In a battle of strength and accuracy, 49ers kicker Joe Nedney took on a true kicking machine: Ziggy the robot.
Known for its mechanics, Ziggy had all the charm of ‘Gus’ the field goal kicking mule of Disney fame. A short, box-like machine with a short foot that thrusts out to kick the ball, Ziggy was an enigma to Nedney.
“I know what I’m capable of doing, but I have no idea about my opponent because I can’t scout it, so I’m kind of coming in here blind,” Nedney said before the contest, held at Kezar Stadium, the original home of the 49ers.
"It's almost not fair. I've been working half my life to do this thing, and this guy comes out here and builds a machine in a couple years and all of a sudden it can outkick a human being. Doesn't seem like it's an even playing field."
After both kickers easily cleared 25 yards, things were moved back five yards at a time until Ziggy was consistently misfiring from 45 yards out. A few tweaks were made and Ziggy finally hit from 45.
As a prelude to this coming weekend’s RoboGames in San Mateo, a gold-medal team of engineers wrapped Ziggy in tape and added pressure from gas tanks to help enable successful kicks from the robot. Yet, in the end, Joe was able to beat the machine, as he was the only contestant able to hit from 50 yards out.
“It definitely legitimizes my position," Nedney said with a smile. "I feel really good about myself right now."
The Niners don’t start training camp until the summer, but the RoboGames run this Friday through Sunday, April 23-25, at the San Mateo Expo Center.