United Football League

The United Football League kicked off its inaugural season on Saturday and a kicker was the star of the show.

That kicker was Jake Bates and he pulled off easily the biggest play of the weekend when he kicked a 64-yard field goal with just three seconds left to play to give his Michigan Panthers an 18-16 win over the St. Louis Battlehawks. 

When you make a kick like that, NFL teams take notice and they definitely noticed what Bates pulled off over the weekend. According to the Detroit News, the Lions are one of multiple NFL teams that have already reached out about Bates. If UFL contracts are structured like most spring league contracts, that means Bates would have to finish out the season with the Panthers, but he'd be able to sign with an NFL team after that. The UFL regular season runs through June 2. 

The kick by Bates might go down as one of the most improbable field goals of all-time. The kick against the Battlehawks was his first field goal attempt since HIGH SCHOOL and he drilled it from a distance that even NFL kickers struggle with. In the entire history of the NFL, there have only been two field goals of 64 yards or more. 

The drama on Saturday started after the Battlehawks took a 16-15 lead after scoring a touchdown with just 49 seconds left to play. On the ensuing kickoff, Michigan's Marcus Simms returned the ball out to his own 35-yard line. 

After the return from Simms, the Panthers ran seven plays on offense, but they weren't able to do much. Quarterback E.J. Perry completed just 2 of 7 passes for 19 yards. The drive stalled at the Battlehawks' 46-yard line with just eight seconds left to play and Michigan facing a fourth-and-6. At that point, the Panthers could have attempted a Hail Mary, but instead, coach Mike Nolan decided to send Bates out for the field goal and the kicker made the gamble pay off. 

It was an improbable kick for a multitude of reasons. For one, it was Bates' first field goal attempt since high school. The 24-year-old started his college career as a soccer player at Central Arkansas before transferring to Texas State, where he served as a kickoff specialist. After two seasons with the Bobcats, Bates transferred to Arkansas, where he also served as a kickoff specialist for the Razorbacks. 

Due to his career as a kickoff specialist, Bates never got a chance to kick a field goal in college. After leaving Arkansas, he actually went to training camp with the Houston Texans in 2023, but he only saw action in one preseason game, before losing the job to Ka'imi Fairbairn. 

The other improbable part of Bates' kick is that he actually made it TWICE. Bates hit the first one down the middle, but it didn't count because the Battlehawks had called a timeout before Michigan got the snap off. You can check out that entire sequence below. 

The kick was also improbable because it came from a distance that NFL kickers don't even usually hit from. Only two kickers in NFL history have ever hit a field goal from 64 yards or longer: Justin Tucker (66 yards in 2021) and Matt Prater (64 yards in 2013). 

In a bizarre coincidence, Tucker's kick came at Ford Field, which is where Bates hit his kick on Saturday. The Ravens kicker set the NFL record for longest field goal when he hit a game-winner against the Lions that hit off the crossbar before going in. As for Prater, his kick came in Denver while he was playing for the Broncos. 

The Panthers win over the Battlehawks was just the second game in UFL history, but no matter what happens from here on out, there's a good chance that Bates is going to hold the record for longest field goal as long as the league exists. 

If Bates can prove that he can consistently make big field goals, then he just might have a chance to earn an NFL job in 2024 now that teams have taken notice.