They keep a struggling team competitive, make a good team great and a turn a great team into an even greater team.
They're the intangible third of a football game from which successful coaches reap tangible benefits on the scoreboard. Kickers, they believe, go a long way in determining a team's short-term and long-term expectations.
In the short-term, a good kicker immediately benefits field position. In the long-term a strong-legged kicker leaves little concern for special teams play in general.
It's a timely topic with so many quality kickers in DuPage County this season.
"If we win two-thirds of the game, we'll probably be in pretty good shape to win that game," said Naperville North coach Sean Drendel. "Our kicking game is extremely important in trying to win that extra third."
One look at Naperville North's matchup against Wheaton Warrenville South last week showed the difference. Huskies kicker Ron Coluzzi, considered among the state's best at the position, booted a 40-yard third-quarter field goal to give his team a 17-7 advantage.
More important, though, was Coluzzi's punting. On consecutive fourth-quarter possessions Coluzzi pinned down the Tigers inside their 10-yard line, including one that ended up on the 1-yard line.
Coffin-corner kicks have become routine for Coluzzi.
"He wants to be great, and because of that he works extremely hard," Drendel said. "You look at what he does with field position and it's incredible. Teams can go 60 yards but going 90 is obviously a lot harder."
Glenbard West's Dan Cavazos presents a prime example of a kicker making a great team even greater. In last week's win over Hinsdale Central his impact began with seven touchbacks on seven kickoffs, a 31-yard field goal and conversion on all 6 extra-point attempts.
Like Coluzzi, Cavazos also pinned down the Red Devils at their 4-yard line on his only punt attempt.
It's tough enough trying to get a first down against the Hilltoppers' defense. But 80 yards? Ninety-six yards? That's almost unfair.
"He's an unreal kicker, and that's a weapon," said Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet. "People don't write a lot about it but it's a big deal as far as field position in concerned."
Cavazos played for Glenbard West's football team freshman and sophomore year before playing soccer as a junior. His return to the football program this season has provided a huge boost to the Hilltoppers' special teams play.
"I worked all summer and last spring, just getting ready for the season," Cavazos said. "Now I'm hoping to play college."
That'll be a common theme throughout DuPage County this season. Downers Grove South's Anthony Farinella is among the state's elite kickers, while Glenbard East's Frank Loconti, Wheaton North's Marcin Gawlak, York's Sean McDaid and others also boast impressive kicking stats.
Kicking advantages, though, loom beyond stat sheets. As Drendel points out, offensive decision-making becomes more interesting with a strong-legged kicker.
If, for example, a team is facing third-and-long on the 30-yard line, it's no longer two-down territory. With a good kicker, play-calling shifts when you're able to realistically attempt a long field-goal.
Considering there are YouTube clips of Coluzzi nailing 57-yard field goals during pregame warm-ups, Drendel has no issue sending his kicker out for long ones.
"A kicker like Coluzzi really does change the way you approach games," Drendel said. "It's something we definitely consider when we're calling plays."
The vast majority of games are still determined by offenses and defenses but, this season especially, keep an eye on special teams play.
It's just something to kick around as we inch closer to the playoffs.