When you think of big-legged kickers, a few names come to mind: Matt Prater, Tom Dempsey, and Sebastian Janikowski all carved out long NFL careers thanks to their ability to kick a football through the stratosphere. But one man out-kicked them all, even if he’d go on to spend just two weeks in the pros.
That man, the true field goal king of the gridiron was... (checks notes) uh, Swedish-born Navy veteran Ove Johansson?
Johansson is an unlikely football record holder. The Swede was a 24-year-old semi-pro soccer player in Dallas before changing his career path all thanks to a girl. He spotted his future wife April in the stands of a home game one year, then followed her all the way to Abilene Christian University, some 180 miles west.
But Johansson couldn’t afford tuition, and ACU didn’t have a soccer team. Instead, he turned his focus to football, taking a year to build up his leg strength before turning a tryout with Wildcats coaches into an athletic scholarship. After drilling multiple 70-yard kicks in practice, ACU gave him the chance to shine just before halftime of its homecoming game against East Texas State University (now Texas A&M-Commerce). Johansson’s 69-yard kick cleared the crossbar with room to spare and remains the longest recorded field goal in football history.
Johansson turned that leg strength into a shot in the NFL, but a Shrine Bowl knee injury sapped the strength and accuracy that had made him a legend in Abilene. He made just two of his seven professional kicks (1-4 on field goals, 1-3 extra points) before calling it a career just months after being drafted as a 28-year-old rookie.
Sure, Johansson set the record while using a since-outlawed kicking tee and booted his massive kick through goalposts that were nearly six feet wider than the NFL standard while playing for an NAIA team, but that doesn’t make the kick count any less. The Swede only spent two years playing organized football and still left an indelible mark on the game — even if you didn’t know who he was until today.