Marcol made waves as early soccer-style kicker

First of his kind for Packers took league by storm in '72

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Former Packers K Chester Marcol

Team historian Cliff Christl has been writing the official biographies of the members of the Packers Hall of Fame. Those bios will be posted periodically on packers.com.

Chester Marcol

  • Inducted: 1987
  • Kicker: 1972-80
  • Height: 6-0; Weight: 190
  • College: Hillsdale, 1968-71

Honors:

  • United Press International NFC Rookie of the Year (chosen from 1955-96): 1972
  • Associated Press All-Pro Team (chosen since 1940): 1972, '74
  • Pro Bowl Selection (played since 1950): 1972, '74

Chester Marcol wasn't just an instant standout in the NFL, he was a veritable prodigy. The first soccer-style kicker in Packers history, Marcol was capable of booming towering kickoffs and prodigious field goals unlike any straight-on kicker over the team's first 53 seasons. Among the early wave of soccer-style trailblazers at the league level, Marcol arguably made a bigger splash than any of them with the possible exception of future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud.

As a rookie, Marcol led the NFL in scoring with 128 points, was the league's consensus all-pro kicker and was named the NFC Rookie of the Year by United Press International.

In his pro debut, he kicked four field goals. Two weeks later, he booted three more, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter to upset defending Super Bowl champion Dallas, 16-13. When the Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 20-17, the next Sunday, Marcol kicked a 37-yard field goal into a 30-mile-per-hour wind with 30 seconds remaining. A little more than a month later, the Packers beat the Bears again, 23-17, with Marcol contributing a 51-yard field goal and also the game-clincher with 1:46 left to play. When the Packers swept back-to-back games against division rivals Detroit and Minnesota on frigid December days to clinch the NFC Central Division, Marcol kicked a combined seven field goals.

With one game remaining in the season, Bears coach Abe Gibron said he was of the belief that one player couldn't generally turn a team around, but he said the Packers of 1972 might be the exception. "I'll tell you the difference between winning and losing: Chester Marcol," said Gibron. "He beat us both games." Otherwise, Gibron insisted that his Dick Butkus-led defense had physically manhandled the Packers. Two weeks later, when the Packers played in their first postseason game in five years, opposing coach George Allen of Washington said he worried about Marcol as much as any player on Green Bay's roster. "He can kill you from 55 yards out," said Allen.

In the four years before Marcol's arrival in Green Bay, nine different straight-on kickers had made only 45.7 percent of their field goal attempts, were a horrendous 6-of-28 from 40 yards and beyond, hadn't kicked a single field goal of 50 yards and had missed six extra points. Marcol made 33-of-48 field goal tries, for 68.8 percent, with 10 conversions in 19 tries from 40 yards and beyond, including 2-of-3 from more than 50 yards out, and also was 29-of-29 on extra points.

Marcol's 33 field goals were the most ever by an NFL kicker in a single season at that point, although Jim Turner of the New York Jets had made 34 in 1968 in what was then the rival American Football League.

In truth, Marcol was a sensation of sorts before he even joined the Packers. In 1969 as a sophomore at Hillsdale College, he had kicked a 62-yard field goal, the longest ever in college football, not counting dropkicks. At the time, the NFL record for longest field goal was 56 yards by Bert Rechichar of the Baltimore Colts.

The Packers selected Marcol in the second round of the 1972 draft. At that point, only one other kicker, Charlie Gogolak, had ever gone higher. The Packers selected Marcol at the urging of scout Lisle Blackbourn, who as head coach of the Packers in the 1950s had conducted some of the best drafts in NFL history. "Liz Blackbourn was our area guy and he was telling us (Marcol) was kicking the ball off between the goal posts," Pat Peppler, the Packers' player personnel director at the time, said in a 2005 interview. While Peppler said the Packers had no reservations about Marcol's leg strength, it was Blackbourn who pressed them to take a kicker that high.

In Marcol's rookie year, he was one of nine soccer-style kickers in the post-merger, 26-team NFL. Only eight years earlier, Pete Gogolak had become the first when he began his career with Buffalo of the AFL. Like Marcol, a native of Opole, Poland, all of the other eight soccer-style kickers in 1972 were foreign born and were collectively having a far-reaching impact on the game. That year, they combined for nine of the league's 15 50-plus-yard field goals; whereas, in 1965, the last season in the NFL without a soccer-style kicker, the 14 straight-on kickers were 4 of 22 from 50-yard range.

At the end of the 1974 season, when Marcol led the NFL again in field goals made with 25 in 39 attempts and was again selected to the Associated Press All-Pro team and the Pro Bowl, he had scored 304 points in three seasons. The Packers' offense had scored 330. "I think he has got to be one of the top three (kickers) in the NFL," special teams coach Bob Lord said before the 1975 season. "And I'm not sure Chester has reached his full potential."

Then, in the first half of the season opener, Marcol tore a muscle in his upper thigh of his kicking leg and missed the remainder of the season. He returned in 1976 and made 34 of 59 field goal tries over the next three seasons but lost range on his kickoffs and never made another 50-yard field goal. By 1979, his life was spiraling out of control due to alcohol abuse, and his season was cut short, this time after 10 games, by a knee injury. He also had been a shell of himself, converting only 4-of-10 field goal attempts prior to being sidelined.

Marcol regained his job in 1980 and scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime of the season opener against the favored Bears when he fielded his own blocked field goal – wearing glasses and a single-bar helmet – and scooted around left end for 25 yards to climax a 12-6 victory. "That play certainly ranks up there with the greatest plays in Packer history," former team historian Lee Remmel said in 2005. "It was so bizarre, so providential."

Marcol later admitted that by then he also was abusing cocaine and had even snorted it in the bathroom of the locker room at halftime that day. On Oct. 8, 1980, a month after basking in the thrill of the most memorable moment of his career, Marcol was waived. In 102 games with the Packers, he scored 521 points and kicked 121 field goals in 195 attempts. His longest was 52 yards.

However, he played one last NFL game in Lambeau Field with the Houston Oilers. Left without a kicker due to an injury, the Oilers signed Marcol the day before the next-to-last game of the 1980 season. He kicked a 27-yard field goal in a 22-3 victory over the Packers but also missed 2-of-3 extra point tries.

Born Oct. 24, 1949. Given name Czeslaw Boleslaw Marcol.

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