Longest Field Goal in NFL History
of the Record
of professional football's greatest records rarely
It is the record for the longest field goal.
While rushing, passing and receiving records have fallen frequently
over the last 50 years, this is not the case for the ultimate kicking
achievement. In fact, in the
history of the NFL since 1920, the field goal distance record has only
been broken 4 times. The
record itself was established rather ambiguously in the early days of
the league's existence. Here are the eight critical events in the
development of the current record.
First, it must be remembered that in the early days of the game,
drop kicking was often the preferred method for attempting field goals,
especially long distance attempts. The
drop kick disappeared from the football scene as the game evolved into a
passing game and the footballs became pointed instead of rounded.
The Lost Art of Kicking , 1939, which
is a part of the HOF archives collection.
the 1920's, three men claimed the longest kick in the game's history to
great Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs, Paddy Driscoll of the Chicago
Cardinals and Wilbur "Pete" Henry of Canton were all great kickers of
their era and are all now in the Hall of Fame. Thorpe's fans asserted that he routinely drop-kicked the ball from
50 yards out. Paddy Driscoll
supposedly kicked two of 50 or more on September 28, 1924 against
Milwaukee. Sadly, Thorpe's
and Driscoll's records cannot be verified as stat keeping was imprecise
that time and the newspapers of the day conflicted in their reporting of
verifiable distance belongs to Wilbur "Pete" Henry who kicked a
45 yard drop kick field goal against Toledo on December 10, 1922. The
record for field goal distance starts with Wilbur Henry. Henry's record stood for 12 years.
Glenn Presnell of the Detroit Lions place kicked a 54 yard field goal
against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 7, 1934, winning the game 3-0.
Presnell described the weather in Green Bay that day as beautiful and
calm. According to Presnell,
"I remember John Schneller, an end, said, 'Why don't you try a field
goal; it's as good as a punt.?' We
were going to have to punt anyway. Ace held (Ace Gutowski was the holder)
and it hung up, hung up and dropped over the bar 54 yards away.
That turned out to be the margin of the game, 3 - 0." The kick
stood as an NFL record for 19 years.¡¡
The Lions Line Up To
Demonstrate Presnell's Kick
Bert Rechichar helped the Baltimore Colts start the 1953 NFL season with a
13-9 upset of the Chicago Bears on September 27, 1953 before 23,715.
Rechichar had an amazing day against Chicago accounting for all
the Colts' points. Playing as a defensive back, he intercepted a pass and
returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. Then, as time was winding down in
the first half, Rechichar, who kicked only 31 field goals in 89 attempts
during his ten-year career, kicked a 56 yard field goal, still
the third longest kick ever against the Bears. It broke the NFL mark of Glenn Presnell by two yards.
His record would stand for 17 years until 1970. Rechichar is shown
below in a Baltimore Sun photo kicking the record field goal with Tom Keane holding.
On November 8, 1970, Tom Dempsey of New Orleans Saints kicked an NFL
record 63 yard field goal against the Detroit Lions at Tulane Stadium in
New Orleans (video). Dempsey kicked four field goals that day against the Lions,
the final and record breaker with two seconds left gave the Saints a
come-from-behind-victory of 19-17. Dempsey was born with half a right foot
and with no right hand. He was fitted with an artificial foot in
childhood, and it is with that wooden foot, encased in a modified football
shoe, that he kicked field goals and extra points.
to Dempsey, "When I lined up to kick my record-setting 63 yard field
goal in 1970, we had the ball in the closed-in area of Tulane Stadium.
winds in that stadium sometimes would swirl and push balls wide to the
left or wide to the right. The stadium was shaped like a big horseshoe,
open at one end of the stadium and closed at the other. When it got windy,
it was difficult to judge what was going to happen to the ball once it was
kicked. But I got a good snap and a good hold, and I knew I had hit it
well enough to go the distance. Considering that stadium, though, the
question of whether the ball would stay straight was in the back of my
My snapper was Jackie Burkett and my holder was Joe Scarpati. It's
important to have a good holder. Everything
was perfect for me that day: I got a perfect snap, I got a perfect hold,
and I got a lot of protection. No one ever accomplishes anything alone in
football. We all like to think that we can, but that's just not true. It's
always been a team game, always will be. So everything went well, and
everyone else did their job.
The last thing was for me to try to do mine. I thought I kicked it
pretty well- I thought it had a chance. I was hoping the winds wouldn't
swirl and drive the ball off-course. It seemed like it took forever to
get there. I just kept watching it, wondering if it had enough distance.
Finally, the referees raised their
hands that it was good."
record has still not fallen.
Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos tied the 28-year-old NFL record of Tom
Dempsey on Oct. 25, 1998 with a 63 yard field goal. The kick came at the
end of the first half of a game with the Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver's
Mile High Stadium (video). With a 37-24 victory, the Broncos became 7-0 for the first
time in club history. Originally only a 58-yard attempt, the Broncos were
issued a 5 yard penalty for delaying the game and the ball was placed on
the Jaguars 47 yard line with only a few seconds on the clock. Elam's kick
delighted the Denver fans that were present to witness the history making
asked why he didn't back up a yard and go for the record-breaker at 64
yards, Elam said, "Well, that gets kind of scary when you do
that. Everything is so precise with
the snapper and holder. My snapper (David Diaz-Infante) is usually so good
that he can snap to where (holder) Tom (Rouen) doesn't even have to move
the laces at all. I never like to mess with that."
said he knew his record kick would have the distance. It was just a matter
of physics. "I just tried to do all the fundamentals correctly and
keep the ball going straight because I really did feel I could get the
ball there," he said. "But those goal posts looked really skinny
from where I was standing." Elam said he is just happy to tie
Dempsey, who kicked with a shoe specially fitted to his clubbed foot.
