Talk of Fame Network
There’s only one pure kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it’s Jan Stenerud. A three-time All-AFL choice and seven-time All-Pro, Stenerud was the only pure specialist until last summer when former Oakland punter Ray Guy joined him in Canton.
One of the first of the soccer-style kickers, Stenerud made his name on accuracy – hitting 70 percent of his attempts in an era when the average was in the low 50s. But he made his name on distance, too, and not on a kick he converted.
But on one he had no chance of making.
“I really had a ridiculous attempt, a 112-yarder into a strong wind,” he told the latest Talk of Fame Network radio program. “I was at Montana State, and the ball was at the 5-yard line. The wind was blowing really hard, and coach Jim Sweeney, who discovered me and got me off the ski slopes and on the football team, said, ‘Line up and find an open spot on the field, and kick it as hard as you can.’ ”
The rules, as you might have guessed were different then. A missed field goal was not returned to the spot of the kick. Instead, if it fell short on the field and wasn’t returned, it was spotted where it landed – which is why Stenerud was asked to do the impossible.
“I can remember standing about five yards deep my own end zone,“ said Stenerud, “and I looked over the field and kicked over to the right … and the ball died almost about midfield. In those days, it was like a punt also. So that’s where the ball ended up.’ That 112-yard attempt … that record still stands. It’s about the only one I have left.”
Stenerud, who made field goals of 50 yards or more in the pros, normally studied the goal posts before stepping into the ball – saying they looked “narrower” the farther you stood from them. But he didn’t study much of anything that afternoon in Montana State before addressing the football in his own end zone.
“I was looking up at the goal posts,” he said, “and I thought: What the hell am I looking for? I’m just looking for an open place out there where there was no one.”