Strange But True: Field-Goal Tending

R.C. Owens, a pass receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts, had been a marvelous basketball player and high jumper in college. He had once led the nation in rebounds, at 27.7 per game, and he had high-jumped seven feet. Owens’s great ability to leap high made him valuable to the 49ers as a receiver, too. With his quarterback, Y.A. Tittle, Owens perfected a play called the Alley-Oop. Tittle would throw a high floating pass, and Owens would outjump the defensive players and catch the ball just as if it were a basketball rebound.

During one game in 1960, against the Detroit Lions, a Detroit field goal attempt barely cleared the crossbar. A teammate said jokingly to Owens, “I’ll bet you could’ve gotten that, R.C.”

Owens thought about that for a while. Both the basketball hoop and the football crossbar are ten feet off the ground. Although he was only 6-foot-3, he had blocked many basketball shots. Why couldn’t he do the same on a field goal attempt? San Francisco coach Red Hickey wouldn’t let him try it, but when Owens was traded to the Colts, coach Weeb Ewbank thought it wasn’t such a bad idea.

Owens first got a chance to try out his scheme when the Colts played the Washington Redskins. Bob Khayat of the Redskins attempted a field goal from the Baltimore 40-yard line. Owns waited under the crossbar. He had been practicing his block for a long time to get the timing right. The kick went off. The ball rose, and then as it began to descend, Owens flexed his legs and let go with a mighty leap. His fingers made contact with the ball and tipped it away.

The trick never caught on with other teams, probably because they didn’t have a leaper with Owens’s strength and timing. So Owens still holds the record for goal tending in football.

From Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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    • Why? The only reason I can imagine is that they are a bunch of spoilsports.

      I can see a rule against doing the Vincent Adultman thing and having guys standing on each others shoulders to do this, but if someone can jump that high, I say let them try. The NFL needs more weird things allowed, not fewer.

  1. probably not the place for it
    but i just watched butterbean fight cabbage…
    i think that qualifies as strange but true
    (also holy shit…i think when someones face breaks your elbow…you know your in trouble)

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