"I am perfectly happy with being in his company," said
Just before halftime, in a
nationally televised Monday Night Football during the first week of
the NFL season, September 12, 2011, Sebastian Janikowski of the
Oakland Raiders tied the NFL field goal distance mark with a 63 yard
field goal (video).
"To be honest, I didn't hit it
that good. It barely got over the bar," Janikowski said of the kick
that ended the first half of the game. "I hit a 70-yarder in
pregame." Janikowski added. "The ball really carries here."
The field goal tied the mark
set by the Saints' Tom Dempsey in 1970 and matched by Denver's Jason
Elam in 1998 at the old Mile High Stadium. The Raiders defeated
Denver, 23-20, in coach Hue Jackson's head coaching debut and the
debut of Denver Head Coach, John Fox.
"I had a dream I broke the
record, and it was here in Denver," Janikowski said.
"I didn't hit it really good, but that's no excuse. (The
altitude) really helped it. ... It cleared by like one yard only."
At 37 years of age, David Akers kicked a 63 yard field goal on
opening day of the 2012 season as the San Francisco 49ers defeated
the Green Bay Packers 30-22. The kick came as time expired in the
first half to give the 49ers a 16-7 lead (video). Punter Andy Lee was the
holder for Akers’ historic kick. On the afternoon, Akers connected
for three field goals and three extra points.
The record-tying kick was a low
line drive, which struck the crossbar before trickling over. “I
tried really hard to get it there,” Akers said. “I didn’t think I
actually hit it that great, I was like, ‘Oh well it was fun to give
it a shot.’ Then I was like, ‘Wait, it’s still kind of going.’
“When you hit the goalpost,
whether it’s the crossbar or the upright, it usually makes a really
loud and obnoxious sound coming back at you. It went through and I
think that’s about the biggest miracle I’ve seen in a long time.”
“It’s one of those things that
you’ll never forget,” Akers said. “That’s for sure. I never imagined
it hitting the crossbar and bouncing in. It’s like a nice ending of
a Disney movie.”
Coach Jim Harbaugh expressed his
confidence in Aker’s ability. When asked what the coaching staff
believes Akers’ range to be, Harbaugh joked, “It’s now around 63
Akers joins Tom Dempsey, Jason
Elam and Sebastian Janikowski as the only kickers to connect from
8, 2013- Denver Broncos kicker Matt Prater set a National Football
League record with a 64-yard field goal on Sunday in the team's
51-28 rout of the Tennessee Titans.
Prater eclipsed the record of 63
yards first set 43 years ago by Tom Dempsey of the Saints. The kick
came as time expired in the first half to bring the Broncos within
21-20 at intermission (video).
Equaling Dempsey's booming
kick of 1970 were Denver's Jason Elam in 1998, Oakland's Sabastian
Janikowski in 2011 and San Francisco's David Akers last season.
The long field goals by
Prater, Elam and Janikowski all occurred in mile-high Denver, where
the thin air gives kickers an advantage.
years, the 63-yard field goal became as big of a barrier as the
4-minute mile once was. Tom Dempsey, a straight-on kicker, made a
63-yarder at the sea-level turf of New Orleans in 1970. Nobody kicks
straight on anymore; the side-winding, soccer style is more
effective. The kickers today are far stronger and more accurate than
they used to be, yet 63 yards was only to be equaled, never
is a long way," said Jason Elam, the first to tie Dempsey's record
for the Broncos in 1998. "But I bet when Tom Dempsey hit it in 1970,
he would have never guessed that it would have lasted 43 years. When
I hit mine in '98, I remember saying I would not be surprised if
this fell next week."
On average, over a 90 year period, this record is eclipsed roughly every
25 years. To equal or break this record is a tremendous accomplishment. And, unlike other
records, this one definitely has a ceiling or limit to what is actually
attainable. The record was tied three times since Tom Dempsey's
historic kick in 1970, until Matt Prater broke it with a 64 yarder on
Dec. 8, 2013.
|1. Wilbur "Pete" Henry -Canton Bulldogs- December 10, 1922-
|2. Glenn Presnell- Detroit Lions- October 7, 1934- 54 yards.
|3. Bert Rechichar- Baltimore Colts- September 27, 1953- 56 yards.
|4. Tom Dempsey- New Orleans Saints- November 8, 1970- 63 yards.
|4. Tie- Jason Elam- Denver Broncos- October 25, 1998- 63 yards.
4. Tie- Sebastian Janikowski- Oakland
Raiders- September 12, 2011- 63 yards.
4. Tie- David Akers- San Francisco 49ers-
September 9, 2012- 63 yards.
5. Matt Prater- Denver Broncos-
December 8, 2013- 64 yards.
Information; Early Years: Professional Football
Researchers Association, Presnell: Presnell
Football Digest, July-August,
2003 by Chuck O'Donnell,
Rechichar: nfluk.com, ravensnest.com, Elam- Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
Janikowski: AP, Akers:49ers.com, Prater: Reuters.