Jan Stenerud is the only pure Placekicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jan Stenerud is the only pure placekicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born in Fetsund, Norway—a logging town located 30 miles east of Norway’s capital city of Oslo—November 26, 1942, Stenerud [STIN-ah-rude] grew up playing soccer and skiing.  In 1963, he moved to Bozeman, Montana, after accepting a ski jumping scholarship to Montana State University.  In the fall of Stenerud’s sophomore year, an MSU basketball coach saw him kicking footballs and notified Jim Sweeney, the Bobcats’ head football coach.  A few weeks later, Stenerud was running the stadium steps at MSU’s Gatton Field preparing for the upcoming ski season.  Sweeney, who guided Montana State to three Big Sky Conference titles as well as a victory in the 1964 Camellia Bowl, asked the Norwegian skier to come onto the field and try kicking some field goals.  After booting four 70-yarders through the uprights, Sweeney put his arm around Stenerud’s shoulder and asked, “What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?”  NCAA rules prohibited Stenerud from being added to the roster while the season was underway, so he sat on the sidelines during MSU home games to observe and learn the game of football.

After making a field goal from 62 yards during 1965 spring practice, Stenerud joined the Bobcats varsity team that fall.  He converted seven field goals during the 1965 campaign.  Ninety seconds into the season-ending rivalry game against Montana [the “Brawl of the Wild”], Stenerud lined up with the wind at his back and drilled a 59 yarder—at the time the longest field goal in college or pro football history–to give the Bobcats the lead in a game they would go on to win, 24-7.  Taking advantage of the wind as well as Bozeman’s 4,900-foot elevation, he sent the ensuing kickoff all the way over the bleachers behind the end zone at Gatton Field.  Later in the game, Stenerud barely missed a field goal attempt from 67 yards away.  As a senior in the fall of 1966, Stenerud nailed 11 field goals to finish his two-year varsity career with 18, a Montana State record.  He also scored an NCAA career-record 82 points and was the only small-school player named to The Sporting News All-America Team.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected the 6’2”, 187-pound Stenerud in the third round of the 1966 AFL futures draft.  Chiefs head coach Hank Stram was an innovator and was one of the first coaches to employ a dedicated placekicker, as most pro teams used a position player to handle kicking duties.  Stenerud was one of football’s first “soccer style” kickers, a technique Pete Gogolak had recently introduced in the AFL, and was superbly accurate.  In his first three seasons, Stenerud hit 70 percent of his field goals, while the average for other pro kickers was just over 50 percent.  Jan played for Kansas City from 1967 to 1979 and was an integral part of Stram’s great teams, including the 1969 squad that won the only Super Bowl championship in franchise history.

Christmas Day 1971 was not a merry one for Jan Stenerud [Daily Dose, 12/25/15].  That afternoon, the Chiefs were hosting the Miami Dolphins , who were appearing in their first playoff game in franchise history.  The upstart Dolphins had joined the AFL in 1968 and, led by coach Don Shula [Daily Dose, 9/22/15], were quickly building a dynasty, as one year later they would go undefeated and win the Super Bowl.  Playing in his fifth NFL season, Stenerud was a perennial All-Star and the most reliable kicker in the game.  He made a 24 yarder in the first half to put Kansas City up, 10-0, before Miami tied the score late in the game.  Following an interception by the Chiefs, Stenerud lined up for a 31-yard field goal to win the game.  With 35 seconds remaining, the quiet Norwegian missed the kick to the right, sending the game into overtime.  Stenerud got another chance at a game-winner in the overtime period, only to see Miami block his 42-yard attempt.  After neither team scored in overtime, the game went into another extra period before Garo Yepremian’ 37-yard field goal won it for the Dolphins to end the longest game in pro football history.

Following his release from the Chiefs in the summer of 1980, Stenerud signed as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers.  He played four seasons in Titletown and is a member of the Packers hall of fame.  In 1984, Stenerud joined the Minnesota Vikings, playing for two seasons before retiring in 1985.

Jan Stenerud is the first Norwegian to play in the NFL.  Kicking in a stadium that no longer exists [Gatton Field was razed in 1972] while training for a sport that is no longer sanctioned by the NCAA, his route to the NFL was circuitous.  Stenerud was twice named to All-American teams—as a ski jumper in 1964 and as a placekicker in 1966.  He was a three-time Big Sky Conference ski jump champion.  The greatest kicker of his generation played in six Pro Bowls in his 19-year NFL career and was MVP of the 1972 contest.  Stenerud scored 1,699 points–second only to George Blanda, at the time of his retirement—and never missed a game during his brilliant career.  Ray Guy [Daily Dose, 2/1/16] is the only punter in the Hall of Fame, and Jan Stenerud is the only pure placekicker.  The others–Blanda and Lou “The Toe” Groza–also played other positions.  Stenerud made 373 field goals, including 17  over 50 yards.  In a 1970 game in Denver, he drilled one from 55 yards, the longest of his career.  Mr. Stenerud was clutch, scoring three field goals on a muddy field at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans—including one from 48 yards out—to help Kansas City win Super Bowl IV.  “There’s no better kicker to have in a pressure situation than Jan,” said Lynn Dickey, his holder in Green Bay.  “He was a true pro and one of the greatest to ever play the game.”

Stenerud did not play organized football until his junior year of college.  Twenty-six years later, he was elected to the Hall of Fame.  He played in an era with chewed-up grass fields and multi-use, open-air stadiums that often required kicking off dirt during the baseball season.  He scored 100 points or more in seven separate NFL seasons and converted 580 of 601 extra point attempts in 19 years.  Stenerud is one of four Montana State players to have his number [78] retired and is the only Bobcat in Canton.  Mr. Stenerud is a member of the Montana State Hall of Fame and the Kansas City Chiefs Ring of Honor.  He was selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and, in 1994, the Chiefs retired his jersey number 3.

On this date in 1991, Jan Stenerud was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“Just because I don’t do cartwheels when I make a game-winning field goal doesn’t mean I’m not extremely pleased”

–  Jan Stenerud