Packers Linemen Doubling as Field Goal Kickers
When guard T.J. Lang booted a pair of field goals at the end of the Green Bay Packers annual Family Night scrimmage in early August, fans got a glimpse of a lineman doubling as a kicker.
Years ago, the idea of a beefy blocker toeing the ball wasn’t so unusual. The Packers, in fact, have had four linemen who scored more than 50 points on field goals and extra points in their career.
Cub Buck (54 points – 10 field goals, 24 extra points)
Cub Buck was a mainstay on the Packers line during their first five years as professionals. Green Bay played 50 league games between 1921 and 1925 and Buck played in 49 of those.
According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Buck started five of the Packers’ six games at right tackle in 1921 and one at left tackle. Beginning in 1922, the 250-pound lineman settled in at left tackle and made 41 straight starts there until an injury kept him out on Nov. 26, 1925.
In 1921, Curly Lambeau accounted for all the scoring from placement. He again kicked in 1922 but allowed others, including Buck, to join the action.
Buck’s first successful boot came on Nov. 5, 1922. A 25-yarder, the kick was the only score in Green Bay’s 3-0 win over the Columbus Panhandles.
In 1923, Buck led the team in scoring for the first and only time. He scored 23 points on six field goals (a team record that stood for 17 years) and five extra points.
Beginning with a 12-0 victory over the Milwaukee Badgers on Oct. 21, Buck booted one field goal on each of six consecutive Sundays. His two longest successes were from 38 yards out. His shortest effort, a 20-yarder, downed the St. Louis All-Stars 3-0 on Nov. 4.
Buck was good on three field goals in 1924. He had only one attempt in 1925, and he missed it wide left.
Ernie Smith (60 points – 6 field goals, 42 extra points)
Ernie Smith was one of just two lineman (Lon Evans the other) to play in every regular-season game for the Packers from 1935 through 1937. When not manning his tackle spot, Smith found time to do a little kicking.
Smith’s first year with Green Bay was also the first for Don Hutson. Smith’s first kick, an extra point against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Oct. 6, 1935, came after Hutson scored his second touchdown as a pro.
Smith attempted three field goals in 1935. His only success was a 22-yarder that opened the scoring in Green Bay’s 20-10 loss to the Lions in mid-November.
A year later, Smith led the team with 17 PATs. He also kicked four field goals.
Smith got that season off on the right foot in the opener against the Chicago Cardinals. Not only was Green Bay’s starting left tackle credited with six tackles (tied for third on the team), he nailed a 23-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that brought about a hard-fought, 10-7 win.
The Packers finished 10-1 in 1936 and won the NFL championship. Smith’s 29 points were third most on the team behind the 54 of Hutson and the 31 of Clarke Hinkle.
Smith’s workload decreased in 1937. He attempted only two field goals with one success, a 29-yarder in a 24-14 win over the Bears on Nov. 7.
Smith played one more season (1939), connecting on three of four extra point attempts. He did not attempt any field goals.
In early September 1940, Smith left the team to take over the family business in California.
Paul (Tiny) Engebretsen (85 points – 14 field goals, 43 extra points)
Paul (Tiny) Engebretsen became the first player in Packers history to kick two game-winning, fourth-quarter field goals. He booted one in 1936 and the second in 1938.
And unlike Cub Buck and Ernie Smith, Engebretsen kicked a field goal in a game against the Packers before he was a Packer.
Engebretsen broke in with the Chicago Bears in 1932. The Packers and Bears met three times that season, with Green Bay holding the Monsters of the Midway scoreless the first two times.
On Dec. 11, Green Bay wrapped its season on snow-covered Wrigley Field. Scoring again was hard to come by until Engebretsen kicked a short field goal in the fourth quarter. Bronko Nagurski followed with a 51-yard touchdown run and the Bears triumphed 9-0.
Two years later, Engebretsen was a Packer. As the decade wore on, the team increased its reliance on his toe.
In 1935, the Lions (7-3-2) edged the Packers (8-4) for first place in the Western Division. On Oct. 18, 1936, the two teams met again.
Engebretsen opened the scoring with a 40-yard field goal on the Packers’ second possession. He closed the scoring with an 18-yarder that came with less than three minutes to go as Green Bay (4-1) handed Detroit (3-1) its first loss of the season, 20-18.
Two years later he sank the Cardinals with a last-minute kick. His 20-yard effort with less than a minute remaining toppled Chicago 24-22, and Green Bay again went on to win the Western Division title.
Engebretsen scored a career-high 30 points in 1939. In 1941, the 31-year-old Engebretsen opened the Packers’ scoring for the season with a 36-yard field goal against the Lions in a 23-0 rout, then was released two days later by coach Curly Lambeau.
Jerry Kramer (177 points – 29 field goals, 90 extra points)
When talking about records that likely will never be broken, Jerry Kramer holds three. The Packers fourth-round draft choice in 1958 owns team records for most points by a lineman in a career (177), season (91) and game (15).
Given that lineman no longer moonlight as kickers, those marks are likely to stand the test of time.
Kramer was first called upon to kick after Paul Hornung injured his right knee in Week 5 of the 1962 season. He then filled in for Hornung in 1963 after the latter was suspended indefinitely for gambling. Five years later, he took his turn along with three others as coach Phil Bengtson tried to find a reliable kicker in the wake of Don Chandler’s retirement.
Kramer’s turn as kicker got off to a great start. He connected on nine of 11 tries (81.8 percent) in 1962. That was by far the best success rate of any player who attempted at least 10 field goals that season in the NFL.
A year later, Kramer might have joined Lou (the Toe) Groza as the second lineman to lead the league in scoring. Instead, his accuracy declined down the stretch and his 91 points ranked fourth best behind Chandler of the Giants (106), Jim Martin of the Colts (104) and Lou Michaels of the Steelers (95).
On Nov. 3, 1963, Kramer nailed field goals of 23, 36, 12 and 37 yards in a 15-point outburst against the Steelers. Green Bay won easily 33-14 to improve to 7-1.
Midweek, when NFL statistics came out, Kramer (71 points) trailed only Cleveland’s Jim Brown (72). Kramer’s field goal accuracy (62.5 percent on 15 of 24 kicking) was among the best.
Kramer, it appeared, was ready to make a run at the league scoring title. Unfortunately, the guard from Idaho got cold feet. In the final six weeks, Kramer made just one of 10 field goal attempts.
Kramer’s final turn as kicker came in 1968. In a season-opening, 30-13 win over the Eagles, he was perfect on three tries.
But as he had done earlier, Kramer went into a slump. He made just one of his next six attempts and gave way to running back Chuck Mercein and others as Green Bay failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1964.
Most Point, No Touchdowns, Season
In 1983, the NFL added a new entry to its record manual: most points, no touchdowns, season. Cub Buck, Ernie Smith, Paul Engebretsen and Jerry Kramer were all part of the evolution of the Packers’ version of that record.
Buck established the record in 1922 with six points. A year later, he increased it to 23 points.
That remained the standard until Smith put up 29 points in 1936. Three years later, Engebretsen accounted for 30 points with four field goals and 18 extra points.
As time passed, halfback Ward Cuff (51 points in 1947) and fullback Fred Cone (54 in 1954; 78 in 1955) pushed the record ever higher. In 1963, Jerry Kramer reclaimed it for the linemen with 91 points.
Kramer’s life at the top was short-lived. Don Chandler cast him aside with 96 points in 1967, and the record has rested on the foot of kicking specialists ever since.