The hottest player entering the Super Bowl for the Bengals is not quarterback Joe Burrow, receiver Ja’Marr Chase, running back Joe Mixon or any of their defensive players.
It’s Cincinnati’s 22-year-old kicker, Evan McPherson.
McPherson is on track to break Adam Vinatieri’s record for most field goals made in a postseason, 14 in 2006. McPherson has made all 12 of his field-goal attempts in the Bengals’ three playoff games, one of which was a walk-off 31 -yarder to defeat the Titans and send Cincinnati to the AFC Championship game.
As he trotted onto the field for that kick, McPherson now famously said to a teammate, “Looks like we’re going to the AFC Championship game.”
“He’s awesome,” Bengals long snapper Clark Harris told The Post. “He’s got confidence, but some people have confidence and it’s like a cocky confidence. His isn’t like that. His is a very quiet, down south Alabama confidence. He’s very matter of fact. If he says he’s going to do something he’s going to do it. I love the kid.”
McPherson, drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round in April, doesn’t have the same brashness that Burrow has. His is more understated. But the confidence is evident nonetheless.
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“Being on special teams, you’re kind of like a sniper,” McPherson said Monday. “You got one shot. You’re either making the kick or you’re missing it. Knowing how important your job is, you’re going to do anything possible in your power to make that kick.”
McPherson, who played his college ball at Florida, not only enters Sunday needing three field goals to break Vinatieri’s record, he’s already set the record for most field goals from 50 or more yards over the course of a single season (regular and postseason) with 12.
“Adam Vinatieri is the best to ever do it, so just to have an idea of what he’s done is pretty cool,” McPherson said. “That’d be a pretty cool record to break. Adam is definitely a guy that’s I’ve looked up to and watched a videos on since I was a kid. I love to watch his run with the Patriots when he was kicking game-winners in the Super Bowl. That’s every kid’s dream, kicking a game-winner in a Super Bowl.
“He’s definitely meant a lot to me, though I’ve never met him or spoken to him. I’m sure I will one day. When I do, I’ll appreciate him for what he’s done at our position and everything he’s accomplished. He’s done a lot for me for not knowing me. Just to see somebody else make those kicks kind of gives you confidence that you can do it.”
McPherson, who is 40-for-45 including the postseason on field goals, has a simple formula when he proudly onto the field for a kick.
“You’ve really got to walk out and think in your mind there’s no way you can miss the kick,” he said. “That’s kind of how I process going through a kick. In my mind, I’m walking out there and there is no way this ball isn’t going through the uprights. It’s come through practice, and from in the games making those kicks.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence to go out there and in my mind make me believe there’s no way I can miss.”