Jan Stenerud Enshrinement speech
Jan Stenerud Enshrinement Speech 1991
Presenter: Hank Stramm
Thank you very much. When I think of Jan I think of impact and impact defined is an instantaneous stroke communicated through a body in motion. I had to read that about three times before I understood it. Jan Stenerud is that body in motion and I will elaborate on his impact with the Kansas City Chiefs, the American Football League and the National Football League, the record books and the Hall of Fame.
The first time I saw Jan he was kicking 40-yard field goals like they were extra points in the pre-season, pre-warm up game against Tulsa and Montana State in Tulsa, OK in 1966. Tommy O'Boyle, our Director of Player Personnel, and I went to the game and watched him kick the opening kickoff through the uprights and eight rows into the bleachers. Needless to say, he made a dramatic impact. I always felt that we would win or lose about four to six games a year with the kicking game. And after watching him that day, we were convinced that he would add the dimension we were seeking. And he was just not a kicker, he was an athlete. An athlete who excelled in track and field, soccer. He was All-American ski jumper on a scholarship. He could have been on the Olympic Ski team he had not pursued football. Now he hates to admit it, but he is a three handy-cap golfer. Three ... There was no question that he would help us win and help us win he did. He made his very first field goal, his first attempt a 54 yarder against Houston in 1967. He went on to help us become one of the winningest teams in the NFL with two divisional championships, three play-offs and a Super Bowl win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. His three field goals of 48- 32-25 yards against the Vikings gave us a 9-0 lead and his 48-yard kick had a stunning effect on Minnesota.
He holds the record of the longest field goal in Super Bowl history of 48 yards which has been matched but not eclipsed. In his first four seasons with Kansas City he made 72 percent of his field goals when the league average was 50%. He was Kansas City's record holder in career points. Jan also made a great impact on AFL and NFL as he helped usher in the age of soccer style kickers. Because of his strong leg and long kicks, he reduced the size of the playing field. He influenced the rules committee to change the field goal kick off rules in 1974, his seventh year in the league. He had an impact on the record books. Jan holds the record for career field goals 373. He scored 100 or more points in seven different seasons. He is the only player to get all pro honors in three decades ... the 60s, 70s & 80s. Jan was the most accurate kicker in all of pro football from 1980 to 1984 he made 82% of this field goals. In 1981 when he was with the Green Bay Packers, he made 22 of 24 field goals a league record of 91% of 2 points and he had an impact also on the Hall of Fame because he was the very first specialist to enter Pro Football's Hall of Fame. Various publications have their all-time teams and best ever teams. They have one thing in common, however, Jan is named in all of them. Everyone in the Hall of Fame was a great player but only a few were the very best ever at their position. Jan is a total Hall of Fame package, productive, consistent and enduring. He was a great competitor, and no one was better than Jan when the game was on the line.
He made five field goals twice against Buffalo the year we won the Super Bowl. And with all of his accomplishments, recognition, statistics and records, the best thing about Jan is Jan the person. He never changed. He was humble and appreciative and when he signed his contract and received his bonus he said, you know this is more money than my dad made in this lifetime. He will also be grateful for the opportunity to play professional football. He was sincere, had great pride and dedication. He was very demanding of himself and had a super attitude. He was a total team player. He didn't have a prima donna bone in his body. He was respected, admired and loved by his teammates and coaches. He always handled himself with class and style, respect and dignity. He was a consistent role model for his family, his university, pro football and the great fans of this country.
Jan thanks very much for the honor of permitting me to present you here today and have you joined our other great players and Lamar Hunt in the National Football League Hall of Fame, Bobby Bell, Lenny Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier. We are all very proud of you Jan. Good luck and God bless. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much coach. Those are very kinds words and I appreciate them very much. When I grew up in Norway my dream was to become an outstanding ski jumper. But I never dreamed that my greatest jump of all would be to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Nearly 30 years ago I was recruited from Norway to Montana State on a ski scholarship. One autumn afternoon my Junior year in 1964, I did something that would dramatically change my life forever. I attempted to kick a football a couple of times. To keep in shape for the ski season I would always run the stadium steps at Montana State to get ready for the long hard ski season and the football team was always practicing. And this one day I decided to go down and kick a few footballs and all of us played a lot of soccer and I guess I had one urge to try this oval ball. Went down and tried a few with toes like everybody else kicked those days. And all of a sudden, I realized if I approach this ball at an angle and hit it with the side of my foot it was more comfortable for me. I did, the basketball coach of all people walked across the field and he ran over to the football coach, Jim Sweeney, and informed him that a ski jumper was kicking the hell out of the ball out there.
