Marshall Koehn was working in a carpet warehouse in Iowa and kicking twice a week while waiting for a job in the National Football League.
After a few failed attempts with other teams, the former University of Iowa kicker is grateful to have found a spot with the Bengals – no matter how temporary his role is.
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The Bengals gave Koehn, 25, his NFL debut Sunday in place of starter Randy Bullock, who injured his back following the Oct. 29 win over Indianapolis. Koehn remains on the roster while Bullock is still iffy for this week’s game at Tennessee. Bullock did not practice Wednesday.
“You hope for a call for a tryout, and I got a call here a little later than usual, but you’re ready for a tryout whenever it comes up,” Koehn said before practice Wednesday, a week after his initial tryout with the team. “They brought in a few guys but they liked my tryout the best, I guess, so they kept me around a few days because they didn’t know what was going to happen with Randy. I just kind of waited around, but … they signed me (Saturday) and told me just to prepare like I was going to be the man on Sunday. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Koeh, 6-foot, 200 pounds, spent the last two preseasons with the Miami Dolphins — as an undrafted free agent in 2016 – and Minnesota Vikings, but never made it out of camp. He had four tryouts with various teams after the Vikings cut him two months ago and still nothing panned out for him.
Though he wasn’t sure his stint with the Bengals would result in playing time, Koehn received his chance on what turned out to be an especially memorable weekend. He watched his Hawkeyes’ dominant upset of then-No. 6 Ohio State before getting the nod to start Sunday in Florida.
Koehn officially made the record books with an extra point, succeeding on his only opportunity to score. His opening kickoff went for a touchback.
“It was a pretty cool weekend for sure,” Koehn said. “I got to catch the second half of the Iowa and Ohio State game, and I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun watching an Iowa game, especially by myself. I couldn’t text my old teammates enough, like ‘This is freaking amazing.’ Then, having my first start was pretty special, and it’s nice to get that first game under your belt. I had some butterflies but during the game you settle in a little and hopefully with each game you get more comfortable with it.”
Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons indicated this week that Koehn likely will need to stick around even if it seems Bullock will be able to play Sunday because back injuries are easily re-aggravated. Simmons said Bullock thought he would be ready to go for last week’s game but was sore Friday after practicing the day prior.
For now, Koehn has done enough to earn another shot.
“I liked his leg strength,” Simmons said. “He’s a strong guy. He can get the ball down the field on kickoffs. He hit his field goals well in his workout, and it (his strength) showed up in the game. He had a hell of a kickoff on the play after the penalty. Kicking off from the 20, I think he hit it to the 5, which would equate to going out of the back of the end zone.
“His leg strength show up,” Simmons continued. “He just doesn’t have a ton of experience in NFL games.
Koehn walked on at Iowa after playing at nearby Solon High School. He served as the Hawkeyes’ primary kicker in his junior and senior seasons in 2014 and 2015 and finished his career ranked 13th in school history with 170 career points, converting 28-of-36 field goal attempts while making 92-of-96 PATs.
Still hopeful for a full-time job in the league, Koehn doesn’t mind staying in limbo with the Bengals.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Koehn said. “You’re just thankful for every hour you get in that complex, and I’ve just treated it like that. You never know what’s going to happen, so you just go out and perform and the rest will take care of itself. … The better I kick, the special teams coaches all talk so if I have a good week here or good couple weeks or finish the season here or whatever happens, it’s going to be good for me.”