the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, September 6, 2010

Opening Game Kicks, part 1

We asked kickers and punters the following question:
What is your favorite opening game kicking story?
Some discussed the opening game of a particular season. Others discussed the opening kickoff of a particular game. Following are their replies.

Mike Lansford,
"After being cut by three teams in two years I removed my shoe and then made the Rams. Our first game was against the Packers and their kicker was Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud... someone that I studied closely as a young struggling kicker. So, not only am I excited about my first NFL game but I'm kicking opposite a legend. I remember having more pregame jitters about meeting Jan than the actual game. As a true vet he approached me, extended his hand, then proceeded to chew me out because I wasn't using his new kickoff tee (remember the round red kickoff tee the "Sidewinder"?). I almost had a heart attack right there on the field... but recovered to kick three FG's in the first half to help us lead the Packers 23-0 at halftime.

We lost the game 35-23. Welcome to the NFL rookie kicker!"

Dan Orner, Dan Orner Kicking
Here is my favorite first game kicks: Orner "Kicks" Syracuse Down to 0-2
So, how then, did Dan Orner, North Carolina's 5'7'', 170 lbs. junior, play such a major role in sending Syracuse to its second straight loss to open the season? Orner did not use his impressive stature against the Orangemen. He was not able to feed off of the miniscule cheering section of the Tar Heels. All Orner had to use was his right foot. Orner kicked three field goals, all from somewhere around the Rochester area, and split the uprights in the Carrier Dome Saturday night on national television. His field goals of 51, 52, and 55 yards (the latter being a UNC school record) caused 39,000 simultaneous thuds as everyone's jaws hit the floor on every successful attempt.

Syracuse's still maligned defense made some key stops that seemingly would have forced UNC to punt the ball deep into Syracuse territory. Not so fast. That's when the "Man With the Golden Foot" walked on the field and put three more notches on the UNC score with every sweep of his foot. I haven't seen kicks like that since Ralph Macchio in "The Karate Kid." Oh, if only Orner had used "the crane" to kick field goals. Now, that is talent.
"My most memorable opening game has to be my first NFL regular season game in my career. This game also happened to be the inaugural game for the Jacksonville Jaguars back in 1995 when the team first entered the NFL. We played the Houston Oilers and I scored the only points for the Jaguars on a 27 yard field goal, which also happened to be the first points in Jaguars franchise history!"

Jared Guberman, Ultimate Kicking
"It was opening day of my 2007 season at the University of West Georgia. This was my first ever collegiate football game that I started. I was 3 for 3 on FGs, 2 for 2 PATs and I had 7 punts for a 46.7 yd avg. I also set a career long punt of 74 yards that day. We beat Clark Atlanta which was one of our only two wins that season. I earned Gulf South Conference Special Teams POW and National Special Teams POW for my performance. It was a great way to start off the season and it helped me become First Team All-America at the end of the season."

"I was getting ready to kick off in Super Bowl XXXI (Packers vs. Patriots) when I was playing for Green Bay. A teammate had me convinced that the "turf monster" was going to grab my cleats and make me trip on my way to the ball. I worried about this all week prior to the "Big Game". I looked like I was running the hurdles on my way to kick off, making sure that my cleats did not catch. The "turf monster" did not rear its ugly head that day and I was able to get the ball airborne! Thank God!"

Rex Robinson, Total Kicker
"In 1978, Georgia opened with Baylor at home in Athens. I was a sophomore coming off a mediocre freshman year. I had worked extremely hard to do my part, something I felt I had failed to do in 1977. Baylor was favored and we upset them 16-14. I had FGs of 43, 38 and 33 yards. A 51 yarder was taken off the board because of a Baylor penalty, although I made the 38 yarder later in the same drive. I was named the Chevrolet Offensive Player of the Game, which was cool. Another cool thing was that Mike Singletary was a freshman LB for Baylor that day and he made a tackle on our sideline right next to me. I saw up close and personal, the eyes that became so famous with the Chicago Bears. He was unbelievable."

Michael Husted,
NFL 1993 - 2002, Buccaneers, Raiders, Redskins & Chiefs
"It was 1994 and the first year that the NFL made us kick off a 1" tee. It was a few games into the season. The original 1" tee had two pieces, the base and a rubber insert. Many guys were propping the rubber insert up to increase the height of the tee for better hang time. So, when the official would come out to hand us the ball, they would check to make sure that the tee was "legit." I was with the Tampa Bay Bucs at the time and we were playing the New Orleans Saints. I remember watching Morten Anderson show the official the tee and then after he had been given the ball and the official when back to the sideline, he propped the tee up...Everyone was doing it.

Then the NFL sent out a mandate requiring that the rubber insert had to be secured to the base. Well, our equipment person didn't get the fax or forgot about it. Therefore, at the beginning of our next game we had the opening kick off. My tee wasn't secured to the base. The official checked it and started yelling at me. I was like, "Dude, what are you talking about, I didn't get the 'memo'." So, he runs over to our head coach and tells him that if we don't get the correct team in the game in 30 seconds, we would have to kick off with out a tee and put the ball on the ground. Jokingly, I asked the official if I could go "Sandlot" and have one of the coverage guys hold it on his foot, an inch off of the ground. He didn't like that too much and said that our time was up and we had to kick the ball off of the ground. I laughed and said, "Yes, Sir." Sam Wyche, our head coach at the time, laughed as well and I proceeded back out to the middle of the field. We had a breeze at our backs for the kick off. I had one of our coverage guys hold the ball on the ground. I took my normal approach and kicked a line drive that went 9 yards deep for a touch back. As I was running down the field I ran right by the official, he looked at me, I looked at him, "bowed up" and gave him a wink. He laughed and the game started. Classic memory...

Good luck to everyone this upcoming season."


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