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Pete Gogolak Inducted to Ring of Honor

Q: Your thoughts about when you got the call from John Mara informing you that you would be inducted into the Ring of Honor.
A: It's a terrific honor. I was very flattered and I never expected something like this. The group of other players involved in this group, including me, is very exceptional and I'm very, very honored. I'm especially honored being a kicker with all of the other ball players. That's very exceptional.

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Q: Do you plan on coming on Sunday and have you been to the new stadium?
A: I have not seen the new stadium and I'm going to be there – absolutely. After I got that call, I was just thinking about how it's really amazing – the first time I kicked the football soccer style back in 1958, I guess…a lot of things have happened since then. The game really has changed and I guess just a culmination of all of the wonderful things that have happened to me.

Q: Do you remember when people first saw you kick soccer style? Were they skeptical about your ability to do that?
A: Well, I do remember that the first time was in high school and in college at Cornell. Nobody ever kicked the ball sideways soccer style and the resistance was really, nobody wants to hold the ball because – I'm talking 40-50 years ago – it was such a new way to kick a football and the holder was always afraid…well first of all, many times you couldn't find a holder…and the holder was afraid that, coming from the side, I would kick him in the butt or kick his hands. As a matter of fact, the first time in the pros, Jack Kemp, when I played in my rookie year with the Bills, Jack Kemp refused to hold the ball for me because of that. So, it was unusual. Since then, a lot of things have changed.

Q: Did you not vote for him for president because of that?
A: (Laughs) Well, he never got…he was in the primaries so he never got to that stage. But we had some very good holders for the Giants. We had Dick Shiner and Gary Wood and Tommy Blanchard was the old punter and so that's a real art form, how you hold that ball, so it's a very important part of the kicking game.

Q: Are you surprised your records have stood for this long? There have been a lot of kickers since you've been there…
A: Yeah. I'm very surprised. I still really don't know why…so many good kickers came and for some reason kickers just don't stay that long. I'm still puzzled by that and I really don't know the reason…I think kickers have a couple of good years and then have one bad game. A number of kickers for the Giants had maybe one or two bad games and then the kicker disappears – they bring in somebody else. So to have a staying power, that's very hard. I think that New York is a very tough place to do well. You admire kickers like David Akers in Philadelphia – the guy has been there about 15 years…some good teams and bad teams. So something like that is very exceptional and I really don't quite understand the changeover. I think this happens with both the Jets and the Giants. I have no idea since I left how many other kickers went through there. It's a very exceptional…very terrific…great percentages…good guys…Matt Bahr was there and Feely and a couple of other guys. I mean, they were exceptional kickers – Matt Bryant, who is a guy that is still kicking, I thought he was a very good kicker and for some reason it's tough to stay in New York.

Q: Do you think that's because of the conditions at Giants Stadium? It was a tough place to kick…
A: I don't know. Yankee and Shea Stadiums…they were open ended, tough places to kick. The artificial surface really helps – I think that's a real plus for kickers and, of course, the indoor stadium helps a lot. I really don't know the new stadium…or the previous stadium…but you could be right. Maybe because of the conditions and it's tough to control so that might be a reason.

Q: Was it an easy decision for you to jump from the AFL to the NFL with the Giants?
A: Well, it's a decision I made when I was with the Bills. I was not drafted by the NFL out of college and the Bills drafted me – I think that I was the very last draft choice. Interestingly enough, the only reason that the Bills drafted me was because they had a scout that came to Cornell two weeks before the draft and I had to do a little kicking for him, but in any event, back in those days, they had no specialists. The team was 33 players and most of the time the kicker also played other positions, but I had a very good rookie year in the AFL and we couldn't come to contract terms and I decided to play out my option and I couldn't have been happier when the Giants picked me up after…you know, you sign for one year, you have a one year option, so you're obligated to play for two years and after my contract ran out, nobody in the AFL picked me up but the Giants picked me up and I have never forgotten that Wellington Mara had the guts to pick a player up from the other league and I think it was very courageous of a decision to make so I'm very happy about it.

Q: How did you make the transition from soccer to football in the first place? When did you start playing football?
A: Well, I was a soccer player back in the old country as a youngster and then we came over here when I was 15 years old and my high school in upstate New York didn't have a soccer team and I saw that everybody was playing football. As a matter of fact, I had never seen a football game before I came over here and it's a funny thing – the first time I saw a football game was on television and Lou Groza was kicking the ball straight on and I said to my father, 'Hey Dad, what a funny way to kick a football.' You know, soccer players kick it from the side. I got really interested in the game so in my junior year of high school I tried out for the team and nobody ever kicked in those days and I just said, hey this is something I can do and this is an actual way to kick – whether it's a parabola shaped football or a round shaped soccer ball – this is an actual way to kick a ball, so I just really worked at it during a couple of summers and I said, this is something that can be done and I went to college and then my brother Charlie, two years later, got into this and then a couple of years later…they brought in some kickers from Europe. I always say that I should have patented this kick. I'd be a rich man today.


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