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Farewell to a fantasy football friend: Saying good-bye to Sebastian Janikowski

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Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski kicks a field goal as Marquette King holds during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in San Diego. Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski kicks a field goal as Marquette King holds during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in San Diego. (photo courtesy AP/Denis Poroy)

The Oakland Raiders recently announced that their longtime placekicker Sebastian Janikowski would not be returning to the team for the 2018 season. This news comes after Janikowski spent the entirety of 2017 on injured reserve; while there’s certainly a possibility that he gets picked up for another team, this could well mark the end of the road for the veteran kicker.

So why am I writing about this particular kicker? Well – I have a long and complicated relationship with Sebastian Janikowski.

See, here’s the thing – I played fantasy football for the very first time in 2002. I have played in at least one league every year since. Sometimes more than one. I have had ups and downs, good teams and bad. I’ve won championships and finished dead last and been plain old mediocre. My teams have reflected every facet of the fantasy football experience. And all of those 20-plus teams had exactly one thing in common.

Sebastian Janikowski.

It’s true. I’ve drafted Seabass as my kicker for every fantasy team I’ve ever run. From 2002 onward, the Polish Cannon has been the guy filling that spot. He hasn’t always finished the year on my team - maybe he’s been injured or other circumstances have arisen – but he has always spent at least some time on the roster.

I’m going to miss him.

Janikowski came to the NFL in 2000 after a record-setting career at Florida State, where he was the first (and still only) player to win the Lou Groza Award – given annually to the nation’s top collegiate kicker – two years in a row. He then became the fourth-ever kicker to be drafted in the first round when the Raiders took him with the 17th overall pick. It was a choice that was considered questionable at best; the only way that Janikowski could possibly justify such a high selection would be to essentially become a franchise cornerstone. A legend.

And then he pretty much did exactly that.

A quick run through the stats: if Janikowski never kicks another field goal, he’ll have ended his career in 10th place on the all-time field goals list with 414 (his 515 attempts put him at 12th). He is the all-time leading scorer in Raiders history with 1,799 points, a number that puts him at 11th on the NFL list.

His percentage – just a hair over 80 percent – isn’t elite, but a large part of that is his team’s willingness to trot him out there for attempts at distances beyond the capabilities of mere mortal kickers. He has made 55 field goals of 50 yards or more – a league record. He is one of two men to make more than one 60-yarder in a career - he shared the distance record of 63 until it was broken by Matt Prater – and has attempted 8 kicks of 60-plus.

That willingness to shoot for the moon made him one of the few legitimately fun fantasy kickers. You never knew when the Raiders might send him out there for a long one – and 50-plus means five points in the fantasy realm.

But for me, it was more than that. I’m not sure when exactly it became a thing for me, but it was a fairly long time ago. Friends who have been playing with me for years know my unending love for Janikowski, and while they don’t necessarily understand it, they’ve always respected it. They could have taken advantage, forcing me to overspend for a guy that they KNEW I wanted. But they didn’t.

Hell, one time, a computer issue led me to accidentally put up a different kicker for bid. I was crestfallen … right up until another player raised the bid specifically so that I’d still be free to land Seabass.

(Thanks again for falling on that Phil Dawson grenade, Izzy. You’re a true friend.)

It’s going to be weird to sit down for this next year’s auction without the Polish Cannon out there. Part of me hopes he keeps playing, but in my heart of hearts, I know it won’t be the same. Sebastian Janikowski was a Raider – a big doughy weirdo of a Raider.

Thanks for the kick-ass memories, Seabass. 

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