WICHITA FALLS, Texas -- Tim Seder spent the last two years teaching health and helping coach the football, basketball and baseball teams at Lucas High in Mansfield, Ohio. He wasn't looking for another job.
Then the Dallas Cowboys called.
Seder had been a successful kicker at Division II Ashland University, but never really tried to get into the NFL. A former coach had passed along a tape of Seder to the Cowboys in 1998 and this March they finally followed up on it.
Seder -- pronounced cedar -- moved to Dallas in April for the longshot chance of making the team. This week, he became the lone kicker on the roster, making it likely he'll be booting field goals and extra points when the season opens.
Seder has two preseason games left to convince coaches he can handle the job. If he gets shaky, they could always sign a proven veteran or someone cut from another camp.
Considering how far Seder has come, he's not likely to stumble now.
''Being around him for so long, he strikes me as the kind of guy who is settled with who he is,'' said Steve Hoffman, who as Dallas' kicking coordinator the last 11 years has specialized in turning unknowns into successful NFL kickers.
''He really believes that this is a great opportunity, but kicking for the Cowboys is not what defines him. I think he's pretty confident.''
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Seder has been surrounded by reporters after every practice this week, but he takes it in stride. He happily tells his amazing story as often as necessary.
But the auburn-haired Seder isn't the happy-to-be-here type. A month shy of 26, Seder is a devout Christian who believes his opportunity is more than luck -- much like last year's NFL surprise success, Kurt Warner.
''Out of school, I thought I wasn't going to be playing in the NFL,'' Seder said. ''Now the Lord has led me in this direction. I know there's a plan. You never know what that is, maybe. You just trust in that and do the best that you can.''
Seder made 14 of 19 field goals and all but one extra point in 1997, his senior year at Ashland. He left as the school's all-time leader in field goals with 41.
Former Ashland assistant Dave Jaumotte was working for Detroit and got Seder a tryout there. It wasn't too formal, though, because the Lions had Jason Hanson and didn't need anyone else.
Jaumotte also recommended Seder to Hoffman. He wasn't looking for anyone either because Richie Cunningham was coming off a superb rookie season. Still, Hoffman said, he'd be happy to take a look at a videotape.
Hoffman ended up liking what he saw: 15 kicks all drilled into the same spot on an indoor net, each ''exploding'' off Seder's foot with hardly any time between kicks.
''It was rapid fire. It looked like he was trying to do an aerobic workout: boom, boom, boom, boom. I was thinking, 'This is unbelievable,''' said Hoffman, who was so impressed that he kept the tape on his desk rather than tossing it into one of the piles that clutter his office.
Hoffman called Seder to thank him for the tape and told him he'd keep it handy. Seder didn't give it another thought as he took the job at Lucas and started his coaching career.
This spring, Seder returned home from a baseball practice to find a message from Hoffman on his answering machine. Cunningham flamed out last season and the Cowboys were in the market for a kicker.
Seder took a week to prepare for his tryout. Among the things he had to do was track down his kicking shoes, a pair of worn-out indoor soccer sneakers that he'd loaned to one of the Lucas players.
When he got to Texas Stadium, Seder jogged a lap around the field, stretched a little, kicked one ball and said he was ready. His first kick said otherwise.
''I thought, 'Oh, boy, here we go,''' Hoffman said. ''Then he thumped the next one and it was just like he's doing out here -- one after another, right down the middle, great height, great explosion.''
Hoffman offered to sign Seder, but warned him that he'd have to move to Dallas and live in a small apartment with a roommate while spending four months away from his wife and working solely on kicking -- all for only a chance of making the team.
''And there's a 99 percent chance you're going to get cut even before we go to camp,'' Hoffman said.
Seder took the risk. The idea of being in the NFL and making the rookie minimum of $193,000 seemed worth it.
Challengers came and went as Seder and Rian Lindell became the only kickers used in three preseason games.
Seder hit from 48, 28 and 47 yards, then missed a 58-yarder as time expired on a 21-20 loss to Oakland last Sunday. Lindell was perfect from 27, 45 and 19 yards.
When practices resumed Tuesday, Lindell was gone. The job, at least temporarily, was Seder's.
The folks back home are thrilled. A Lucas coach has taped Cowboys games off a satellite dish and invited the kids over to watch them. Seder recently received a care package filled with T-shirts and pictures. He's expecting a Lucas High game film to be sent following their first scrimmage on Friday.
''Hopefully I had a great impact on them,'' he said. ''And, hopefully, I'll still have a good impact.''
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