After a wild offseason that included everything from big-name players swapping teams (we’re looking at you Aaron Rodgers) to big names retiring (we’ll see if Tom Brady stays retired this time), the NFL is back. We’re settling into the 2023 season and so far, New York City is looking like a legitimate football town with the Jets landing quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the Eagles are coming off an NFC Championship and are hoping to avenge their Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs. But as we enjoy the action unfolding on the field, let’s not forget about the unsung hero of the game — the kicker.
In many ways, he’s a closer; forced to smash a ball through the uprights from a distance as the clock expires. If it goes through, here’s a hero. If not, he’s deemed responsible for the loss. Sure, it seems pretty routine while they’re nailing extra points, but what about sending one more than half the field’s length?
We thought we’d take a look at some of the longest field goals in NFL history to celebrate the high-stakes life of the kicker. As with a super sub in soccer or a pinch hitter in baseball, the kicker is always supposed to be ready. It could be snowing and he may have been on the bench pretty much the whole game, but at the end of the game with a chance at glory, it’s all up to him (or her).
A few interesting and related facts: The longest field goal in Super Bowl history occurred in 1994 when the Buffalo Bills played the Dallas Cowboys. Steve Christie kicked a 54-yard bomb, putting his name in the history books, but his Bills ultimately lost the game. The longest field goal in college history is actually longer than the current NFL record. It happened back in 1976 in a game between Abilene Christian and East Texas State. Ove Johansson pulled off a 69-yard boot for ACU, still the farthest on record.
Here are some of the longest field goal kicks in NFL history. Will we have a new NFL field goal record at the end of this season? Time will tell, football fans.
Before we get to the longest NFL field goal kick, let’s start with the guy who held the previous record for over 40 years, Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints. On November 8, 1970, Dempsey hit a 63-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a 19-17 win over Detroit. Check out the footage of the kick here.
So what makes him so special? He doesn’t even have the record anymore, you say?
What if I told you he did it with half a foot?
That’s right, Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot (he also didn’t have fingers on his right hand). He overcame that by using a specially designed kicking shoe that came to a flat, square end where the toes should be. While Dempsey was a hero in 1970, his feat can no longer be duplicated, as his special shoe would be against the rules today. The NFL changed its rules in 1977 to mandate that “any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.”
Now that we’ve told you about the longest field goal kicked by an NFL kicker with half a foot, let’s get on to the rest of the longest NFL field goals.
Including Dempsey, seven players have nailed field goals from a distance of 63 yards. One could argue some were more difficult than others, given weather conditions or the defensive lines each kicker was facing, but they’re all technically from the same impressive distance.
The Cowboys’ Brett Maher is part of this elite group, having notched his 3-point bomb in 2019, as Dallas took on the Eagles. The pressure wasn’t quite as high given the time of the kick (second quarter) and the Cowboys’ comfortable lead, but it’s still quite the feat.
Sebastian Janikowski of the Raiders did as much in 2011. He made it look easy, barely even taking a run-up, making the longest field goal in Monday Night Football history. Apparently, the left-footer sunk a 70-yard field goal during pre-game warmups that day.
Graham Gano did it as a game-winner in 2018 with the Carolina Panthers. Down one against the Giants in an outdoor stadium, Gano squeezed the ball just inside the post before bedlam ensued.
Jason Elam hit one that distance in 1998 with the Denver Broncos in the thin air of Mile High Stadium.
The only other kicker to succeed during an NFL game from that distance is David Akers of the San Francisco 49ers. Akers blasted one from 63 yards in 2012 against the Green Bay Packers. It bounced off the crossbar and through the uprights, stunning all of Lambeau Field.
Holding down second place is Denver’s Matt Prater, the Broncos kicker made a 64-yard field goal in December 2013 against the Titans as time expired in the first half. It didn’t finish the game, but it did send Denver into the locker room extremely pumped up.
And now for first place.
Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history. His 66-yard game-winning blast against the Detroit Lions on September 26, 2021 was truly something to behold. It was almost too dramatic to believe, as it was the last play of the game and he kicked it from around his own 45-yard-line, and the ball bounced off the crossbar before going through the uprights.
So, as we get ready for some football, remember to give a shout out to your favorite kickers. And while you’re watching games, consider some quality fall cocktails, essential tailgating gear, ice-cold beer, salty snacks, and don’t forget the chili. Also, it’s never too late to start thinking about the Super Bowl (and even if you don’t like the big game, you probably like the halftime performances).
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