When Billy Cundiff ran down his thank-you list after making the Pro Bowl last Tuesday, he was careful not to omit the mayor of Evesham Township in Marlton, N.J., Randy Brown.
Yes, the mayor of Evesham Township. The kicking guru mayor of Evesham Township, if you want to be precise.
For most of the past three seasons, Brown, 43, has served as kicking technique coach with the Ravens, a part-time job that requires a two-hour commute from New Jersey to Maryland twice a week. He's at the team's Owings Mills complex for Wednesday and Thursday practices, and he returns Saturday for Sunday games, home and away.
And yes, Brown is a real-life mayor, recently re-elected for a second term after restoring Marlton's Fourth of July parade, an event that attracts 10,000 people to the area.
Brown might be the biggest reason Cundiff, 30, ascended from journeyman to Pro Bowl kicker this season. He refined Cundiff's leg swing by keeping his shoulder in, his head down and relocating the contact point on the ball.
"He's taken what I bring to the table and improved my technique," Cundiff said. "He has me focusing more on the process itself."
The proof of Brown's influence is in the NFL-high 38 touchbacks Cundiff has kicked this season, and the 24 field goals he has delivered.
"The two things we really worked on were keeping his head over the top of the ball and moving toward the upright," Brown said during this week's trip to Owings Mills. "Whereas, if you looked at the old Billy, his head came up quickly and he'd fall off the ball."
It was Brown's relationship with Ravens coach John Harbaugh that initially brought him to Baltimore in 2008. Brown worked as a kicking consultant with the Chicago Bears in 1998 under Dave Wannstedt when Harbaugh joined the Philadelphia Eagles as special team coordinator. They met at the Senior Bowl that year and subsequently became friends.
When the Ravens signed Steve Hauschka for kickoffs during the 2008 season — they still had Matt Stover for field goals — Harbaugh invited Brown to oversee the young kicker's progress. Although Brown's expertise didn't help Hauschka master pressure kicks, he found a capable and willing student when Cundiff arrived in November of last season.
"Billy has those qualities you look for — a strong leg, really good technique and strong mental makeup," Brown said. "And when I started to refine the technique, he was such a fast learner … He was not afraid to make some change or adjustment to get better."
Brown has fit in well with the Ravens' staff, working closely with Harbaugh and special team coordinator Jerry Rosburg.
"Jerry and I have constant communication all game long," Brown said. "I think John said it the best: I'm a good buffer between the special team coach, the head coach and those guys."
Said Rosburg: "Randy is very technically sound. He has a great eye and can tell why a particular ball traveled in a particular way. He can see things on a fundamental level."
Brown could appreciate Cundiff's nomadic journey through the NFL in search of a steady job better than most. Brown said he spent time with 15 teams over a three-year period (1989-1991) after earning All-America kicking honors at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. But he never kicked in a game.
After two years with the Bears, Brown focused on the college level. He ran six kicking camps around the country and was a consultant with numerous college teams. He met Sam Koch in 2005 when Koch was an unknown punter at Nebraska. The following year, Koch was drafted by the Ravens, and Brown had no doubt he would succeed "because you just saw the strength and explosiveness in his leg."
In 2004, Harbaugh asked Brown to come to Philadelphia — an hour drive from Evesham Township — to help him coach Eagles punter Dirk Johnson.
All the while, Brown was working a full-time job. He has a journalism degree and worked for WIP radio in Philadelphia and also ESPN radio. In 2006, he became mayor and put the same passion into politics.
"I love my job and more importantly I love serving the residents of Evesham Township," he said. "We've built two NFL-style turf fields there, believe it or not. The high school is using one of them and the community is using the other one. We've got more than 8,000 children that play sports in my town, so there was a significant need for an upgrade in facilities. But what I'm most proud of is, I brought the Fourth of July parade back."
During Brown's time with the Eagles, he grew close with Eagles' kicker David Akers. They live about three miles apart and still talk. On the same night that Cundiff found out he would represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl, Akers found out he was the NFC kicker for the all-star game in Honolulu.
"Tuesday night was one of the best nights of my life," Brown said. "And I say that as most satisfying because it happened to two of the classiest players I've ever been around."