Long before Younghoe Koo took the NFL by storm, well before Matt Bryant easily broke the franchise scoring record, and a full decade-plus before Morten Andersen grabbed the crown as greatest kicker in team history, Mick Luckhurst was the guy. The British-born kicker spent seven seasons in Atlanta in the 1980s and became the franchise’s leading scorer before he hung up his cleats, a mark he held until 2000, when Andersen surpassed him.
When you have two kickers as great as Andersen and Bryant in your team’s history and you played almost 40 years ago, your name isn’t exactly going to come up in conversation among younger fans. When you once scored a rushing touchdown in a playoff game, held the franchise scoring mark for over a decade and likely played a role in introducing the NFL to a generation of NFL fans abroad, though, you deserve more than a little recognition.
Let’s look back at Luckhurst’s interesting career in Atlanta.
Time in Atlanta: 1981-1987
Statistics as a Falcon: 95 games, 115/164 field goals, 70.1% field goal rate, 213/216 extra points, 98.6% XP rate, 2 punts, 63 yards, 31.5 yards per punt, 1 playoff
What he’s best known for: Being one of the NFL’s first British-born players, scoring a playoff touchdown on a fake
Nothing about Luckhurst’s path to the NFL was typical. Born in Redbourn, Hertfordshire, Luckhurst became one of the first British-born players to make it in the league. He did so by leaving home, heading to St. Cloud State University and then the University of California at Berkeley, where he played both rugby and football. His college career was an impressive one—his 54 yard field goal was the longest in school history for a long time and he helped the Golden Bears to their first-ever rugby title in 1980—but that wasn’t enough to get him drafted.
The Falcons picked up him following the 1981 draft, though, and he got the opportunity to compete with incumbent kicker Tim Mazzetti for the job. Mazzetti was fresh off a season handling duties for the best team in franchise history and had ranked 8th in the league in field goal percentage at 24 years old, but hit just 2 of 6 field goals in preseason versus Luckhurst’s 4 for 5 performance. That was apparently enough for the Falcons to cut Mazzetti, who would refuse to play for the Browns after they picked him up and moved to an interesting NFL afterlife as a WSB-TV sports reporter, USFL kicker, and ultimately a commercial real estate finance career, and keep Luckhurst.
He would not fare as well in his rookie season as Mazzetti had the year before and the team wilted from the heady days of 1980, going 7-9. Luckhurst and the Falcons rebounded in 1982, as he improved from a 63.6% field goal percentage to 71.4% that was good for 13th in the NFL and Atlanta returned to the playoffs. That game against Minnesota was arguably Luckhurst’s career highlight, as he banged home his only field goal try, three extra points and improbably scored a 17 yard rushing touchdown on a fake field goal. Unfortunately, the Falcons did not win.
Luckhurst would serve as the team’s kicker for the next five seasons, with 1983 and 1985 serving as his high-water marks with 77% field goal percentages. He stumbled a bit more in 1986 and 1987 and elected to walk away from the game after 1987 to pursue an opportunity in television, and while he left the door open to return to the NFL when he did so, he never did take the field again.
After his playing career, Luckhurst served as the face of Channel 4’s NFL coverage in the United Kingdom for a few years, which a few of you from across the pond may remember. I was hoping to find a clip and I was, happily, able to.
Luckhurst was present for the coin toss for the unforgettable in a bad way Falcons vs. Lions game in Wembley Stadium back in 2014, and will likely be present again when they play the Jets in the UK this season. He’ll also be watching his sophomore son Jack compete for the kicking job at Arizona State University with Christian Zendejas, himself the son of a former NFL kicker and the nephew of two other NFL kickers. I believe he’s also still involved in coaching soccer at Bishop Diego in California, where Jack attended high school.
As is the case with many of the players we’ve profiled to this point, Luckhurst was not a franchise great, but he was a fine kicker who made his mark on the team’s record books and has a true signature moment to point to with that run in the 1982 playoffs.