Pete Gogolak is well-known to old-time New York Giants fans but not to the younger generations.

The Hungarian-born former placekicker who broke barriers in the 1960s with first the Buffalo Bills and then the Giants is now 82 years old and recently spoke about his storied career at an event commemorating the team’s 100th season.

“I’m very proud to be part of the Giant family,” Gogolak said. “It’s a great organization and it’s great to be back.”

The Giants’ Ring of Honor member downplayed his role as both the NFL’s first soccer-style kicker and as one of the first players to move from the AFL to the NFL in what would become a war for players between the two leagues.

Gogolak was a two-time AFL champion with the Bills from 1964-65 before coming over to the Giants in 1966. He played until 1974, and his 646 points scored is still a Giants franchise record.

“I’m just proud that I lasted that long, nine years, as a kicker with one team,” Gogolak said. “That’s a pretty good, good thing.”

Gogolak, whose brother Charlie was also a kicker in both leagues, was an outlier with his style and felt he could be a success as a specialist in the NFL.

“When I saw Lou Groza, the old Cleveland kicker, kick the ball straight on, I was 15 years old and said to my father, ‘I think I can do better than that and I can kick a ball from the side like a soccer player.’ I should have patented this kick. I should have got a patent and a quarter every time people come in and did it because now everybody is kicking this way,” he said.

Giants owner Wellington Mara agreed. He broke the NFL-AFL “gentleman’s agreement” regarding poaching players to sign Gogolak. The Giants’ kicking game was pathetic at the time, and the team was on the brink of disaster.

In 1965, the Giants used four different players at kicker and converted just four of 25 attempts. Gogolak rectified that ineptitude in 1966 by hitting on 16 of 28 field goal attempts and converting 29 of 31 point-after tries.

Unfortunately, 1966 would be the Giants’ worst season ever as they finished with a 1-12-1 record.


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