The most prolific kicker and scorer in Youngstown State football history and one of the top place kickers in the National Football League, Jeff Wilkins, was honored at the annual Penguin Club Scholarship Ring/Dinner as one of the Penguin's of the Year in 2001 for his past and current success.
Wilkins, a native of Austintown, Ohio, has spent eight successful years with three teams in the NFL, the past five years as the place kicker for the St. Louis Rams. Prior to joining the Rams he was a kicker for San Francisco and Philadelphia. He has played a tremendous part in the Rams' recent success of a Super Bowl Championship in 2000 and a playoff appearance in 2001.
Wherever Wilkins has been, he has been part of a success story and the rest of the 29-year-old's career looks just as bright as it how it began at Austintown High School and here at Youngstown State.
While helping the Rams make the postseason for the third straight year in 2002, his biggest feat was a 1999 season that landed St. Louis its first Super Bowl championship in franchise history. In the playoffs, he kicked seven PAT's in the Divisional Playoff win against Minnesota. In the NFC Championship game against Tampa Bay, he had a 24-yard field goal. In the 23-16 win over Tennessee in the Super Bowl, he kicked three first-half field goals.
In the 1999 regular-season he finished first in the NFC in scoring with 124 points as St. Louis rolled to a 14-2 record. His 124 points ranked second on the team's all-time single-season point list. He made 64 consecutive point-after-touchdown attempts to set an NFL record. Wilkins made 20-of-28 field-goal attempts.
Although the Rams came up short of defending their Super Bowl title this year, Wilkins battled back from a leg injury to have as perfect of a season a kicker could have.
This past season, he finished second in the NFL in scoring with 127 points. He made all 58 PAT kicks and was 23-of-29 on field goals. The Rams posted a 14-2 regular-season record and advanced to the NFC Championship game for the second time in three years.
Wilkins made everything during the 2000-01 campaign. He was 17-of-17 on his field-goal attempts and made all 38 PATs. He finished the year playing in 11 games and scored 89 points. The Rams lost in a wildcard playoff game to the New Orleans Saints.
In his first two seasons Wilkins showed that the Rams made a good move when they signed him as a free agent in 1997. In 1998, he made 20-of-26 field-goal tries and missed one extra point in 26 attempts. That is the only extra point he has missed in his career. His first season with St. Louis was in 1997 and he made 25 field goals and 32 PAT kicks, totaling 107 points.
The San Francisco 49ers learned first hand that the sky is the limit for Wilkins in 1996. In his first season as an NFL team's primary kicker, he scored 130 points, making 70-of-74 kicks (40-40 PATs and 30-34 FGs). By making 30 field goals, he set a 49ers single-season record. His field-goal percentage was an impressive team-record .882 considering the ever-changing wind and weather conditions in San Francisco. He kicked six field goals in a game on Sept. 29, 1996 against Atlanta to tie a club mark.
In 1995, Wilkins signed with the 49ers as a free agent and played in seven games. He showed his talents making 12-of-13 field goals and made 29-of-29 extra-point kicks.
Wilkins' NFL career began as a kickoff specialist for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1994. Following his success at Youngstown State, he signed as a free agent with the Eagles and handled the kickoff duties in six games. He did not attempt a place kick that season.
In his 98-game regular-season NFL career, he has made an amazing 147-of-184 attempts (79.9 percent) and has missed just three extra points in 287 attempts. He has 725 career points playing for the Eagles, 49ers and Rams. He has not missed a point-after-conversion kick since the 1998 season and has just one miss the last six years.
The fans of Youngstown State knew Wilkins' best days were ahead of him when he wore jersey No. 14 from 1990 through 1993.
As part of two national championship teams (1991 and 1993), he plastered his name all over the school's record books in his four seasons.
He scored 373 points to set the school mark for points by kicking and total points by a Penguin. He had 98 field-goal attempts, made 66 of them, including a school-best tying kick of 54 yards against Northern Iowa on Dec. 12, 1992, and made 173 extra points. At the school his is third with a 67.3 field-goal success percentage.
Wilkins scored 104 points in 1992 and that set a school single-season mark for kickers and ranks tied for fifth on the school single-year scoring totals. He made 53 extra points in 1992 and 1993 and both of those years rank second in school history for extra points made in a season. In 1990 and 1992, he made 17 field goals to rank second on the single-season charts.
On the single-season lists, he set school records for points in a game by a kicker (15), field goals in a game (five) against Stephen F. Austin (Sept. 11, 1993) and Southwest Texas State (Sept. 19, 1992) and consecutive extra points made with 46 between the 1992 and 1993 seasons.
Before joining the Penguins in 1990, Wilkins was an all-state kicker for Austintown Fitch High School.
Jeff and his wife Tina, reside in St. Louis, Mo., with their daughter Britney.