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Remembering Ben Agajanian, kicker for 1956 champion Giants


Ben Agajanian, who played five seasons with the Giants and was part of the 1956 championship team, has passed away:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Ben Agajanian, who kicked two field goals in the 1956 NFL Championship Game and who had been the oldest surviving Giants player, passed away on Feb. 8 in Cathedral City, Calif. He was 98.

Agajanian played for the Giants in 1949 and again from 1954-57 as part of a 10-team, 13-season NFL, AFL and All-America Football Conference career that actually spanned 19 years. He kicked 46 field goals and scored 295 points in his five Giants seasons. On Dec. 30, 1956, his first-quarter field goals from 17 and 43 yards helped give the Giants a 13-point lead on their way to a 47-7 rout of the Chicago Bears in the title game in Yankee Stadium.

"Ben was one of my first coaches in 1988 as I was transitioning from soccer to football," said Brad Daluiso, who kicked for the Giants from 1993-2000, and is the third-leading scorer in franchise history, with 526 points. "Ben was a UCLA 'scout,' and I was told to see him, and that if he liked what he saw he would let UCLA know.  Shortly thereafter, I was a Bruin. I taught at the Ben Agajanian Kicking Camp for years, traveling with Ben from California to Arizona, Texas and even Arkansas, giving lessons to high school and college kids.

"Ben will be missed.  I know he was very proud of my NFL career, and I owe much of it to him."

"I got to know Ben when I was just getting into the NFL back in 1984," said Joe Prokop, who punted for six NFL teams, including one game with the Giants in 1992. "He was a great man. and a gentle soul."

Agajanian, who played at the University of New Mexico, began his NFL career in 1945, when he played one game for Philadelphia before being traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers, for whom he was a reserve defensive end until he broke an arm. He then kicked while wearing a sling.

According to the Times, Agajanian took a year off to start a sporting goods business. He returned to football in 1947 for the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America conference and kicked a league-high 15 field goals. In his two seasons with the Dons he became solely a kicker and scored 130 points.

Agajanian "retired" several times, but kept returning to football. He played 12 games for the Giants in '49, but didn't resurface again until 1953, when he played for the Los Angeles Rams. Agajanian returned to the Giants a year later.

He sat out the 1958-59 seasons before joining the AFL's Los Angeles Chargers in 1960. Agajanian also played for the Dallas Texans, Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders in 1961-62, took the 1963 season off, and finished his career with the Chargers, then based in San Diego, in 1964.

Agajanian's NFL-AAFL totals included 84 field goals in 165 attempts, 272 extra points, and 525 points.

Although those numbers are relatively modest, they are remarkable because of what Agajanian overcame to compile them. While in college he worked for a soft-drink bottling company and in the spring of he was riding in the company's open freight elevator when a concrete wall crushed his right foot, severing four toes.

Agajanian was told his football career was finished. His response was to find a specially-designed square-toe shoe and was still kicking 23 years later.
After retiring, he tutored kickers for the Dallas Cowboys, whose Pro Football Hall of Fame coach, Tom Landry, had played and coached for the Giants from 1950-59. Agajanian also assisted the kicking games of other N.F.L. teams, and taught thousands of young kickers at his camps and clinics in Southern California.

A pair of his shoes went on display at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1974.

Landry remained perhaps Agajanian's most ardent backer, even recommending in 1994 that his former teammate deserved to be enshrined in the Hall. Landry said Agajanian had "done more for the kicking game in both college and the pros in the past 50 years than anybody I know."

Benjamin James Agajanian was born on Aug. 28, 1919, in Santa Ana, Calif., to James T. Agajanian, who built a thriving trash collection company, and the former Hamas Kardashian. His parents were Armenian immigrants.

In addition to his daughter Lynne, Agajanian's survivors include another daughter, Lori Hinkle; a son, Lewis; 10 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. His wife, the former Arleen Phelps, died in 2007. His brother J. C. Agajanian, who died in 1984, owned racecars that twice won the Indianapolis 500.

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