Gostkowski, who played both college football and baseball for the University of Memphis, is the most accurate kicker in Patriots history, and one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. He is also a consistent and prolific scorer: He is only the second player in NFL history to score 500 points in his first four seasons in the league, and the first to score 1,000 points in his first eight seasons in the league (despite missing half the 2010 season with a leg injury). Gostkowski also holds the record for highest average points per game scored over a career (8.75 points per game as of the end of the 2015 season), and is the first player since the AFL-NFL merger to lead the league in scoring in more than two consecutive seasons (2012–2015; he also led the league in scoring in 2008). In 2014, he became the Patriots' all-time leading scorer, surpassing Adam Vinatieri. As of 2016, he is also the Patriots' all-time leader in field goals, and holds the NFL record for consecutive extra points.
Gostkowski graduated from Madison Central High School in Madison, Mississippi, in 2002. While there, he won four varsity letters each in football and soccer, and three in baseball, and was an All-State honoree in all three sports. Gostkowski holds the school record for longest field goal, a 55-yard kick. His teammates at Madison Central included current 49ers executive Parys Haralson and former Titans center Chris Spencer. His opponents included former Atlanta Falcons running back Jerious Norwood, who returned one of Gostkowski's kickoffs from two yards deep in the end zone; Gostkowski raced him down at the 25-yard line to prevent a touchdown.
His most common nickname growing up was "Beav"; he lost two front teeth playing hockey and had fake teeth that were too large put in as replacements. While at Memphis, he was dubbed "Gotti" by Tigers head coach Tommy West, because West could not pronounce Gostkowski correctly.
Gostkowski attended the University of Memphis, where he played for the Memphis Tigers football team and majored in exercise and sport science. Gostkowski received an athletic scholarship to play baseball for Memphis, and was a walk-on for the football team. He finished his college career with a total of 369 points, a school record, and 13th overall in NCAA Division I-A history, converting 70 of 92 field goals and 159 of 165 extra points (PATs) during his Tiger career. His 70 FGs and 159 PATs both set school records previously held by Joe Allison (1990–1993). He earned first team All-Conference USA honors in both his junior and senior years and was named Conference USA's Special Teams Player of the Year in 2005.
In 2005, his senior season, Gostkowski handled kickoff duties for Memphis, and had 39 touchbacks on 68 kickoffs. Gostkowski did so using a one-inch tee (the height of NFL tees), rather than the two-inch tees allowed by the NCAA at the time. Thus, NFL talent scouts could more accurately project his potential.
In a 2005 game against Houston, Gostkowski managed the rare feat of recovering his own onside kick.
Gostkowski was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft with the 118th pick. During the Patriots' 2006 training camp, he competed with veteran kicker Martín Gramática, who the Patriots had signed as a free agent after Adam Vinatieri signed with the Indianapolis Colts. On August 23, 2006, before their third preseason game, the Patriots cut Gramática, and gave the job to rookie Gostkowski. (This is the reverse of what the makers of the video game Madden NFL 07 expected; in the game, New England's place kicker is Gramática, not Gostkowski, who is listed as a free agent.) Since Gramática's release, Gostkowski has not faced any competition for his job.
During the 2006 preseason, Gostkowski was perfect on kicks and PATs, going 9-for-9 and 11-for-11, respectively, for a total of 38 points. His longest field goal was a 54-yard attempt against the New York Giants in the last preseason game. On November 26, 2006, Gostkowski made the longest regular-season kick of his young career, a 52-yard kick against the Chicago Bears, which is also the longest kick ever made at Gillette Stadium. Gostkowski finished the 2006 season as the highest-scoring rookie, with 103 points (20 field goals and 43 PATs), edging out the 96 points scored by Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
While Gostkowski struggled early in his rookie season—he had two consecutive kicks blocked—his kickoffs were noticeably longer than were Vinatieri's in his last season in Foxborough. During the 2006 season, he averaged 65.5 yards per kickoff with a return average of 23 yards, and a total of 12 touchbacks. (By comparison, in 2005, Vinatieri's average kickoff was just 61.6 yards, though playing in a dome in 2006 he averaged 65.8 yards.) Gostkowski also outperformed opposing teams on field goals: Gostkowski made 20 of 26 kicks (76.9%), while opposing kickers made just 22 of 30 (73.3%). Gostkowski's rookie season was statistically about the same as Vinatieri's: Vinatieri converted 27 of 35 kicks (77.3%), but missed three PATs (39/42). In Week 17, he missed an extra point attempt, the only other misses of his career coming in the AFC Championship game on January 24, 2016, and Super Bowl LI on February 5, 2017.
