The “Hometown Hall of Famer™” program traveled to Bozeman, Mont. to recognize the first “pure” placekicker to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, . The special plaque ceremony for the native Norwegian was held outside in the football stadium of Montana State University underneath a blue Montana sky and snow-capped mountains in the background.
Members of the Bozeman community, students from Montana State University, friends, family and former teammates gathered in the stadium to take part in the ceremony and congratulate a very special member of their community.
Tyler Wiltgen, host of "Voice of the Bobcats" for Montana State University football broadcasts, served as emcee and began the ceremony by telling everyone in the stands that it filled the Bobcats with pride to welcome back one of their own and recognize him for his extraordinary accomplishments. Wiltgen touched on several of Stenerud's career highlights before directing everyone's attention to the jumbotron where a video showing key moments from Stenerud's time in the NFL was played. As the video came to an end, the crowd jumped to their feet to applaud and cheer as Stenerud emerged, waving and smiling, from underneath a giant inflatable Bobcat.
Two influential men from Stenerud’s past spoke during the ceremony. The first was Roger Craft, a former basketball coach at Montana State, who discovered Stenerud kicking football’s one afternoon late in Stenerud’s sophomore year. While Stenerud had come to Montana State from Norway on a ski jumping scholarship, Craft told the crowd that he rushed to relay the news of Stenerud’s kicking abilities to the football coach in hopes of securing him a spot on the team.
Following Craft was Tom Parac, former Athletic Director and one of Stenerud’s football coaches at Montana State, who was visibly honored to be presenting the historic plaque to one of his former players. "To have someone from Norway adopt us as his hometown is pretty special," said Parac. He spoke of Stenerud's many accomplishments and said that Stenerud brought class to Bozeman. "You have always been a Bobcats supporter and we want you to know that we are really proud of you," Parac said in closing.
Loud cheers from the crowd accompanied Stenerud as he unveiled the plaque with Craft and Parac by his side. Moving over to the podium, Stenerud spoke of his time in Bozeman and said that, from the moment he arrived, he knew that the community in the town and at the university would always have a special place in his heart. As Stenerud continued his speech it was clear to everyone there that he considered Bozeman his home just as much as Norway.
In addition to the plaque, a commemorative “Hometown Hall of Famer™” road sign will be on display in Bozeman, Mont. and the circle located outside of the football stadium was renamed Stenerud Circle.
Additional speakers included Steve Rowe, local Allstate representative, and Brock Richards, Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises Program Director.
“Jan did not just succeed at the game of football,” said Richards. “He succeeded at the game of life and his accomplishments should serve as inspiration for anyone that if you put your mind to it you can succeed in any path you choose.”
After news of his kicking abilities was relayed to the school’s football coach, Stenerud starred on the Montana State football team with a then-record 59-yard field goal and 82 points scored as a senior.
Impressed by his skills, the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Stenerud in the third round of the AFL’s 1966 future draft. He excelled for 19 seasons and 263 games in pro football, playing for the Chiefs from 1967 until 1979 before signing a free agent contract with the Green Bay Packers, with whom he stayed with for four seasons. Stenerud finished his career with the Minnesota Vikings in 1985.
His list of outstanding achievements is long. With 1,699 points, he ranked behind only the fabled George Blanda in all-time scoring at the time of his retirement.
His 373 career field goals and seven seasons of scoring 100 or more points were also NFL records. He kicked 17 field goals over 50 yards and his personal best was a 55-yarder against Denver in 1970. A six-time all-league selection, Stenerud played in two AFL All-Star games and in four AFC-NFC Pro Bowls. He was named the Outstanding Offensive Player in the 1972 Pro Bowl.
“Allstate is very excited to partner with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to keep alive and protect the hometown legacies of pro football’s greatest players through the “Hometown Hall of Famer™” program,” said Rowe. “Even though is originally from Norway, he is excited to have an opportunity to honor Bozeman, what he considers to be his second hometown, and Montana State University where his football career began.”
Stenerud was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
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