There is a rule deep in the NFL rulebook - and in the High School rulebook - that on a free kick, which is either on a punt or a kickoff or any kick that would result in a change of possession, the receiving team can "fair catch" the ball. We know that a fair catch means that the receiver is allowed to catch the ball without interference of being touched or tackled in exchange of not being able to advance the ball. It's worth noting that this "Fair Catch Kick" is not allowed in the NCAA.
Here is where the catch is - The receiving team actually has two options when taking the ball after a fair catch is made successfully (or awarded a fair catch via a Kick-Catch Interference penalty after signaling for a fair catch): take the ball on offense and start a drive to the end zone OR a kicker from the receiving team can take a Free Kick in an attempt to score three points from the Fair Catch spot. Usually this is never asked by the officials as it is ideal to take the ball instead of taking a long free kick in an attempt to score 3 points where the percentages are really low for success for that kick. (Only 5 of 21 kicks in the NFL have been successful when attempted - the last one was made in 1976 - 37 years ago).
If the team chooses the latter, then the kicker can attempt a Field Goal via a Drop Kick or a normal Field Goal kick from a hold at the line of scrimmage (how it is done traditionally) but here is another catch - no one can rush the kicker if these conditions are met. The opposing team must be 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (from where the catch was made) - similar to a kickoff. If the kick falls short and lands in the field of play, the opposing team has the chance to return it. In high school, if it crosses the plane of the goalline, it is a touchback and the ball returns to the 20. If the kick is successful, the kicking team is awarded 3 points - like in any other normal field goal situation.
Now obviously this would not be advantageous to the receiving team - as a fair catch from a kick normally is made on the receivers end of the field and almost never close enough to make such a kick - the longest traditional Field Goal kick in the NFL is 63 yards and the longest in high school is 65 yards - made from the team's own 47 and 45 yard line respectively. If one should miss this kick, the opposing team would take over from that spot (or from the 20 in high school) making such an attempt rather foolish to make during normal play. The only times it would be attempted is if time is extremely close to expiring in the half thus the opposing team would not gain possession if the kicker should miss or if the kicking team is tied or trailing by 3 or fewer points in the 2nd half and there is not time on the clock to run more than a single play and this would be the best chance to tie or win.
Lots of conditions have to be met - I may be redundant here but to be in an advantageous position to try a "Fair Catch Kick":
- The receiving team must make a Fair Catch in the field of play from a kick (by punt or kickoff)
- There must not be much time on the clock in the half or game (this is not a requirement but this is usually the best time to do it).
- Must be close enough for the kicker to attempt a Field Goal traditionally (without a snap) or by drop kick.
- Must occur before the first play for that team in possession. If a dead ball foul occurs before the snap of the first play, the free kick option remains open.