Everyone knows that Brandon Zylstra has great hands, but the quality of his feet is now up for debate.
The former CFL All-Star receiver with the Edmonton Elks is having a breakout season with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, but on Sunday his role suddenly expanded to more than just a depth pass catcher when kicker Zane Gonzalez went down with an injury in pre-game warm-ups.
Without other options, Zylstra has been tabbed as the Panthers emergency kicker against the Buffalo Bills. While Carolina has mercifully avoided field goals, Zylstra made good on the role mid-way through the second quarter by delivering a kickoff 49-yards down field after a Cam Newton touchdown.
He opened the third quarter with another 47-yard kickoff and after Ameer Abdullah added another Panthers’ score in the fourth quarter, Zylstra booted his final kick 50 yards. He added two catches for 17 yards in the 31-14 loss to Buffalo.
Now in his fourth NFL season and third with Carolina, Zylstra entered the game with a career high 16 catches for 233 yards and a touchdown. Over the course of his NFL career he has caught 28 passes for 397 yards and a touchdown, adding another score last year on a special teams fumble recovery.
Zylstra played collegiately at Concordia College in Minnesota, totalling 1,932 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in 29 games while adding 25 rushes for 394 yards and five touchdowns along with 39 kick-off returns for 885 yards with the Cobbers.
He attended the North Dakota State University pro day in 2016, recording a 4.64 forty-yard dash, 34-inch vertical, 10-foot broad jump and pressed 225 pounds 16 times on the bench. Although, Zylstra went unselected in the NFL Draft and signed with Edmonton on May 30, 2016.
The six-foot-two, 215-pound pass catcher led the CFL with 1,687 receiving yards on 100 receptions while grabbing five touchdowns in 2017 and was named a CFL all-star that season. In 2016, Zylstra burst onto the CFL scene with 34 receptions for 508 yards and three majors in six games. During 22 games in Canada, Zylstra made 134 catches for 2,195 yards and eight touchdowns.
One thing he didn’t do in Canada was kick, but luckily for the Panthers he picked up some pointers from veteran Sean Whyte along the way.