Hey, Billy Cundiff — Matt Stover is watching, and he's rooting you on.
When Cundiff kicked five field goals Sunday in the Ravens' 29-14 victory over the Houston Texans, Stover all but looked toward heaven and thrust his index fingers skyward. For 13 years in Baltimore, that was Stover's style whenever shoe touched leather. Now retired, the NFL's fourth all-time leading scorer is pulling for the guy who succeeded him as the Ravens' steady kicker.
"I'm so happy for Billy," Stover, 43, said Thursday. "He's doing great. His points won that game — plus, he kicks off like Hercules. Kicking consistently out of the end zone takes the wind out of the sails of the other team, which then has to start from the 20. And that's not easy, given the Ravens' defense."
Cundiff, he said, has found his niche after having been passed around by eight other clubs.
"The Ravens believed in him," Stover said. "I don't think Billy ever believed that other clubs had his back, anywhere else."
It was the second time that Cundiff has made five field goals in a game for the Ravens. Stover did it on four occasions, once in 2000 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who host Baltimore on Monday night.
His memories of that contest?
"The weather, the wind and how we weren't scoring," Stover said. "That was not an easy game to kick in. I was in my groove, man. I was hitting well."
Stover mustered all the points in that 15-10 victory over the Jaguars, as he had done a week earlier in a 12-0 defeat of the Cleveland Browns. In that wacky Super Bowl season, it was Stover who did all the scoring for five consecutive games to keep the offense-challenged Ravens in the mix.
His success against Jacksonville seemed to ease the stress on the Ravens' attack. After that game, Stover said, the team's mantra became: Just rely on Matt's foot. We don't have to go out and put 30 points on the board. Just rely on Matt's foot.
"We really discovered our identity in Jacksonville," he said.
Eighteen times, from 1996 to 2008, Stover kicked game-winning field goals for the Ravens. And when they declined to bring him back, at age 41, he signed with Indianapolis and helped the Colts to the 2010 Super Bowl.
Then, last May, having scored 2004 points in a 20-year career, he bowed out.
"No regrets," Stover said. "Life has moved on. My priority now is my family. I need to be there for my wife, daughter and two sons."
Fall weekends are spent ferrying his 16-year-old daughter, a junior at McDonogh, around the country to look at colleges. Sunday, for instance, he watched the Ravens' victory while eating at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Greenville, S.C., home of Furman University.
There was Stover, the only man to kick a field goal in 38 straight games, sitting in a crowd and enjoying the contest, without interruption.
"Nobody in the whole place knew who I was," he said.
He has teamed with Kyle Richardson, former Ravens punter, and a third partner to create a private social networking business.
"We've built three sites already for the NFL, which allow players to connect with each other" without having fans peek over their shoulders, Stover said.
Another of his ventures, Athlete Transitions, aims to help former players segue into society by offering personal life game plans and strategies.
"The Lord took me out of football at the right time," Stover said. "I can do a good job with this, and as a father."
2006 Baltimore Sun photo