Younghoe Koo’s story is an inspirational one. As one of only four NFL players born in South Korea (Hines Ward may be a name you are rather familiar with), his journey is the perfect example of why you should never give up on your dreams.
The kicker was one of the many heroes during Sunday’s remarkable win over the New Orleans Saints. Koo finished the game a perfect four-for-four, including a career-high 48-yarder, as he helped his new team finally find the win column and relieve what had already developed into a disaster of epic proportions. To say his debut was a perfect one might be an understatement. Can you imagine your debut taking place in one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries?
For Koo, the journey to Atlanta has had its ups and downs. At Georgia Southern, he became the first kicker in program history to be named as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. On top of this, Koo set a school record for career field goal percentage, hitting 31 of his 35 attempts (88.6%), and became the program’s first FBS All-American when he made the Third Team in 2016.
His success in college landed him a spot on the Los Angeles Chargers when he signed as a free agent following the 2017 NFL Draft. Four weeks into his career on the West Coast, Koo was waived, as the Chargers found themselves with a record of 0-4. The kicker’s first NFL job came to a sad end.
The experience of playing Los Angeles, however, where Koo was 3-for-6 on field goals and a perfect nine-for-nine on extra-point attempts, was a big help in his quick transition to the Falcons.
“Having the Chargers experience helped me stay ready for and kind of expect how to go about [my job] when I [got] the call,” Koo said.
Following his departure from the Chargers, Koo did not find a new team until 2019, when he landed a gig with the newly formed Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football. The AAF folded soon after, though, and Koo was once again on the hunt for a job.
“It is part of the journey,” Koo said. “Whatever happened, happened for a reason and brought me to [the Falcons].”
Once Koo signed with the Falcons, he initially made headlines by taking on the No. 7 jersey, which once belonged to Michael Vick. It was a bold move, but hey, you have to give the kid some credit for boasting that level of confidence. And he is not unfamiliar with the Atlanta sports scene. The chance to continue his career in Georgia’s capital was an easy one to pursue.
“I played for Georgia Southern, went to the Atlanta Legends, and now [I am] here,” Koo said. “It has been great for me.”
The quick turnaround from his signing day to competitive debut was a wild one, but the kicker made sure to keep his head down and work as hard as possible to take the opportunity.
“I am just focused on what I have to control,” Koo said. “I just took it day by day [and] kick by kick. During the [first] week, I just worked on my craft and focused on me.”
The mindset clearly paid off. While Koo’s stellar Sunday helped him be named as the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week, he is not resting on his laurels and is ready for more.
“I think every game is important,” Koo said. “[You are] 0-0 every week, and you just try to win week in and week out.”
Wise words from a man who is motivated to finally find his long-term home in the world of professional football.