As the preseason wore on, the Carolina Panthers became more and more impressed with Joey Slye’s kicking.
The North Stafford High School graduate converted seven of his eight field-goal attempts, including a 59-yarder in Thursday’s final preseason game against Pittsburgh. He also recorded two other kicks that went 50 yards and beyond.
His only miss this season was against Pittsburgh when the Steelers blocked his 48-yard attempt.
Once the Panthers decided to place Graham Gano on injured reserve, Slye became the team’s new kicker.
Gano did not kick at all during the preseason as he continued to recover from a left leg injury that forced him to miss the final four games of the 2018 season. Gano, a 2017 Pro Bowler, had been Carolina’s kicker since joining the team midway through the 2012 season. In 2018, he went 14 for 16 and hit a 63-yard field goal.
By being placed on injured reserve, Gano is ineligible to return this season since he was not listed on the team’s 53-man roster.
Carolina signed Slye as a free agent Aug. 1.
This was Slye’s fifth attempt at making an NFL roster. The Giants signed him in April before releasing him a week later. He also had tryouts with the San Diego Chargers, the Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The memory of his brother AJ has motivated Slye to keep pushing himself. AJ died in 2014 from leukemia.
“I want to be one of the top guys who’s ever played,” Slye told Panthers.com. “It’s not a mindset of I’m only doing it for accolades or getting to the top, but it’s that I promised my brother I’m going to give my best effort. I feel like I have the potential to be a top kicker in the league.
“We’re on a mountain climbing, and once my career’s over, hopefully, I’ll be sitting on the top of the mountain happy with what I’ve accomplished.”
Slye has always been known for his strong leg in finishing as Virginia Tech’s all-time leading scorer.
He was a 2016 first-team, all-ACC selection by the coaches. As a senior, he scored 82 points, going 37 of 37 on point after touchdown attempts and 15 of 22 on field goals. Slye made 63 kickoffs that resulted in 53 touchbacks.