Former AFL All-Star and NFL kicker Péter Gogolák may not be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he certainly pieced together one of the more fascinating careers.
Gogolák was born 80 years ago in Budapest, Hungary. He was one of the first professional American football players born outside of the U.S. Gogolák, who starred in soccer at a young age, caught the attention of the Buffalo Bills (then an AFL team) and was drafted in the 12th round (92nd overall) in 1964.
Gogolák became a household name because of his soccer-style field goal kicks. While every NFL kicker uses Gogolák’s style today, kickers in pro football did things quite differently during his early playing days. The two-time AFL All-Star played for the Bills from 1964 to ‘65 before joining the New York Giants of the National Football League in 1966. He would spend the rest of his career there, retiring after the 1974 campaign.
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The Giants and Bills, the two only teams Gogolák played for professionally, are on the opposite side of the spectrum heading into the 2022 season. The G-Men are widely expected to be among football’s worst teams in 2022, while the Bills are the Super Bowl 57 favorites at multiple sportsbooks.
It’s quite fitting that Gogolák’s two former pro football teams met in Super Bowl 25 in Tampa Bay, Florida 31 years ago. That game, of course, came down to Scott Norwood’s 47-yard attempt for the Bills. Norwood missed it wide right, and the G-Men barely held on for a low-scoring 20-19 victory.
Gogolák was instrumental in leading the Bills to their only championships in franchise history, helping the organization win back-to-back AFL titles in 1964 and 1965. Buffalo defeated the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers in both championship games.
Ushering A Golden Era Of Kickers
As pointed out in Doug Williams’ 2016 article published at ESPN, all 32 NFL teams “had a soccer-style kicker” by the year 1987.
Williams’ ESPN article also noted that Washington Commanders legend Mark Moseley was the last kicker who used the straight-on style.
In today’s era, you see kickers run up from an angle (like soccer players when they attempt penalty and free kicks) upon kicking the football. Moseley, the 1982 league MVP, simply stood behind the holder of the football and then walked up slowly to kick at it. That’s how it was done then, but it looks totally unorthodox when you watch it today.
Kickers weren’t as reliable and accurate in the ‘60s, ‘70s or even the ‘80s as they are today. To put it into comparison, Jan Stenerud is a Hall of Famer who played from 1967 to ‘85. His field goal percentage of 66.8, isn’t even among the top 110 all-time.
Gogolák himself made 58.8 percent of field goals throughout his 11-year career. Again, those were good enough numbers for a kicker in his day. Current Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is the most accurate field goal kicker ever with a percentage of 91.061 through the 2021 season.
In fact, the eight best kickers ever in terms of field goal percentage are all active: Tucker, Harrison Butker (Kansas City Chiefs, 90.13 percent), Younghoe Koo (Atlanta Falcons, 90.0 percent), Chris Boswell (Pittsburgh Steelers, 88.35 percent), Daniel Carlson (Las Vegas Raiders, 87.2 percent), Josh Lambo (free agent, 87.075 percent), Robbie Gould (San Francisco 49ers, 86.598 percent) and Wil Lutz (New Orleans Saints, 86.585 percent).
In today’s NFL, teams simply need a kicker who’s making at least north of 80 percent of field goal attempts. That’s easier said than done, as several teams in any given season go through multiple kickers a year.
But at the end of the day, it was Gogolák’s soccer-style way of kicking that changed the NFL forever. It made things all the more easy for kickers of future generations, and the kickers of today owe him one big “thank you.”