Now Coach Sweeney did not want to listen to in Jim's own words a goofy basketball and a couple of weeks later however, I was out there again and he summoned me down from the stands and he asked if I could kick off and showed me how to put the ball on the tee. I kicked off five times and two of them went through the goal post and that was from the 40-yard line in those days - 70 yards to the goal post. I wasn't really sure if I had done okay or not. I wasn't really familiar with the game, but I guess I did okay because Coach Sweeney tried to convince me to go out for spring football the next year, which I did. And in the meantime, some of my teammates at Montana State had informed me that they see a guy on television from the Buffalo Bills, Pete Gogolak who had been kicking in the same style that I had displayed and they also had convinced me to go out for the team. As I became more and more familiar for this great game, I learned to appreciate the skills necessary to play the various positions. Most positions require skill, strength, speed, intelligence and mental toughness. No one has more respect for the people seated behind me that are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is undeniable that a kickers position is isolated and that the skills that are necessary to become an outstanding kicker are different from those skills required to play most other positions. It is a job with intense pressure. I always felt if I had two bad games in a row, I would be unemployed.
There are two people here today that are great kickers as well as outstanding football players, George Blanda and Lou Graza. George and Lou your talents were remarkable, you were exceptional, and I salute you. I am, of course, aware that I am the first person elected to this great shrine based on kicking alone. It gives me, of course, a sense of pride and accomplishment but most of all I feel very, very lucky. A lot of things happened to me that I had no control over. But I was developing my skills as a soccer player and ski jumper which is a perfect combination for a field goal kicker. I didn't even know what a field goal was. Ski jumping requires concentration and, of course, kicking field goals requires concentration as well. In the mid-1960's the field goal became increasing important to the game of football, about the same time as I had stepped onto the field at Montana State. I was drafted by Kansas City at the right time. They had great players when I got there. Super Bowl IV and some of the great coaching with Hank Stram, of course, who won the Coach of the Year title four times. He won the AFL championship three times. We had the greatest players that anybody had ever seen on the football field. Five of them are here today. We have Bobby Bell, a great linebacker, Len Dawson, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier and, of course, our owner Lamar Hunt, who is also in the Hall of Fame.
At Montana State I had a coach, I mentioned him earlier, but I need to recognize him more, his name was Jim Sweeney. He was one of the winningest coaches in all of college football. He got me started in this great American game and coach without your enthusiasm, your intensity and desire to win, obviously I wouldn't be here today. You made a real impact on me; I love you and I appreciate that for the rest of my life. There also are a couple of other people I would like to acknowledge that were teammates at Montana State. Gary Richards and Terry Albrecht came all the way out from the great state of Montana to share this day with me, I appreciate it guys very much. I talked about some of the luck involved. Late in my career in 1980 when everybody else in the league thought I was washed up, Bart Starr, the great player and then the coach for the Green Bay Packers, took a chance on me and that paved the way for six more year for me in the league and Bart I assume you are listening somewhere, I appreciate that very much.
There are certain occasions in everybody's life that make you think about the people that influenced you the most and helped you. Today my thoughts are with my parents. My dad who passed away two years ago always had ambitious dreams and goals while my mother had always been a realist. They were my view of a perfect combination. My dad who was never afraid of thinking big and my mother who realized that goals could not be reached without an all-out effort. If there are qualities, I have inherited from both of them is the stability and determination. I mentioned Hank earlier and you know his coaching record, but one thing you don't know about Hank that made the biggest impact on me, when I came to Kansas City in 1967, he went out on the practice field several weeks before training camp started, he knelt down and held the football for me 50 times for the last few weeks leading up to camp and that told me a lot about Hank Stram. When I mentioned my teammates earlier I didn't say much about Lenny Dawson, a great guy from Alliance, Ohio which you all know, he wasn't only one of the greatest quarterbacks of all times, he was my holder, of course, my first 19 years in the AFL and he was very instrumental in my success.
I also want to tell the football fans and the football organization with the three teams that I played, Kansas City, Green Bay and Minnesota, a heartfelt thank you for your loyalty and support. And now I would like for you to meet the most important people in my life, Shane, Clancey, Betsy and of course, my wife, Lindy. 19 seasons in the greatest team sport ever invented produced a lot of memories. The excitement of the Chiefs-Raiders contests the thrill of a Monday night football game, autumn Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field, and, of course, the satisfaction of a job well done. Let me close by going back to where it started ski jumping. When you get off that ramp and you fly through the air for a moment you feel as though you have conquered the world as you are soaring high above the ground. Today with these memories and this honor I got the same feeling, the feeling that my feet are now touching the ground. Thank you American football for giving me this truly unbelievable moment.