INDIANAPOLIS – Nearly 15 years ago, Brian Gutekunst was the Packers' Southeast scout sitting in Miami's old Orange Bowl watching Colorado junior kicker Mason Crosby drill a 58-yard field goal for the Buffaloes' only points of the game.
Fast forward to this year's annual NFL Scouting Combine, an event that is all about the future of the team, and Gutekunst is the Packers' general manager talking about how glad he is not to be worried about his team's future at kicker.
"Really happy to have him back," Gutekunst said of getting Crosby re-signed to a multi-year contract earlier this week, the fourth contract the kicker has signed with the Packers in his career.
"Obviously, he's been a 14-year pro now, holds all our records. I think by the time he's done with us – at least in our lifetime – it'll be pretty hard for anybody to catch that."
Crosby, who was a pending free agent, already has long held Green Bay's franchise marks for points (1,575), field goals (329), extra points (588) and 50-yard field goals (35).
He also ranks 23rd on the NFL's all-time scoring list, and if he maintains his roughly 120-point career average over the next three years, he'll have a chance to crack the top 10, depending on how long fellow veteran kickers Stephen Gostkowski (1,775, 12th), Matt Bryant (1,758, 13th) and Robbie Gould (1,638, 19th) continue to play.
But the Packers aren't keeping him for nostalgia or posterity's sake. They're bringing him back because he's still at the top of his game, making 22-of-24 field goals in 2019 (tying the franchise record for single-season accuracy), missing just one extra point and setting a personal best in touchback percentage on kickoffs (62%).
"The continuity with our three specialists is huge," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said, referring to Crosby, punter JK Scott and long snapper Hunter Bradley, the latter two having joined the Packers just two years ago.
"He's been through everything. There's nothing he hasn't seen. He came up big for us last season, and we expect the same in the future."
Crosby's on-field highlights last season were a pair of walk-off field goals to beat the division-rival Lions, and his late-game reliability was invaluable to a Packers team that won a number of close games.
Take a look at photos of Packers K Mason Crosby from the 2019 season.
That gives comfort to a head coach in tight, pressure situations, and Crosby carries that same level of calm leadership into the locker room, where he's a rare specialist who's a leader not only on special teams but for the team as a whole.
It says something about him that the two best seasons of his career came under the most trying of circumstances. In 2013, when he made 33-of-37 field goals, he was coming off his career-worst year and had to fight for his job in training camp.
Then this past season, personally off the field he dealt with his sister-in-law's death from cancer and his wife's own difficult medical diagnosis.
"He's a guy who just relates to people really well," Gutekunst said. "I think when guys see him, day in and day out being the professional that he is – and for those guys who have been around here for a while, knowing what he's been through, through his career, and how he's bounced back from some things – I think that's why he has the respect that he does."
He still has plenty of leg, too. While it's been nine years since Crosby matched that collegiate 58-yarder with an NFL kick from the same distance, which still stands as the longest in Packers history, he made one from 54 yards this past season and is 6-of-9 from 50-plus over the last two years.
That leg was the biggest selling point with Crosby in the 2007 draft, when former GM Ted Thompson made him the last of three consecutive picks in the sixth round, after fullback Korey Hall and linebacker Desmond Bishop.
"Ted really hit on all three of those picks, and Mason is still sitting here today," Gutekunst said. "He's obviously exceeded all expectations for a sixth-round pick.
"It's the way he goes about his business. He's such a pro."