Gostkowski also had to contend with having three different holders during the season. After his first holder, punter Josh Miller, was placed on injured reserve after week 11, the Patriots signed Ken Walter, who held for weeks 12 to 15 until he too was placed on IR. Though the Patriots hired Todd Sauerbrun to punt, holding duties were given to the Patriots' backup quarterback Matt Cassel (which led to one regular-season kick that, while good, made two bizarre turns in mid-air).
In the AFC Wildcard Game of the 2006 postseason against the New York Jets, Gostkowski was perfect on all his kick attempts, converting three field goal attempts (from 20, 40, and 28 yards) and four extra points. He also had one kickoff go through the back of the end zone (over 80 yards) for a touchback.
In the AFC Divisional Playoffs against the San Diego Chargers, Gostkowski made three of three field goals, including a 50-yard kick that was the longest successful kick in Patriots postseason history. He also made a 34-yarder in the third quarter and a 31-yard kick with 1:10 left in the fourth that made him only the third NFL rookie to attempt a game-winning playoff kick in the fourth quarter or overtime. (One of the others was Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding, who missed his attempt in the 2004 playoffs; in this game, Kaeding missed a potential game-tying 54-yarder in the closing seconds.) Gostkowski also converted his only extra point attempt of the game following a Jabar Gaffney touchdown in the second quarter.
In the AFC Championship, Gostkowski again converted all of his kicks (two field goals and four PATs), and recorded two touchbacks on kickoffs.
As an untested rookie, Gostkowski faced special scrutiny in the playoffs, given the playoff heroics of Vinatieri. Gostkowski performed admirably, making all eight of his field goal kicks; he also recorded three touchbacks, including two in the Patriots' January 21, 2007, loss to the Colts at the RCA Dome.
Although Gostkowski ranked 30th in field goal attempts through the first 12 weeks of the NFL season (16 attempts, 14 converted), he managed to equal his entire 2006 scoring output in those 12 weeks, thanks to an NFL-leading 61 extra point attempts, all of which he converted. In Week 15, against the Jets, Gostkowski broke former Miami Dolphins kicker Uwe von Schamann's record for most PATs converted in a season, with his 67th successful attempt. In Week 16, against the Dolphins, Gostkowski broke von Schamann's record of 70 PAT attempts. Gostkowski finished the season a perfect 74-for-74 on PATs, eclipsing Jeff Wilkins' 1999 record of 64-for-64 with the St. Louis Rams. (These PAT records were surpassed by Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater in 2013.) Gostkowski also went 21 for 24 on field goals to finish with 137 points on the season, the third-highest total of any player that year (rookie Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby had 141, and Patriots receiver Randy Moss had 138).
Gostkowski also had the distinction, in the Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens, of kicking off from the Ravens' 35-yard line as the result of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Ravens linebacker Bart Scott and an offside call on the Ravens defense on his PAT attempt. Gostkowski recorded a touchback on the kickoff, but there was confusion after the game as to whether or not the Patriots could have improved their field position by kicking the ball out-of-bounds instead.
Gostkowski had two field goal attempts in the postseason, both in the divisional game against the Jacksonville Jaguars; Gostkowski converted one, but missed the other, his only failed postseason conversion. He was 9-for-9 on his PAT attempts.
Gostkowski was a key contributor in the Patriots' 19–10 win over the New York Jets in Week 2, the game that marked Matt Cassel's debut as a starter. Gostkowski kicked 4 of 4 field goals from 21, 37, 28, and 27 yards, and recorded touchbacks on the first five of his six kickoffs (the last kick was returned to the 20 before a Raymond Ventrone tackle).
In October, Gostkowski, after going 9-for-10 on field goals and 11-for-11 on PATs for a team-high 38 points, was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for the first time in his career.
In Week 16, Gostkowski had the highest-scoring game of his NFL career, converting 4 of 4 field goals, and 5 of 5 PATs. The 17-point performance gave him a total of 34 field goals on the season, breaking Tony Franklin's 1986 franchise record of 32, and 141 points scored, tying Vinatieri's post-merger franchise record, with one game still to play. (Former wide receiver/kicker Gino Cappelletti scored 155 points for the Patriots in 1964, and 147 points in 1961, but those include 44 and 56 points on receptions.) Gostkowski finished the season with a league-leading 148 points, the 13th-highest single-season total in NFL history; his 36 field goals converted is the sixth-best total, and the most since Neil Rackers made 40 in 2005.
