Before Atlanta, Mazzetti had flunked tryouts with the Patriots, Eagles, Jets, Cowboys and Saints, and was happy to be clearing $200 a week while working the 10-to-2 graveyard shift at Smokey Joe's, a joint near the campus of his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. "After I failed in Dallas, I decided the hell with it," Mazzetti says. "I started concentrating on becoming a derelict again. Then I got the call from New Orleans. The coach [ Dick Nolan] told me I had a good foot but that I was out of shape. That woke me up. When Atlanta called I was ready. And when they told me I had the job, I just freaked."
Mazzetti outkicked Long and Hans Nielsen to win the Falcons' job. He had his first field-goal attempt blocked by the 49ers but kicked a game-winning 29-yarder on the next to last play, earning a game ball. Against the Rams he connected from 21, 37, 30, 26 and 37 yards. "Even if I do fade into oblivion, they can never take these two games away from me," Mazzetti says.
Nick Lowery was waiting on tables at The Bull's Eye Restaurant and Tavern in Hanover, N.H. when he heard about the Patriots' kicking problems. (In one game, New England had to use its second punter of the year, Jerrel Wilson, as a placekicker; perhaps predictably, Wilson had an extra-point attempt blocked.) Lowery, who had kicked for Dartmouth and was cut by the Jets in August, borrowed a friend's car, drove to Foxboro and asked for a tryout. The holders had all gone home, so Coach Chuck Fairbanks held the ball for Lowery. He got the job. So far, a wonderful story. But after two games, with Lowery 7 for 7 on extra points and 0 for 1 on field-goal attempts, the Patriots dropped him because of his short kickoffs. His replacement was David Posey, late of the 49ers, Falcons and Lions and almost of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith. Posey canceled a job interview with the brokerage firm to answer his true calling.
Szaro, a Harvard graduate, was New Orleans' regular kicker at the beginning of the season, but when he pulled a groin muscle the Saints summoned Leypoldt. After two games, for which he was paid $3,000 apiece, Leypoldt, who had been 4 for 5 on extra points and 2 for 3 on field-goal attempts, was told by Nolan that he "hadn't worked out." The next contestant was Steve Mike-Mayer, but on the Thursday before his first game as a Saint, Mike-Mayer pulled a back muscle. Nolan had to use Running Back Tony Galbreath for one point-after attempt, but Galbreath missed so badly that he didn't get a second chance. So Szaro, who couldn't swing his regular kicking foot, the left, kicked with his right foot. He made a 20-yard field goal, but after the game he was placed on the injured reserve list. New Orleans later tried Tom Jurich, who had been cut by the Steelers, but he missed three field goals in his first game, against the 49ers. Exit Jurich. Enter Steve Mike-Mayer again.
Meanwhile, in West Seneca, Leypoldt sits at the counter of the Cue & Chalk, making change. "I'll be in somebody's camp next year," he says.