Jeff Wilkins spent 11 seasons of his 14 year career kicking for the St. Louis Rams (1997-2007). During his tenure, he highlighted the record books during one of the most storied eras in franchise history, The Greatest Show on Turf. Now, he is rooting for those records to be broken.
After retiring from the Rams following the 2007 season, Jeff and his wife Tina moved to Canfield, Ohio, and built a home on 85 acres of land with their three daughters. The couple has called Ohio home for most of their lives, both growing up in the area and eventually becoming high school sweethearts. Now, they stay busy running around town, splitting the parental duties and hosting their oldest daughter when she visits from college.
“Been doing the Dad thing and trying to catch all the sporting events,” Wilkins said. “I enjoy running around with them with all the activities that they have going on.”
Wilkins and his wife also spend time managing the property and taking care of the house. With 85 acres of land to play with, he has also become a bit of a deer hunter – a hobby he picked up during his time in St. Louis, thanks to his teammate P Rick Tuten.
With roots still in St. Louis, he and his family try to visit annually when they can break away from the daily routine in Ohio. The Wilkins family made the trip last year for the Rams 75th Anniversary game against the San Francisco 49ers. At walk-thru the Saturday before the game, Wilkins met then rookie K
“I was probably more nervous than when I actually used to do it,” Wilkins said. “And then he comes out there and he kicks that kick.”
“The cool thing was I had my whole family out there and my daughters and it was neat seeing them getting into the game and explaining to them, ‘Ok, this is what Dad used to do,’” Wilkins said.
Looking back on his playing days, Wilkins doesn’t put much stock in the records he set. Rather than focus on his individual achievements, he’s more thankful that he had an up-close and personal look at the Greatest Show on Turf.
“The funny this is, as a kicker, you’re on the sidelines for the majority of the game, watching the game,” Wilkins said. “To watch the addition of Marshall Faulk, and Kurt Warner, and obviously Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce all of them and watch the Greatest Show on Turf and watch it from that perspective of being right there and seeing those guys out on the field doing what they were able to do - that was something that sticks in my head. Obviously, I wasn’t out there on the field with them, but I had a little part in it.”
Many St. Louisians can fondly recall some of Wilkins’ game-winning field goals and can attest to the trust that the city had in him when he took the field. His consistency shows through his stats: He converted 30 consecutive field goals (1999-2001) and made a field goal in 27 consecutive games (2002-04)– both marks are first in Rams’ all-time history.
In fact, Wilkins still holds many more franchise records including the record for most seasons leading the team in scoring (9), most career points (1,223), and most 50-plus yard field goals (26).
Last season, Zuerlein started to make his mark on franchise records during his impressive rookie campaign, topping Wilkins’ longest field goal record of 57 yards, with field goals of 58 and 60 yards.
“To me, the records are meant to be broken,” Wilkins said. “Hopefully he can break them all and he can stick around there for his whole career. That would be a tremendous thing. His talent is undeniable.”
Regardless of what the stat books say now or a few years down the road, when Wilkins thinks of his best memories as a Ram it’s the relationships and the respect that was shared among teammates that seems to come front and center.
“In the locker room, you were playing for your teammates, you wanted to do good for your teammates,” Wilkins said. “You look across the locker room and you see those guys that are out there busting their butt – you don’t want to go out there and miss the kick and lose the game because of that.
“I think, the chemistry and how the guys all got along, inside and out, on the field and in the locker room had a great deal to do with how successful we were.”
Wilkins and his family hope to make a trip this season to the Edward Jones Dome for a game. Rest assured, he will be in the stands with his wife and daughters, cheering on Zuerlein and the rest of the Rams to make their mark in franchise history in the stat book and in the standings.