Adam Yates' football career is going south — and that's a good thing.
Yates, 22, a field goal kicker from Sparks, flew to Jacksonville on Wednesday where he was to sign with the Jaguars. A free agent, he impressed team officials in a three-day tryout in May, despite having played only two years of organized football — as a senior in high school, where Yates led Hereford to the Maryland Class 3A championship game in 2007, and in college, where he helped South Carolina to a No. 8 national ranking in 2012.
"Hopefully, I've got a few more years left in me," he said. "I'll go down there, kick my best and let God take care of the rest."
In January, Yates starred in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, kicking field goals of 40 and 41 yards.
At Jacksonville, he will have to unseat Josh Scobee, an eight-year veteran who went 25 of 28 on field goals (89.3 percent) in 2012. Scobee, who signed a four-year contract last year, led the NFL in field goal percentage in 2007. He scored all of the Jaguars' points in a 12-7 win over the Ravens in 2011, including three kicks of 50 yards or more.
Yates, who booted six field goals at Hereford and 11 at South Carolina, took the long odds in stride.
"Every kicker in the NFL beat out somebody who was already there," he said. "Scobee had to do it, too, so I'm hoping to keep that line going.
"Look at the Ravens last year. People weren't expecting [undrafted rookie] Justin Tucker to make it. Young kickers seem to be having a ton of success lately."
Both Yates and Scobee were mentored by Matt Stover, former Raven and the NFL's fifth all-time leading scorer.
"I'm happy for Adam; he has worked hard for this," Stover said. "He's got serious pop to the ball and he's good enough to play in this league.
"But Josh has a tremendous work ethic. Obviously, [the Jaguars] want really good competition for him. And, who knows, some of these teams are moving to younger and cheaper players."