Cairo Santos lives in Jacksonville, Fla., during the offseason, so when he found out five of his fellow Chiefs — not to mention the entire coaching staff — would be in Orlando for the Pro Bowl last week, it didn’t take him long to decide on an impromptu road trip.
“It’s a short drive away, and my host brother Tyler — who I lived with all through high school here when I was an exchange student — works in Orlando and lives here,” Santos said. “So I came here and stayed with him to see Tyler. Why not? Just come support my teammates, my coaches.”
The trip, it turns out, also gave Santos — a Pro Bowl alternate this year — something to shoot for.
“It’s a great experience for me just to see what it’s like to get into this game, and it’s a huge honor,” Santos said. “I was an alternate this year, and it’s a hard road to get here, especially knowing how good Justin Tucker is — he’s truly deserving of playing in this game. So trying to play better than a guy like that, that’s a huge accomplishment to keep in mind for the future.”
Santos, 25, just completed his third season after making the team as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane in 2014. This season, he posted a career-high in field-goal percentage (88.6) while also booting a career-long 54-yarder.
“I think I’m headed in the right direction,” Santos said. “Every year I feel like I’m getting better, hitting big kicks to help the confidence. I’ve just got to keep making them.”
Santos was particularluy happy with his career-best touchback percentage (55.8), which was higher than last year’s (44.4) despite having fewer opportunities to boot it through the end zone due to the NFL’s decision to move all touchbacks from the 20-yard line to the 25.
“The times that (special teams) coach (Dave) Toub came to me and said ‘Hey, we’re winning this game, we can’t allow a return — I need a touchback,’ I delivered at a high percentage,” Santos said. “I’m proud of that.”
Santos’ only regrets are the four missed field goals he had this year. He plans on working diligently this offseason to improve his accuracy and his leg strength, in hopes of returning to the Pro Bowl again next year —this time as a starter.
“You can never relax in the NFL,” Santos said.