Ten years later, Matt Prater relishes his record-breaking moment

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ten years after he broke a 43-year-old record for the longest field goal in NFL history, Arizona Cardinals kicker Matt Prater still remembers the exact words from his holder, Britton Colquitt, moments before the historic kick.

"Holy s---, this is for the record."

Colquitt doesn't curse much, according to Prater, so the gravity of that moment on Dec. 8, 2013, was amplified when he heard Colquitt's words.

"I was like, 'Why would you say that right now as I'm taking my steps?'" Prater remembered saying back.

It didn't matter, though. With the temperature hovering around 18 degrees -- and the windchill down to a frigid 11 degrees in Denver -- Prater, then kicking for the Broncos, broke Tom Dempsey's long-time field goal record of 63 yards by clearing a 64-yarder as time expired in the first half against the Tennessee Titans.

While much has changed for Prater over the last decade -- he had three kids and is on his second team since then -- the kick still feels like it happened yesterday, Prater said.

To this day, even though his record was broken when Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker hit a 66-yard field goal on Sept. 26, 2021, breaking Dempsey's record is still one of the highlights of Prater's 18-season career.

"Honestly, that was something I hoped my whole career just to get an opportunity to attempt one," Prater told ESPN. "So that made it all worthwhile all the years, and just to get an opportunity to get a chance at it."

Prater, 39, hopes to get another chance at the record before his playing days are over. He has hit from 68 yards in practice this season, and said he can reach 65 yards every day. Jeff Rodgers, the Cardinals' special teams coordinator who was also Prater's position coach in Denver, said he has seen Prater hit from 70 yards.

So, it's possible -- just like that day in Denver.

During pregame warmups that day, Prater's line was set at 45 yards, which translates into a 63-yard field goal, Rodgers said. The wind wasn't much of a factor, but the cold was.

"I'm just telling you, it had to have been one of the five coldest games I've been a part of," said Rodgers, who has been coordinating special teams for over 20 years, including a stint in Chicago.

The temperature, Prater and Colquitt said, negated any advantage kicking in the high Colorado altitude would've provided.

"The ball wasn't flying that great," Prater said. Here's how the kick was set up.

The Broncos were trailing 21-17 when they got the ball at the Denver 15 with 52 seconds left in the second quarter. On the sixth play of the drive, Broncos receiver Wes Welker was injured and left the game and Denver burned their final timeout with 31 seconds left. On the next play, quarterback Peyton Manning hit the late Demaryius Thomas for an 18-yard gain. With the ball now at the Broncos 47, Manning spiked it to stop the clock.

Then Manning hit tight end Jacob Tamme on a 7-yard flat route that Tamme ran out of bounds with 3 seconds left.

Tamme likes to joke that Prater got the record because of him - if Tamme had been able to gain another yard or two, Prater's name wouldn't have been inscribed in the NFL record books.

"I mean, I went out of bounds at the exact right spot. Think of how much he owes me, seriously. I mean, it's unbelievable. I really feel like I should share in the record," Tamme said with a chuckle.

Rodgers, who said he's watched the play about 25 times, remembered the ball initially being placed at the 45-yard line after Tamme's catch. However, the ball was officially spotted at the 46 - right where Prater needed it to be to set the record.

Head coach John Fox, who was coaching his first game back after having aortic valve surgery four weeks earlier, told ESPN he knew what the record was and never hesitated to send Prater to attempt it.

"What people don't really understand is from a a strategic standpoint, it's gotta fall right into place," Fox said. "I'm talking about to even attempt a record field goal like that, either at the end of the game or at the end of the half, because otherwise you give up field position." However, Prater jogged onto the field not knowing where the spot was.

"I knew it was gonna be in the low 60s," he said.

It wasn't just cold -- the field was wet too, Colquitt remembered. Underground heaters had melted the snow. When the field at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, as it was called in 2013, would get wet, it often would lead to a kicker's plant foot either slipping or sinking into the turf.

"It was not an ideal place or conditions to kick by any means," Colquitt said with a laugh from the warm confines of his new Florida home.

Prater repeated the same thing he always does: Swing hard and finish down the field. His approach to even the longest kicks doesn't waver.

"You're basically swinging your hardest or close to it and hoping everything lines up and goes straight," Prater said.

As Prater was lining up, Colquitt could sense that everyone in the stadium had figured out that the kick would be for the record. The snap from Aaron Brewer was perfect. Colquitt didn't even need to turn the laces.

Then Prater kicked.

"And it was like the second he hit it, there was no doubt in my mind that he made it," Colquitt said. "But you still kind of watch with that anticipation."

Prater, however, wasn't so sure.

"Anytime it gets cold like that and you go to kick it, it almost feels like the ball's plastic instead of leather," he said. "It's like a slappy sound instead of a thump, so it's just a little bit tougher to kick in the cold."

When Tucker looked back on Prater's kick, he thought it was an "impressive feat."

"What should stand out to everybody is how difficult the kick that really was," Tucker said. "The way he struck that ball, it was pretty remarkable to have that kind of power in those kind of conditions to be able to get the ball to go 64 yards."

Because of how long the kick was, the Titans sent out Leon Washington to stand at the back of the end zone. The weekend before, Auburn beat Alabama when the Tigers returned a short field goal for a game-winning touchdown, dubbed the Kick-Six. That week, the Broncos had worked on covering a potential return in case it happened in the game, Brewer said.

When the kick was in the air, nine of the Broncos on the field at the time were sprinting down field to cover a potential return. Washington later was an assistant special teams coach with the Lions when Prater was in Detroit.

When the officials under the goalposts raised their hands to signal the record-breaking kick was good, Prater said he blacked out.

He was mobbed.

Everyone was amped up.

"I would say that I would describe myself as a fairly even-keeled person on game day," Rodgers said, "and I kind of broke character on that one. I was excited for that."

The celebration, which carried into the locker room, felt like the Broncos had just won a game, Colquitt said, even though it was halftime - and Denver was still losing, 21-20, but it went on to win.

"Once we were in the locker room, everybody's going nuts," Colquitt said.

After the previous record stood for over four decades, Prater's lasted just eight.

Tucker's 66-yarder needed the help of bouncing off the crossbar and through the uprights indoors at Ford Field on Sept. 26, 2021, to take the record from Prater. Arizona had beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars when quarterback Kyler Murray was sitting at his locker looking at his phone when he saw video of the kick.

"Do you wanna see it?" Murray asked Prater.

Prater watched it and then sent a text to Tucker: "Congrats. Well deserved."

"Honestly, it's a little bittersweet," he said. "But that's what records are. They're meant to be broken.

"If anyone's going break it, you want the best to do it, right?"

NFL Nation reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.