Kickers are people, too

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
The latest Pro Football Hall of Fame class was chosen Saturday. It was the 47th election, and for the 46th time, a full-time kicker or punter wasn't in the group.

They simply don't rate.

That's why Rick Sang founded the American Football Kicking Hall of Fame last year.

"The most impacting statement is that in 90 years of pro football, there's only one kicker inducted," Sang said. "You think about that. It's a major void.

"The American Football Kicking Hall of Fame was about being proactive and not complaining about what the NFL wasn't doing. Their names aren't even coming up. There's so many guys you have to think about 'Who are they?'

"We just don't want them to be forgotten."

While part-time kickers such as Sammy Baugh, George Blanda and Lou Groza are enshrined in Canton, Jan Stenerud is the only pure leg-swinger to be honored.

The Kicking Hall of Fame inducted its second class two weeks ago. Added to the inaugural class of Baugh, Blanda, Groza and Jim Thorpe were Ray Guy, Pete Gogolak and Ben Agajanian.

"You make fun of kickers for not getting their uniforms dirty, or you say 'They don't hardly play.' And then you turn around and induct an owner," said Sang, also the director of ProKicker.com and a member of the Greater Augusta Sports Council in Georgia.

"It's a team sport, and if you're the best at your position and you impacted the game you deserve to be recognized."

Not acknowledging kickers isn't limited to Canton. Three AFC East teams fete their finest -- the Buffalo Bills have a Wall of Fame, the Miami Dolphins have an Honor Roll, the New England constructed the Hall at Patriot Place -- and none salute a kicker.

With Sang's cause in mind, here are the greatest kickers and punters in each AFC East club's history:

Buffalo Bills

Kicker: Steve Christie holds the franchise scoring record with 1,011 points and owns the longest field goal in team history at 59 yards. He also drilled Buffalo's most significant field goal, a 32-yarder to complete the NFL's greatest comeback -- from 32 points down against the Houston Oilers in the 1992 playoffs.

Gogolak, the soccer-style pioneer, was Buffalo's kicker when it won AFL titles in 1964 and '65. But here are some numbers to consider: Gogolak made only half his attempts between 20 to 29 yards in 1964 and was 1-of-12 from 40 yards and longer in 1965.

Punter: Brian Moorman is the only Bills punter to be selected for the Pro Bowl. The eighth-year veteran has gone twice. He already holds a several team records, including a 43.2-yard career average. He has placed 179 punts inside the 20-yard line, only 11 off Chris Mohr's record despite two fewer seasons. Moorman had 33 such punts two years ago.

Miami Dolphins

Kicker: Olindo Mare edges out Pete Stoyanovich in my book. Stoyanovich owns Miami's two longest field goals at 59 and 58 yards. And although Mare played 10 seasons to Stoyanovich's seven, he does hold franchise scoring records for a career (1,048 points) and a season (144 points). Mare was slightly more accurate, with a career percentage of 80.9 percent.

But what I couldn't forget was the 48-yard field goal Stoyanovich missed to ruin a sensational Dan Marino drive in the closing seconds of the 1994 divisional playoffs, a 22-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Punter: Reggie Roby ranked among the top five in punting average six times in his 10 seasons with Miami. He was selected to three Pro Bowls and made two All-Pro squads. He owns three of the five longest punts in team history, including one of 77 yards and two of 73 yards.

New England Patriots

Kicker: Is there any doubt? As crazy as it was to watch Tony Franklin kick barefoot in the show, Adam Vinatieri might actually get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He made perhaps the two greatest kicks in Super Bowl history, a 48-yarder to win XXXVI and a 41-yarder to win XXXVIII.

If that's not enough for you, Vinatieri is the Patriots' all-time scoring leader with 1,158 points and has kicked four of their seven longest field goals.

Punter: The Patriots don't keep their punters around too much. Rich Camarillo holds their record for most yardage, but stayed only seven seasons. The pick here, even though he was with the Patriots only three years, is Tom Tupa. Each of his seasons rank among the Patriots' top six in punting average. He left with a 44.7-yard average, best in club history.

New York Jets

Kicker: Pat Leahy scored a franchise-record 1,470 points, and Jets fans selected him for their NY-XL all-40th anniversary team in 2003. I couldn't stick with Leahy. I also was tempted to pick Jim Turner, who averaged 18 more points per season than Leahy despite shorter schedules. Turner kicked three field goals in Super Bowl III, a game decided by nine points. But Turner made only 60 percent of his career attempts.

John Hall is my choice. Hall played six seasons with the Jets and kicked five of their 12 longest field goals. His 73.4 field goal percentage is the highest among kickers with four or more seasons (not counting Mike Nugent's three years plus one game). Hall also owns three of the Jets' top 10 scoring seasons.

Punter: The Jets aren't exactly known for their great punters. They cut their leader in career average, Ben Graham, this past season. There have been some decent seasons. Tupa passed through, so did Dave Jennings and Brian Hansen.

Chuck Ramsey and Curley Johnson hold several records because they stuck around eight years, longer than any other punter in team history. But Johnson had a better average by 2.5 yards, and his 45.3-yard average in 1965 has held up as the record. So Johnson it is.