Polish Cannon: Raiders Reach 11th Hour Deal To Keep Sebastian Janikowski

Just days before the start of the NFL season, the Oakland Raiders have reached an agreement with kicker Sebastian Janikowski to keep him on the team. Sources indicate that he took a $1 million pay cut (wouldn’t be surprised if $1 million worth of cigarettes and vodka “showed up” at his house, though) and will make $3 million instead of $4 million this year.

Janikowski, besides being the longest-tenured Raider in history not named Al Davis, is a singular force in the NFL. At 6’2, 255 lbs, he’s built like a linebacker, not a kicker.

But his origin story is even more unusual than his proportions. Born in Poland in 1979, he was the son of a professional soccer player who emigrated to the United States in the early ’80s to revive his playing career. With his father in America, Janikowski was shaping up to be a soccer prodigy himself, earning a spot on Poland’s U-17 team when he was just 15.

While the younger Janikowski was honing his craft, the elder Janikowski was getting divorced, and re-married; this time to an American woman, meaning Sebastian could legally move to the United States.

Upon arrival, Sebastian’s talents were clear to see. He joined the Orangewood Christian soccer team, where he scored 15 goals in the five games he played. He then joined the Orlando Lions, a U-19 soccer club coached by a man named Angelo Rossi, who convinced Sebastian’s father, Henryk, that Sebastian would be best served at Seabreeze High School, where Rossi also coached.

Henryk agreed, but was unwilling to move to Daytona Beach, Florida where Seabreeze High School was located, so Sebastian moved in with Angelo Rossi. It didn’t take long for Seabreeze’s football coach to realize that¬†he wanted Sebastian, too, so in his senior year, Sebastian became a two-sport athlete. On the gridiron, Janikowski immediately started turning heads. He kicked four field goals of 50+ yards and made an 82-yard field goal during practice.

USA Today named him to their 1996 All American team, and after being recruited by major college programs across the country, he ended up at Florida State University. Janikowski’s college career included a slew a highlights, a few arrests for bar fights (how many¬†kickers can you name who have engaged in, and won, multiple bar fights?), and notably, an arrest for attempting to bribe an officer in 2000 after a high school friend was arrested at a nightclub.

Being a good friend, and hailing from the Eastern Bloc, Janikowski approached the arresting officer and asked how much it would take for the officer to let his friend go. No good deed goes unpunished, and Sebastian was immediately arrested for attempting to bribe an officer, an offense that could have landed him in prison for five years and/or seen him deported.

A few months later, the Raiders drafted him with the 17th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, making Janikowski just the fourth kicker ever taken in the first round. And it’s in Oakland where he’s remained ever since, becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and the NFL’s all-time leader in field goals of 50+ yards with 55.

Now 39 years old, Janikowski is growing long in the tooth. But Tom Brady is 40 and three active kickers — Adam Vinatiere (44), Matt Bryant (42), and Phil Dawson (42) — are all older than Sebastian. Hopefully we’ll see Janikowski out there for a few more years. But with Derek Carr, a mean offensive line, and Marshawn Lynch, Janikowski’s Raiders are genuine Super Bowl contenders this year.

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