It was as bad a day as Chester Marcol is likely to have. He missed a field-goal attempt of 38 yards, one of his punts was blocked and his team, Hillsdale College of Michigan, suffered its most depressing loss of the season, 43-10 to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The fact that Marcol saved one touchdown by making an open-field tackle on a punt return, completed two passes from kick formation, averaged 44 yards on the seven punts that were not blocked and, before the game, warmed up with several 60-yard field goals—all that was of little consolation. Chester Marcol does these things frequently.
In case you are wondering what kind of kicker performs this way on a bad day, understand that Chester Marcol is hardly ordinary. He holds the modern collegiate records for longest field goal (62 yards) and most consecutive extra points (104) and has averaged better than 40 yards a punt in his career. In case you are wondering why you have never heard of Chester Marcol, keep wondering. As the prison boss said in Cool Hand Luke, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."
"It's hard to phone someone and tell him about Hillsdale College," says Mike Mills, a senior who performs a full-time sports information director's chores in addition to completing 17 hours of studies. "They just think it's another small college, but when a man is kicking, he should be judged on an equal basis with someone from the Big Ten or Southeastern Conference."
Evidently, though, some people think it is easier to kick a 60-yard field goal for a small college than for a major university. True, Hillsdale, a school of about 1,100 students some 80 miles southwest of Detroit, became a camping ground for writers and photographers the week after Marcol's 62-yarder in 1969, but publicity subsided quickly. People forgot quickly, too. When Bill McClard of Arkansas kicked a 60-yarder last year, the feat was at first reported as a modern record. When the mistake was noticed, the guilty ones often replied, "Oh, we meant NCAA record. Hillsdale is an NAIA school, and they don't count."
Oddly enough, the two people who should most resent Marcol's anonymity—Marcol and his coach, Frank (Muddy) Waters—are on the whole unperturbed. "I got enough publicity when I set the record," Marcol says. Adds Waters: "For us, being a small school like we are, we don't command the attention. We're happy to get any publicity at all. In this area alone, we're competing with Michigan and Eastern Michigan—both ranked teams."
Marcol and Waters speak with some prescience. At least half a dozen NFL teams have serious enough kicking problems to be on the lookout for top college prospects, and Marcol is likely to be the least-known first-round pick. Well, least known to the public. Gil Brandt, the superscout of the Dallas Cowboys, has a voluminous file on him, and Cleveland scout Lou Groza, who kicked more points than anyone in pro history, has said, "Marcol is the best kicker I've seen so far this year."
His punts, which are high enough to allow for good coverage, are just what the pros want. That his dual kicking talents will save pro teams one specialist enhances his attractiveness, of course. Only one pro—Dennis Partee ( San Diego)—is both punter and placekicker.
In his better-known capacity, placekicking, Marcol is already ahead of most pros. This season only four NFL regulars have missed fewer field goal attempts from inside the 40. Marcol is 2 for 3 from 40 to 49 yards and only some close calls from 50 and more, abetted by stiff winds and rain, have prevented him from joining the six pros who have hit from long range. Marcol attempted a 77-yarder on the last play of one game. It was five yards short and, as the students say, right on. Marcol has kicked eight field goals of 50 yards or more at Hillsdale. He was the first player selected for this year's Shrine Bowl, which indicates people other than pro scouts are getting the message, too.
Ever since he was Czeslaw Marcol, stopping soccer balls as the goalie for his town team in Opole, Poland back in the early 1960s, Marcol has been delivering the message in one language or another. He was such a good soccer player that when his mother decided to move the family in with relatives in Imlay City, Mich. upon the death of Chester's father in 1964, the town of Opole reputedly offered to buy Chester a house to keep him in Poland.
His introduction to America was relatively free of the usual cultural hazards. A girl cousin helped him through his early days at Imlay City High and a friendly teacher tutored him overtime in English. His soccer-style kicking talents were discovered in a gym class by a teacher named John Rowan, and it was just another step to the football field. While Imlay City people are vague about the length of his field goals—estimates of his longest range from 46 to 55—he was so accurate from short range that the only two extra points he missed as a senior were blocked.