Regent boss, wife play supportive role for son, who kicks for Cowboys

Abbygail Theisen, Reporter

Brian Maher thinks watching his son work might just be hazardous to his health. But then again, his son Brett doesn’t have an ordinary job. 

“Whenever your kids experience success, the feeling is priceless, but the anticipation and the worry, that’s the unhealthy part,” Brain Maher, executive director for the South Dakota Board of Regents, whose son, Brett, is the placekicker for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, said. 

Sunday went without too much turmoil as Brett went 7 for 7 on extra points and didn’t attempt any field goals in the Cowboys’ 49-29 win over the Bears. That being said, the life of an NFL kicker comes with its ups and downs. Brian and his wife, Peggy, who live in Pierre, ride those ups and downs right then and there with their son. 

While watching Brett play in the NFL, Peggy mentions that she gets tense every single time the ball gets in field goal range. 

“I lose my breath and I get a knot in my stomach,” Peggy said. “I want him to succeed, so my heart is pounding waiting for that kick to go through the goal post.” 

For Brian, as soon as the Cowboys take possession, he starts counting down the yards in his head. Even after a great play it never gets any easier. 

The stress they endure during the game isn’t even the hardest part of having a son who plays football for the NFL. Brett has been cut multiple times in his nine-year professional football career. He was let go in 2019 from the Cowboys right before Christmas.

Here’s a look at the teams Brett has been a part of. Many of these teams, he was only on the practice squad.

  • New York Jets (2013)
  • Dallas Cowboys (2013)
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2014)
  • Ottawa Redblacks (2014-2015)
  • Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2016)
  • Cleveland Browns (2017)
  • Ottawa Redblacks (2017)
  • Dallas Cowboys (2018-2019)
  • New York Jets (2020)
  • Washington Commanders (2020)
  • Houston Texans (2020)
  • Arizona Cardinals (2020-2021)
  • New Orleans Saints (2021)
  • Dallas Cowboys (2022-present)

“When they don’t have success, it is brutal,” Brian said. “And when you don’t have success for the Cowboys everybody knows it.”

As a testament to how high-profile the Cowboys are compared to other teams, the Mahers point to 2021.

Brett played for the New Orleans Saints last year and over half of Brian and Peggy’s friends didn’t even know. However, this year he’s with the Cowboys, and everybody knows it, Brian said. That’s how it goes with a franchise that calls itself “America’s team.” 

“When it’s going well, it’s really cool, but when it doesn’t go well, we’ve been there. It beats you down pretty good,” Brian said. 

For Brett, getting let go from his job is never fun, but it is the harsh reality of the NFL. Brett says that being cut from the Cowboys in 2019 wasn’t the first time it had happened to him and he knows that at some point it will happen again, whether he chooses that for himself or someone else does.

“There are lessons in the good and the bad,” Brett said. “To be able to take those and be better than I was then, and hopefully be better next year moving forward than I am now is the approach that I take.”

Luckily for Brett, he has his own team of supporters that is there for him through out his good and bad times. While Brett is away, Brian and Peggy do what they can to show their support by helping with some of the obligations which Brett is unable to do during his season. 

Those obligations include watching their grandchildren, helping with the girls during games, or staying behind so Brett’s wife can go to the game. 

“Brett is a tremendous dad and family person,” Brian said. “He does a great job at balancing being the provider for the family while also being emotionally there.”

Brian and Peggy have traveled extensively because of Brett’s success. So far, they have not missed a single game this year. 

Brian and Peggy say the Cowboys franchise is phenomenal. As a kicker, Brett could play for a long time, and they have no idea where his career will take him, but they know one thing for sure, “There will never be a place better than the Cowboys,” Brian said. 

From getting to see their practice facility to the atmosphere of the franchise, Brian says he cannot imagine a better team. 

The coaching staff and a lot of the players are different from when Brett was there in 2019, so he has enjoyed getting to know his teammates working alongside them this season. 

“This place is different than a lot of other places around the league because of the brand that is the Cowboys, and that makes it a lot of fun to be a part of,” Brett said. “Hopefully we can continue to build something special this year and make a little run down the stretch.” 

Brett’s athletic ability was apparent to his parents fairly early. He had a lot of success at punt, pass and kick. Brian remembers Brett’s first statewide competition at 8 years old, where they found out Brett could kick the ball better than most. 

“I remember when he was in junior high,” Brian said. “You know, I think he’s got the ability to kick in college.”

Brett went on to kick and punt for The University of Nebraska, but it wasn’t until his junior or senior year that Brian realized his son could have the potential to play in the NFL.

“There are great players that never make it. I could rattle off 25 kickers that are not in the NFL that were at one point as good as Brett,” Brian said. “Brett had the mental makeup, he had the opportunities, he had the resilience, and whatever it was that set him apart that he’s still there.” 

Football and athletics in general were a big part of Brett’s childhood. Brett and his sisters grew up as “little gym rats.” Brett had a ball in his hand constantly whether that was a football, basketball or soccer ball, his parents said.

“We could see the competitiveness come out in him when he was really young, after his little sister was born,’’ Peggy said. “They were always trying to beat each other, whether it’d be a card game, sports game or just playing around. They wanted to be the best.”

Brett’s two sisters, Lindsey and Maggie, also went on to be collegiate athletes at The University of Nebraska for track and field. As they got older, his sisters were Brett’s biggest supporters, but they were also his biggest humbler. 

“When he started getting pretty good, they made sure he didn’t get too big for his pants,” Brian said with a laugh.   

Brett’s love for football stems from growing up in Kearney, Nebraska, and watching the Cornhuskers have the success that they had when he was a kid in the 1990’s. That and the guidance from his parents. 

“My mom and my dad instilled the values of hard work and resilience in me to be able to continue on this journey,” Brett said. “No matter how stuff plays out during the year, during a game, or during a season, to have that group of people that you know is going to be unwavering in their love and support for you has been awesome.”