From Free Agency to the Pro Bowl – Tracing the Rise of Falcons’ Kicker Younghoe Koo

Published 12/25/2020, 4:51 AM EST
ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 24: Younghoe Koo #7 of the Atlanta Falcons looks on prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Heading into Week 16, the NFL’s leading scorer this season isn’t Davante Adams, Travis Kelce, or DeAndre Hopkins. Instead, it’s Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo with 133 points.


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From being cut by the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017, to making the Pro Bowl this season, the kicker of South Korean origin has come a long way.

With a conversion rate of 97.2%, Koo is one of the hottest prospects in the league right now. And only 26, the future looks bright for the man from Seoul. 


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The Younghoe Koo origin story deserves a rewind

Born in Seoul, Koo immigrated to the United States when he was just 12. An avid soccer player growing up, Koo soon realized that his soccer skills could come in handy when it came to gridiron football as well. 

Koo soon joined a football team and started as a wide receiver. But his coaches took note of his livewire right foot. The Korean had the tools needed to be a pro, but it took his parents some convincing to let him pursue football as a career.

Koo soon landed a full scholarship at Georgia Southern University. In his final year at Georgia, Younghoe Koo converted 19 of his 20 field goal attempts.

He was even named as a finalist for the Lou Groza award. An award that was given to the best college kicker in the country annually. 

DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 11: Kicker Younghoe Koo #9 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts to missing a game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter to lose the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 11, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

First stint in primetime short-lived

In 2017, the Chargers roped in Koo as an undrafted free agent. The dream had come true. Younghoe Koo was in the NFL. But his first stint in the league was short-lived.

After failing to convert a game-tying 44-yard field goal attempt in the dying seconds of the season opener against the Denver Broncos, eyebrows were raised. 

In the following week, Koo missed a game-winning field goal attempt against the Miami Dolphins as the Chargers fell 0-2. His fortunes turned around in the next 2 gameweeks as the kicker converted all of his field goals and extra-point attempts.

But for the Chargers, Koo’s performances weren’t good enough. The then-rookie was cut by the Chargers, who opted to go with veteran Nick Novak for the rest of the season. 

The road back to the NFL

After working on his game during his time on the sidelines, Koo signed for the Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football in 2019. During his stint with the Legends, Younghoe Koo finished the season with a perfect field goal conversion rate.

This prompted the New England Patriots to sign Koo up for their practice squad. Koo, though, soon found himself without a team again after the Patriots felt he was expendable. 

Thankfully for Koo, another team in Atlanta was willing to take the plunge. The Falcons signed Koo to replace the franchise’s leading scorer, Matt Bryant, a little over midway through the 2019 season. Big shoes to fill. 


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Thankfully for Younghoe Koo, his second stint in the NFL was just what he’d hoped for all along. After finishing the 2019 regular season on a high, the Falcons signed Koo on a 1-year extension. And it’s safe to say that the kicker has not looked back since. 

In his second season in the NFL, Koo has converted 35 of his 36 field goal attempts and takes on the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend as the league’s leading scorer.


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From free agency obscurity to being named in the Pro Bowl, Younghoe Koo is the perfect role model for aspiring footballers across the globe. 


Shivayan Roy

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Shivayan Roy is currently an NFL writer at EssentiallySports. After completing his Masters Diploma in Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Roy functioned as a reporter for and extensively covered the FIFA U-17 World Cup.