Scandinavian American Spotlight– Jan Stenerud Hall of Famer

Jan Stenerud

Public Domain

born November 26, 1942 is a NorwegianAmerican former football placekicker who played in the National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL) for 19 seasons, primarily with Kansas City Chiefs. The first Norwegian NFL player, he began his career in the AFL after being selected by the Chiefs during the 1966 draft and joined the NFL following the AFL–NFL merger. Along with his 13 seasons in Kansas City, Stenerud was a member of the Green Bay Packers for four seasons and the Minnesota Vikings for two seasons until retiring in 1985.

Born in Fetsund, in the county of AkershusNorway to parents Johan Stenerud, and Klara (Kjustad) Stenerud, Stenerud came to the United States as a college student, on a ski jumping scholarship to Montana State University in Bozeman.  In the fall of 1964, Stenerud was training for the upcoming ski season by running the stadium steps of Gatton Field, the football venue through 1971. That day, he was cooling down from a workout by kicking a football with injured halfback Dale Jackson. Stenerud had played soccer as a youth in Norway, and his right leg’s prowess was observed by basketball head coach Roger Craft, while he walked to the nearby Fieldhouse.  Craft notified football head coach Jim Sweeney of the Norwegian ski jumper’s kicking abilities, and Sweeney offered him a tryout, which was successful. Though ineligible for football competition that season, Sweeney encouraged Stenerud to suit up with the team for the final home game of 1964, to help him better understand the unfamiliar American game.

Following the ski season, Stenerud joined the football team for spring drills in 1965 and as a junior that fall he kicked a 59-yard field goal, then a college football record, in a 24–7 home win over rival Montana.  In 2013, Stenerud recalled that he had a significant tail-wind aiding him on that kick in Bozeman; the ensuing kick-off went over the end-zone bleachers at Gatton Field, whose elevation exceeded 4,900 feet (1,495 m) above sea level.  He was named an All-American by The Sporting News as a senior in 1966, and was also an All-American in ski jumping and a three-time Big Sky champion.

The 6-2, 187-pound Stenerud excelled for 19 seasons and 263 games in pro football. He never missed a game because of injury or illness. He kicked for the Chiefs for 13 years (1967-1979) until his release in the summer of 1980. Three months later, he signed a free agent contract with the Green Bay Packers, with whom he stayed with for four seasons. In 1984, the Packers traded Stenerud to the Minnesota Vikings for a seventh-round draft choice. He retired after the 1985 season.

Stenerud was a six-time all-star (four NFL Pro Bowls and two AFL All-Star games) during his career, as well as a four-time first-team All-Pro in the NFL and a two-time first-team All-AFL. The season prior to the AFL–NFL merger, he also helped the Chiefs win their first Super Bowl title in Super Bowl IV. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991 as the first exclusive placekicker to receive the honor.

Stenerud is the first “pure” placekicker to enter the Hall. His list of outstanding achievements is long. With 1,699 points, he ranked behind only the fabled George Blanda in all-time scoring at the time of his retirement.

His 373 career field goals and seven seasons of scoring 100 or more points were also NFL records. He kicked 17 field goals over 50 yards, and his personal best was a 55-yarder against Denver in 1970.

In the Chiefs’ upset victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, Stenerud’s three field goals, including a then-Super Bowl record 48-yarder, accounted for the first nine points. A six-time all-league selection, Stenerud played in two AFL All-Star Games and in four AFC-NFC Pro Bowls. He was named the Outstanding Offensive Player in the 1972 Pro Bowl.

Excerpted from Wikipedia and the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.

Next issue of the TDT will feature another “Hall of Famer” of Norwegian ancestry!