh Brown, San Diego’s Nick Novak and the New York Jets’ Nick Folk are with the Arizona rookie as kickers who have made good on every field goal attempt.

And while he’s still waiting for his first chance to win a game with a late field goal, Catanzaro said the last couple months have done nothing but give him more confidence that he belongs in the NFL.

“I just kind of realized I’m born for this, and I’ve just got to take that confidence and keep having fun — that’s what it’s all about for me,” he said. “And just enjoying this experience, living the dream playing with these awesome guys in the locker room with me.

“So I’ve just got to keep having fun, stay confident, and be the rock out there that my team needs me to be and get the job done, keep getting the job done.”