- Inducted: 2018
- Kicker: 1997-2005
- Height: 6-0; Weight: 200
- College: California, 1993-96
One of the keys to the Packers' success during their resurgence under Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf was that whenever he blew a draft pick or a free agent signing, he'd often compensate for it by uncovering a second option that turned out to be better than the first. In fact, sometimes vastly better.
A prime example was Ryan Longwell.
When the Packers decided before the 1997 season to move on from Chris Jacke as their kicker, they selected Brett Conway of Penn State in the third round of the draft. Then shortly thereafter – before training camp even started – Wolf found his safety net by claiming Longwell on waivers from San Francisco. Originally signed by the 49ers in late April as a non-drafted free agent, Longwell participated in two minicamps before being cut on July 9.
Just over six weeks later, on the NFL's final cutdown date, the Packers kept both kickers on their 53-man roster. On opening day, with Conway still nursing a pulled thigh muscle sustained in warmups before the third preseason game and listed as inactive, Longwell responded with three field goals in three tries from 38, 36 and 29 yards, as well as three extra points, as the Packers beat Chicago, 38-24. Two days later, Conway was placed on injured reserve and the job was Longwell's.
He finished the season fifth in league scoring with 120 points and made 30 of his 37 field goal attempts over 19 regular-season and postseason games.
Nine years later, Longwell ended his career in Green Bay with 1,054 points and owning one of the most cherished individual records on the team's books. In the third-to-last game of the 2003 season, Longwell eclipsed the legendary Don Hutson's record for most points in a career with an extra point against the San Diego Chargers. Hutson's record of 823 career points had lasted 58 years.
"The Green Bay Packers are without question the best franchise in the National Football League," Wolf said when Longwell was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. "To get a guy like that for $100 (the waiver price), and he ends up being the leading scorer in that franchise's history, I'd say that's one of your better moves, wouldn't you? I always believed in protecting one's rear end, and here was a guy that I personally saw as protection."
Wolf's interest in Longwell was piqued during a scouting stop at the University of California. As Wolf talked on the sidelines with Cal's coach and former Packers assistant Steve Mariucci, Longwell was, in his words, "on the mark," practicing field goals that day.
Nevertheless, before camp opened only days after Longwell had been claimed on waivers, special teams coach Nolan Cromwell had no doubt Conway would be his kicker that season. "There's not a question in my mind," said Cromwell. "He'll be here for a long, long time." But Longwell's six field goals in six tries in the preseason, including 49- and 50-yarders in the final tuneup, combined with Conway's four misses in six attempts in two exhibition games before his injury changed minds.
Other than a subpar 2001 season when Longwell was good on only 64.5 percent of his field goal tries and maybe his final season with the Packers when his success rate was 74.1 percent, Longwell was valued for his reliability more than the horsepower in his leg, especially at Lambeau Field, which has never been a kicker's paradise.
At Lambeau, Longwell made 118 of 143 field goal attempts for 82.5 percent. In games played Dec. 1 or later, he was 45 of 55 for 81.8 percent.
"Ryan is 'Mr. Consistency,'" coach Mike Sherman said before Longwell's eighth season in Green Bay. "Obviously, in Lambeau Field, the place where other people have struggled, I pretty much know that we have three points when he says he can make it."
Another of Longwell's assets was his equanimity.
Frank Novak, Packers special teams coach and consultant from 2000-04, once praised Longwell for being a low maintenance kicker. "Regardless of whether we're playing indoors or outdoors, whatever the climactic conditions are, he does a pretty good job of adjusting to it," said Novak. "… He has excellent technique. He knows what to go back to when he's having a problem. He knows how to help fix it. He doesn't go into the tank when he misses one or doesn't kick off very well. He's a pro."
Although Longwell missed a 28-yard attempt with 11 seconds left that cost the Packers a game at Philadelphia in his rookie season and had a 28-yarder blocked as time expired against Chicago at Lambeau Field in 1999, he usually delivered under pressure, including what was a post-merger – 1970 and later – league record of four last-minute, game-winning field goals in 2004. That season, he won three games as time expired and another with two seconds left.
"The guy is money in the bank," special teams coach John Bonamego said near the end of Longwell's career in Green Bay. "What more can you say? He's a clutch performer."
Over his career with the Packers, Longwell made 226 of 277 field goal attempts, or a club-record 81.6 percent, and 376 of 380 extra point attempts for another team-record, 99.14 percent. In all, he kicked 11 game-winning or game-saving field goals. Longwell also was 13 of 22 from 50 yards or more, including a long of 54 in 2001. In 10 playoff games, he made 15 of 21 field goal attempts.
Following the 2005 season, Longwell signed with Minnesota as an unrestricted free agent and served as the Vikings' kicker for six more seasons. After being released before the 2012 season, Longwell signed with Seattle and appeared in one postseason game for the Seahawks, missing his only field goal try but making four extra points.
Born Aug. 16, 1974. Given name Ryan Walker Longwell.