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Younghoe Koo

Sport: Football

Born: August 3, 1994

Town: Ridgewood

Koo Younghoe was born August 3, 1994 in Seoul, South Korea and moved to New Jersey when he was 12. His father was a university professor and his mother, a nurse, had come to work in the U.S. in 2002. Younghoe enrolled in sixth grade at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood and became a football standout as a kicker. He had won a soccer kicking contest in Korea and found the football to his liking. It also helped him make friends, learn English and fit in. His mother often worked night shifts at the hospital, so coach Rich Queen and his family drove Younghoe home from practice and kept an eye on him.

By the time Younghoe joined the Ridgewood High School varsity in 2009, he could already kick the ball out of the end zone. Coach Chuck Johnson and kicking specialist Pat Sempier helped him refine his skills and during a four-year prep career, Younghoe made 15 field goals and put 47 of 50 kickoffs into or out of the end zone. As a senior, he was 32-for-32 on extra points. He also made all-county as a defensive back. He also ran track for the Maroons.

Younghoe went to Georgia Southern on a scholarship and became an internet sensation thanks to a short video that demonstrated his unusual touch kicking the football. He mad 88.6% of his field goals and, as a senior in 2016, he made 19 of 20 field goals for the Eagles and was first-team All-Sun Belt Conference. Younghoe was also a finalist for the Groza Award, given to the top college kicker.

Younghoe went undrafted in 2017, but made the Chargers as a free agent. He became the fourth Korean-born NFL player, with Hines Ward the most notable. In his first game, he booted a game-tying field goal against the Broncos which was nullified because Denver had called a timeout at the last moment. His second attempt was blocked. The following week he missed a game-winner against the Dolphins. The Chargers cut him after an 0–4 start.

Midway through the following season, the Atlanta Falcons parted way with veteran Matt Bryant and signed Younghoe. In his first game he was 4-for-4 in field goals and was named Special Teams Player of the Week. In a Thanksgiving meeting with the Saints, he executed two successful onside kicks and would have had a third but for a penalty. In the next game, Younghoe had four field goals, 4 XPs and recovered a fumble against Panthers to win Special Teams Player of the Week again.

In 2020, his first full NFL season, Younghoe was named to the Pro Bowl despite a dismal showing by the Falcons. He was named Special Teams Player of the Month for November after going 14-for-14 in field goals and scoring 51 points. He finished the year with 144 points to lead the NFC.


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