In December 2008, Gostkowski was selected for his first Pro Bowl appearance as the AFC kicker; his selection was the result of the players' and coaches' votes, as he did not finish in the top five in fan voting. The Associated Press also voted him to the All-Pro First Team for the first time; he received 28 of the 50 votes for kicker.
In the Patriots' last-minute 25–24 victory over the Buffalo Bills, Gostkowski recorded his first fumble recovery. When Leodis McKelvin fumbled the ball on a kickoff return, with the Patriots trailing 24–19, Gostkowski recovered the ball at the Bills' 31-yard line. Tom Brady, describing the play in his postgame press conference, used yet another nickname for Gostkowski: "Meat," a reference to Bull Durham, coined by former Patriots punter Josh Miller during Gostkowski's rookie season.
Gostkowski won his first AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award in the Patriots' Week 9 game against the Miami Dolphins, in which he recorded four field goals and two touchbacks, including one on a re-kick from the Patriots' 25-yard line following an offside penalty.
Gostkowski finished the season going 26-for-31 on field goals (83.9%). He was a perfect 47-for-47 on extra points and had a then-career-high 67.8 yard average on kickoffs.
Gostkowski's contract expired after the 2009 season, which normally would have made him an unrestricted free agent. As a result of the expiring NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement, however, Gostkowski became a restricted free agent; the Patriots offered him $1,759,000 for the 2010 season. Gostkowski signed the tender on April 17. On August 26, 2010, the Patriots signed Gostkowski to a four-year extension, which added four years to his one-year tender contract; the extension gave him $14 million from 2011 to 2014, with $5 million guaranteed.
Gostkowski began the 2010 season missing three of his first four field goal attempts over two games. However, in Week 4, against the Miami Dolphins, Gostkowski recorded five touchbacks in a single game; two weeks later, Gostkowski kicked his first overtime game-winning field goal in the Patriots' 23–20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
In Week 9, Gostkowski was unable to finish the Patriots' game against the Cleveland Browns after sustaining a thigh injury; he was replaced by wide receiver Wes Welker. Three days later, on November 10, the Patriots placed Gostkowski on injured reserve with a torn quadriceps muscle, ending his season. The Patriots signed veteran kicker Shayne Graham to replace him.
Gostkowski finished the injury-shortened season 10-for-13 on field goals (76.9%, tying his career low from 2006), while setting a career-high with an average kickoff distance of 67.9 yards. He was 26-for-26 on his extra point attempts.
As Gostkowski recovered from his quadriceps injury, for the first time since his rookie season, he was not the only kicker in training camp; the Patriots brought in former University of Massachusetts kicker Chris Koepplin to help manage Gostkowski's workload; they released Koepplin before the start of the season.
In Week 16, after scoring a field goal against the Miami Dolphins to make the score 17–3 in favor of Miami, Gostkowski made a tackle of Clyde Gates on the subsequent kickoff that was credited as "pivotal" in the Pats' comeback victory. Instead of allowing a touchdown, Gostkowski tackled Gates at the Miami 38. Miami lost the ball on the ensuing possession, and the Patriots went on to score a touchdown of their own, closing the deficit to 17–10 en route to a 27–24 win.
Gostkowski finished the season with 143 points, five short of his career high in 2007; he made 28 of 33 field goals and all 59 of his extra-point attempts. Gostkowski was one of two kickers to score five or more points in every game in 2011 (the other was David Akers), and the third player in NFL history to manage the feat (Gary Anderson also did it in 1998).
In the season opener against the Buffalo Bills, Gostkowski was a perfect 3–3, including the 35-yard game winning attempt. In week 12 against Peyton Manning and the high-scoring Denver Broncos, Gostkowski made both his field goal attempts, including the game winning 31-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining in overtime. Gostkowski set a franchise record for the New England Patriots for most field goals in a season with 38 field goals made out of 41 attempts. During the AFC Divisional game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 11, 2014, Gostkowski took over the role of punter for the Patriots after regular punter Ryan Allen was injured during the second quarter, averaging 41.8 yards per punt. On January 20, 2014, he was named to his second Pro Bowl, replacing Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater.
During the preseason, Gostkowski made a 60-yard field goal against the Carolina Panthers; had it been a regular-season or postseason game, it would have been the longest field goal in Patriots history (Adam Vinatieri held the record, with a 57-yard field goal against the Chicago Bears in 2002). Gostkowski scored three field goals against the Oakland Raiders in a 16–9 Week 3 victory; coincidentally, all the points in that game were scored by players whose names ended in "-kowski": all of Oakland's points were scored by Sebastian Janikowski, while the only touchdown in the game was scored by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. In the Patriots' Week 15 41–13 rout of the Miami Dolphins, Gostkowski broke the Patriots' career scoring mark set by Vinatieri in 2005, doing so in just his 134th game as a Patriot.
