How An NFL Kicker Kicked A Touchdown To Himself

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue with the statement that being an NFL kicker is the most thankless job in sports. A kicker could go an entire season drilling kick after kick and the most appreciation they get is an occasional high-five from an offensive lineman. That's about as good as it gets. They get laughed at on the odd occasions when they try to make a tackle (all right, that usually is pretty funny), and if they miss one field goal when the pressure is on they get chased out of town by a mob of angry fans faster than you can say "double doink." (There's a particularly embarrassing incident posted on YouTube.)

Chester Marcol was one of the rare kickers who was greatly appreciated by his team and fans alike. Marcol played most of his career with the Green Bay Packers, per Pro Football Reference, and in a 1980 matchup with the Packers' greatest rival — the Chicago Bears — the sure-footed kicker found himself at the center of a highly unusual game-winning play, per Yahoo! Sports. The man known as the Polish Prince managed to collect a blocked field goal and usher it into the end zone for a walk-off Packer's victory.

Chester Marcol's unlikely path to the NFL

Czesław "Chester" Marcol was born in Poland and came to the United States after his father's death, according to Yahoo! Sports. Marcol didn't speak any English upon his arrival in the United States, but after his family settled near Flint, Michigan, a gym teacher at his school noticed that he possessed quite the leg. His kicking ability had been confined to soccer until he was introduced to American football, and it was clear that Marcol had something special. He went on to play at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, where he was a four-time All-American with a series of mind-blowing kicks to his credit, including a 62-yard bomb in 1969. He also attempted a completely absurd 77-yarder and missed it, but only barely.

According to the Green Bay Packers, Marcol used a soccer-style approach to kicking, which was starting to trickle into the NFL in the early-1970s but was still far from the norm. Marcol's talents caught the attention of Packers coach Dan Devine, so much so that he used the team's second-round pick to take Marcol 34th overall in the 1972 NFL Draft, per Pro Football Reference. Marcol made an impact immediately and in his rookie season he led the league in points scored with 128 and was named the NFC's rookie of the year.

Marcol's unlikely touchdown

Marcol became a thorn in the Chicago Bears' side. Bears coach Abe Gibron had to assign Gary Kosins — who was highly regarded for his ability on special teams — to take care of their rival's secret weapon in Chester Marcol, per Yahoo Sports. It was Gibron who gave Marcol his famous nickname, the Polish Prince. While Gibron meant it as an insult, it was enthusiastically embraced by Marcol and the Polish community. By 1980, Marcol's effectiveness had started to decline, but he was still a reliable kicker when called upon, especially in what became one of his finest moments.

It was the first game of the 1980 season, and the Bears and Packers were in overtime, knotted at 6-6. All six Green Bay points had come courtesy of Chester Marcol — donning his now trademark glasses and single-bar facemask — who had drilled field goals from 41 and 46 yards earlier in the game. He lined up for a comparative chip shot of 34 yards to clinch a win for the Packers. The snap came and Marcol seemed to have gotten all of the ball with his right foot, but it didn't go far because Bears defensive tackle Alan Page managed block the kick. The ball then landed right in Marcol's mitts and he scampered into the end zone for a touchdown that secured a Packers win.

A surprising postscript to Marcol's touchdown

What the fans at Lambeau Field wouldn't have realized that day was that their heroic kicker was in the midst of an off-field battle with substance abuse. According to Yahoo! Sports, just weeks before the game against the Bears, Marcol had been introduced to cocaine and his addiction had gotten to the point that he needed to use the drug during the game itself.

While discussing his famous touchdown in his 2011 book "Alive and Kicking," Marcol revealed that he had dashed into the end zone just a few hours after using cocaine. "I had gone into the bathroom at halftime and while the coaches and players were preparing for the second half, I snorted coke," he wrote. Marcol went on to say that he didn't know if it was accurate to say he was high when he crossed into the goal line, but he was undoubtedly under the influence. "It's not something I'm proud to admit. But it happened, and to tell the story of my touchdown without including the part about the cocaine would not be an honest account."

According to the Green Bay Packers, just one month after scoring his now-famous game-winning touchdown, the club placed him on waivers, and was subsequently claimed by the Houston Oilers. While it had been thought that the reason Marcol had been waived had to do with a dip in his production, it was eventually revealed that Packers' brass had caught wind of his drug use.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).