(Ed. note--Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars, selects players of the year following each season. This is the first in a four-installment players of the year series, announcing placekicker Mike Hollis as the 2000 season Jaguars Inside Report Special Teams Player of the Year.)
Mike Hollis is very interested in how the Jaguars will deal with their salary-cap problems this offseason. Hollis has one year remaining on his contract and is hoping there'll be enough money available for the team to reward him with a new and more lucrative deal.
"When I go back to Jacksonville, I'm going to go in and ask them what they want to do," Hollis said from his Idaho home earlier this month. "My worst fear is they'll do what they did to Bryan Barker, which is let me play out my contract."
Hollis has been a bargain for the Jaguars through the first six seasons. The four-year deal he signed following the 1997 season averages out at $633,000 a year, $151,000 more than what minimum wage would pay Hollis next season.
He has hardly been of minimum-wage value to the Jaguars. Hollis has been one of the most accurate placekickers in NFL history. This past season, Hollis was good on 24 of 26 field goal attempts, despite missing four games early in the season as a result of back surgery.
Hollis has become the Jaguars' Mr. Reliable. His only misses this season were the result of a blocked 49-yard attempt in Dallas, and a chip-shot miss when he slipped on a sloppy field in Cincinnati.
His dependability and his quick recovery from back surgery this past season are the major considerations in Hollis' selection as Jaguars Inside Report's Special Teams Player of the Year.
"It's my best season percentage-wise, but I don't view it like that because I did miss four games and it's hard to give myself credit for a season like that," Hollis said.
This marks the third time Hollis has won the award. He was an easy selection in 1996, when Hollis made a habit of booting game-winners down the stretch, as the Jaguars won seven straight en route to the AFC title game. He also won the award the following season, when Hollis led the NFL in scoring with 134 points and was selected to the Pro Bowl.
Hollis underwent back surgery in the winter of 1999, following a '98 season in which he endured back-related leg pain to score 133 points. Early this past season, Hollis' back problems flared up again, requiring a second surgery that clouded his future. Four weeks later, Hollis returned to action with boots of 23 and 45 yards at Tennessee.
"The biggest key was not worrying about the back and whether it was going to fail on me. I just threw that negative information out the door. Mentally, I learn things every year," Hollis said.
In the summer of 1995, Hollis was an unknown kicker in the Jaguars' first-ever training camp. Then, he was battling Scott Sisson, who was thought to have the edge because Sisson had NFL experience with the New England Patriots.
However, coach Tom Coughlin decided on Hollis, and how could Coughlin regret his decision? "Tom's got it good with Bryan (Barker) and myself … dedicated guys who work hard and don't complain much," Hollis said.
Yes, Hollis was campaigning for himself and Barker, who has been the Jaguars' punter since the team's inaugural season. Barker's contract with the Jaguars expired with the end of the 2000 season and Barker is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this winter.
"At this point in my contract, I do pay a lot of attention to it," Hollis said of the Jaguars' salary-cap saga. "This is the last year of my four-year deal. After two years, we approached them and they weren't ready because they had other priorities."
The Jaguars still have other contract priorities -- a quarterback and a star running back, to name two biggies -- but Hollis wants to believe he's valuable enough for the Jaguars to want to keep around.
"I get a little upset that my level of play is just above minimum salary. I don't need to be the highest-paid kicker," Hollis said.
Regardless of his salary, Hollis has been one of the NFL's most dependable kickers.
Special Teams Player of the Year