Gostkowski finished the season with an NFL-leading 35 field goals out of 37 attempts (94.6%, a career-high). He was honored with his third Pro Bowl selection and was selected as a Second-Team All-Pro (behind Vinatieri). Gostkowski won his first Super Bowl ring when the Patriots beat the Seahawks 28-24. He did not kick any field goals but made 4 extra points.
In a Week 3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Gostkowski recorded his 423rd consecutive extra point, breaking Matt Stover's record of 422. For the first three weeks, he converted 14 of 14 extra points and 7 of 7 field goals, and was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for the third time in his career. During the Patriots' Week 5 game at AT&T Stadium versus the Dallas Cowboys, Gostkowski tied Vinatieri's franchise record kicking a 57-yard field goal to end the first half. Through the first five games of the season, Gostkowski was 12-for-12 on field goals and 21-for-21 on extra points. He added three more field goals on three tries in a 30–23 win over the New York Jets in week 7 to start his season 15-for-15. Against the Miami Dolphins in a 36–7 win on Oct 29, he was four-for-four on extra points and two-for-two on field goals, including a 52-yarder. Against the New York Giants on Nov. 15, with only one second remaining, he kicked the game-winning 54 yard field goal to get the 27–26 win, with the Patriots staying undefeated at 9–0 on the season. Additionally, he surpassed Adam Vinatieri on the Patriots' all-time leader in field goals. With the performance against the Giants, Gostkowski improved to 21-of-21 FGs made and 34-of-34 extra points made for the season. In week 11, in a 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills, Gostkowski missed a 54-yard field goal attempt; it was his first miss since November 30, 2014, and his first miss at home since week 2 of the 2013 season. He finished the season with 151 points, marking the fourth consecutive season he exceeded 150 points; no other player in NFL history has scored 150 points more than once.
Gostkowski was named one of two starting kickers for the 2015 Pro Bowl (along with Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey); it was Gostkowski's third consecutive nomination, and fourth overall. Gostkowski was also named the kicker on the 2015 AP All-Pro first team, receiving 47 of 50 votes; Bailey received the other three votes.
In the AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos, Gostkowski missed his first extra point since 2006 and only the second of his career, ending a streak of 523 consecutive successful attempts. After the Patriots were defeated 20-18 following a failed two-point conversion near the end of the game, Gostkowski blamed himself for the loss. However, Gostkowski, who also scored two field goals during the game, was defended by Patriots coach Bill Belichick and teammates Julian Edelman, Logan Ryan, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Malcolm Butler. It was also his first miss in 56 attempts since the NFL moved the spot for extra points from the 2-yard line back to the 15-yard line.
Since The NFL Record & Fact Book does not count statistics from playoff games when calculating regular-season streaks, Gostkowski ended the regular season with his extra point streak active at 463.
During the 2016 offseason, the NFL changed the rule on kickoffs so that touchbacks would grant the offense an extra five yards, with possessions starting at the 25-yard line rather than the 20-yard line. The Patriots took advantage of Gostkowski's ability to deliver "mortar kicks" that have a long hang time but land inside the field of play, which then forces the opposing team to attempt to return the kick. In the Patriots' Week 1 upset of the Arizona Cardinals, the Patriots used such a kick to force the Cardinals to start their final drive, which ended in a missed field goal, at their own 8-yard line. While against the Houston Texans in Week 3, the Patriots forced two fumbles on such kickoffs. He earned Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 13 for making all four field goal attempts including three over 45 yards and converted two extra points.
Gostkowski missed an extra point in Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals to end his record regular-season streak at 479. He finished the season tied for eighth in scoring with 127 points (27 of 32 field goals and 46 of 49 extra points); it is the first time since 2011 that Gostkowski did not lead the NFL in scoring.
Gostkowski appeared in a Pepsi commercial during the 2017 playoffs, joining the ranks of wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown.
Gostkowski is the first NFL placekicker in Super Bowl history to be the starting placekicker of the winning team without kicking an extra point. In Super Bowl LI, Gostkowski missed the extra point on the Patriots' first touchdown, the Patriots successfully attempted two-point conversions on their second and third touchdowns, and the Patriots' final and game-winning touchdown came in overtime, so no extra point was needed. In the 34–28 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Gostkowski hit a 41-yard attempt in the second quarter and a 33-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.
Career statistics accurate as of week 2 of the 2017 season.