I was in Chicago that night and in Green Bay the next morning for the 10:30 workout. It was November now, and the ground was frozen. A raw wind blew off Lake Michigan. The first day I wasn't affected, but toward the end of the week I began to get sore. My kickoffs weren't going anywhere. I had bragged in my wire I could kick 70 yards. I was doing 55.
Bengtson asked me to try some field goals from the 46-yard line. I told him in the wire I could reach from 60 yards. I barely made it from the 46.
I decided it had to be the cold and the fact that I tried to do too much the first day. So I rested on Thursday and loosened up with a swim in an indoor pool. On Friday I went out early—and the difference was amazing. I really began to boom them. Now if I could just get Bengtson to see.
I set everything up, waiting for him to walk onto the field. As soon as he came out I was going to kick off. He came out all right, but he was with another guy, deep in conversation, and my kick sailed unnoticed. I began to panic. Other players were coming out. I kicked another one, but he didn't see it. He was still talking. Finally I went to him and interrupted the conversation.
"Do you have a minute, Coach? I want you to see some kicks."
"Yeah, go ahead," he said, "I can see you from here."
I went back and took one, but I hurried it, and it didn't go. I screamed for a guy to throw me back the balls. I grabbed one hurriedly and set it up. Time was running out. In two or three minutes the whistle would blow for the start of practice. A terrible thought occurred to me: I would be cut before the whistle.
I ran around getting balls, setting one up and then almost fainting when the wind blew it over. I had to go set it up again and recount my steps. When I was ready I turned and waved to Coach Bengtson. I knew I looked amateurish. I knew I was forcing the issue. But I also knew you could practice six months and be gone in six minutes. He had to see these kicks. In three minutes I could be gone!
Then I hit one. It rose in a beautiful high arc, a joy to behold, and landed in the end zone. In two years Green Bay hadn't had a kicker who could put the ball in the end zone. I knew, then, I had opened his eyes. Even his voice changed. "Yeah, that was a good one," he said. I could sense his surprise.
Now he was interested. Now I could take my time. Now I could carefully count my steps, carefully tee up. I boomed another one, high and deep. And then another. Somebody said, "Look at that little guy kick that ball." The whistle blew for the start of practice, and I almost collapsed with relief.