Orlando, Fla. – Even though he's a Pro Bowl rookie, players on the NFC roster have treated New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz like he's a veteran of the game that'll be played Sunday in Camping World Stadium.
That doesn't necessarily mean he feels that way, especially earlier in the week.
"I absolutely feel like a first-timer," Lutz said Saturday, laughing. "When everyone is telling me what to do, how last year was, how the year before that was. I'm like, 'Well this is my first time.' Everything's a first for me. But I do feel like I belong here, and that's special."
There isn't much debate that Lutz belongs. He made a franchise-record 32 field goals, in 36 attempts, this season. Included in that number were two game-winners as time expired (against Houston and Carolina) and two games of four field goals, in victories over Dallas (12-10) and Atlanta (26-18).
And he was a significant factor in the Saints finishing first in NFL writer Rick Gosselin's special teams rankings. Gosselin's system is considered a primary standard for ranking overall performance of special teams. One of Lutz's 10 Pro Bowl teammates is returner Deonte Harris, who also was named All-Pro as a rookie.
"That's a testament to the staff, the team, the scouts," Lutz said. "We have such a good special teams core, and then bringing in (special team coordinator Darren) Rizzi, and then really no drop off from when (retired special teams coordinator Mike) Westhoff was here. And continuing that aggressive mentality.
"(Punter) Thomas (Morstead) and (long snapper) Zach (Wood) were great this year, Deonte – the guy is freaky with the ball in his hands. And so, I think it's a testament to everyone on the team that we were able to put together such a good special teams season and really contribute to wins.
"The cool part about it as a specialist being here is you see how much special teams helped our team this year, and you really feel like we were able to really be productive in every game. That means the most to specialists, and I think this is just kind of a tip of the hat to really being able to help the team win this year."
That success contributed to the selection of Lutz, who has made 119 field goals in four seasons. He said earning a Pro Bowl invitation was one of his goals entering the league. Now, the former undrafted rookie hopes to earn the honor each year, and more, without the accompanying attendance in Orlando.
"It's been such a good time," he said. "Being able to spend time with our teammates, other teammates that we know around the league, being able to meet other coaches and other staffs and seeing how they operate. It's been such a cool experience. My family's here, they're getting the experience, too, and that's just super important to me. And it's just been a really fun week.
"Once we were able to put the loss behind us, I think you realize how important being able to be here for the week is. Being able to spend time with all these Pro Bowlers, All-Pro guys and being able to pick their brains on how they got here. And then my family being able to meet people, too. It's just been such a cool week. It really makes you want to be back here – or at least, get the vote to be back here, but not be here next year."