Akers, the 14-year veteran who kicks for the San Francisco 49ers, is a wizened 38-year-old who was once booed by Philadelphia Eagles fans for missing two field goals in a playoff game the day after doctors found a tumor on the ovary of his then-six-year-old daughter.
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But even as their lives have taken different paths, their roads have converged at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, where the right-footed Tucker and the left-footed Akers could each end the night in glory or as a goat.
Tucker — who grew up in Austin, Texas, which is almost an eight-hour drive from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — admitted that he's already allowed himself to bask in the thought of converting a game-winning field goal to give the Ravens a second Super Bowl championship.
"Just thinking about it now, you almost get goose bumps thinking about it," Tucker said. "I can tell you, every day when I would go out to the practice fields at Westlake High School with my dad, we always ended on a game-winning field goal. I always end my warm up routine on gamedays with a 48-yarder from the right hash. That's the kick [the New England Patriots' Adam] Vinatieri made in the Superdome in , I believe. This place right here is where he cemented himself as a Hall of Fame-caliber kicker, which is really a hard thing to do."
Youth has a tendency to build confidence, but so does completing one of the more successful rookie years in NFL history. Tucker connected on 30-of-33 field goals in the regular season. His 90.9 success rate ranked as the second-best mark in team history and the second-best conversion rate by a rookie in NFL history.
In the postseason, Tucker has nailed two field goals, including the game-winning 47-yarder in double overtime to propel the team to a 38-35 win against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round.
"Our favorite phrase is, 'We've got that Justin Tucker, please believe it,' Ravens wide receiver and return specialist Jones said with a wink. "That's how much confidence we've got in him."
Long snapper Morgan Cox said he sensed something special about the undrafted player out of Texas in the preseason.
"I thought he was going to be a great kicker from the start," Cox said of Tucker, who beat out incumbent Billy Cundiff in camp for the job. "You could tell by the way he came in and worked, the attitude that he gave, the way he attacked just about everything. You knew he was going to work hard. So no, I'm not surprised."
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg is usually poker-faced when addressing the media during his weekly Thursday news conference, but he lights up ever so slightly when talking about the team's precocious kicker, who is the third-youngest player on the Ravens' active roster.
"The most important confidence that Justin Tucker brings to the kicking game is confidence in himself," Rosburg said. "He goes out there and plays, and he feels like he's going to make every kick. As a result of his performance this year, all of the players around him have confidence in him as well. And it's good to have confidence in yourself, but it's been now reinforced by reality. He can kick, and he knows he can kick, and his teammates know he can kick. So it just keeps growing that way, and we're happy we have him."
On the opposite sideline, Akers has struggled with his accuracy, making just 29-of-42 field goals in the regular season. Coach Jim Harbaugh was so alarmed by his kicker's sudden stumbles — in 2011, Akers set NFL record for field goals (44) and points (166) in a single season –—that the 49ers added Cundiff to their playoff roster.
Akers said he has leaned on his Christian faith during moments that have tested his character and will.
"I try to give thanks when things are positive as well, but absolutely during that time, I think everybody, as humans, we question a lot of what's going on or we can't see the big picture of what's happening," he said. "Sometimes the answer comes quickly and sometimes it takes a long time before reflection is turned into answers. So I look in and go to the scripture of, 'Lean on our own understanding' and 'His ways.'"
For all of Akers' hiccups, he is still a six-time Pro Bowler who has knocked down 81.8 percent (36-of-44) of his career field-goal attempts in the postseason. That's why Cox wasn't ready to state that anything was out of Akers' range or ability.
"David's been a great kicker for a long time," Cox said. "Sports has streaks. I can't really explain it. I'm not over there with him. But like I said, David's a great kicker, and you just never know."
Akers has the edge in experience, having made nine game-winning field goals in his career versus just three for Tucker. But Tucker has the benefit of recency effect stemming from his game-winner against Denver.
"I think that does help, and that's something that we've been good about doing throughout this postseason, carrying momentum and stacking good plays on top of one another," Tucker said. "For me, Morgan and [holder] Sam [Koch], that's no different. We look to stack successes upon past successes, and that's where momentum comes from. So that's been a positive thing for us to keep the momentum going."