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Better with age: Cards' Feely on target for his best season yet

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Arizona kicker Jay Feely scored a touchdown on a fake field goal, of course he ran to the right.

After all, he has appeared several times on conservative Sean Hannity's Fox News show. Although a political career may lie ahead, Feely is having a great year in his 10th NFL season. He is one of the few bright spots in a dismal season for the Cardinals.

Feely's 5-yard scamper in Sunday's 43-13 victory over the Denver Broncos was only the fourth touchdown run for a kicker since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. He also kicked five field goals and was named NFL special teams player of the week Wednesday.

"He deserved it," rookie quarterback John Skelton said. "He accounted for all of our points except there in the fourth quarter. To get the ball just across midfield and to come out with points is always a positive."

The Cardinals say his 25 points against Denver -- a touchdown, five field goals and four extra points -- are the second-most by a kicker in league history, only surpassed by Tennessee's Rob Baronis in 2007. His 22 consecutive points in the game were the most since Paul Hornung scored 24 in a row for Green Bay in 1961.

Feely's rare scoring run brought attention to what a season it has been for Feely, who came to Arizona after the Cardinals couldn't re-sign Neil Rackers. Feely has made 20 of 22 field goals. His misses were from 54 yards in week two against Atlanta and from 49 yards in Sunday's game. Coach Ken Whisenhunt blamed himself for that miss because of the confusion of the team first going for a field goal, then going to punt, then going to the field goal again.

Feely said it was difficult but "bottom line, I've got to make that kick."

With three games to go, this could be the most accurate season yet for the 34-year-old former Michigan kicker, who has made 82.3 percent of his attempts as a pro. His best was 91.3 percent (21 of 23) for Miami in 2007 and if he makes his next try he will equal those numbers.

He credits maturity and physical conditioning.

"I've learned how to approach the game mentally, how to best prepare myself and then work as hard as I can in the offseason to physically prepare myself," Feely said after practice on Wednesday. "I think all kickers in the NFL continue to get better and better because now that position is gaining respect and guys take it as a full-time judge. They approach it the same way as a linebacker would, the same way a receiver would, the way they work out in the weight room."

Public service is a big part of Feely, something that could eventually lead him to running for office, although he worries about how nasty politics is and how a run would affect his family.

He said he is a direct descendent of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman and of Roger Sherman, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. His grandmother still has the desk where Roger Sherman signed it.

His older brother, Michael, "was mentally and physically retarded and in a bed his whole life, from the age of six months on, never able to communicate, and yet he had a huge impact on people just by surviving," Feely said. "Doctors said he would live a year and ended up living 26 years."

Feely went to a Jesuit high school where the motto is "to be a man for others." He has helped with the Special Olympics and served as a one-on-one counselor at a camp for children with muscular dystrophy.

"When you spend a week with a kid who knows he's going to die and he has a great attitude, a great outlook on life, it changes you forever," Feely said.

When Feely wasn't drafted by the NFL out of college, a family friend tried to get him to run for a local office.

"I didn't but that started the wheels kind of churning a little bit," he said.

While he was in New York with the Jets the past two years, someone suggested he should appear on Fox, where analysts are known for their conservative views.

First, he had to meet Fox Senior Vice President Bill Shine, who "kind of put me through the ringer and tested me to see what my knowledge was, what books I was reading, all that types of stuff. That day, when I was in his office, he called Sean Hannity and said 'Hey, why don't you get this guy on the air?'"

Many times Feely agrees with Hannity, but not always.

"I'm going to tell the truth. I'm going to be honest with him," Feely said. "I think he likes that. Our views are very similar some of the time, not all of the time."

Being out West, he hasn't had the opportunity to be on the show lately. But expect it again, he said, when what perhaps is his greatest season comes to an end.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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