Fall was upon them in Abilene, Texas. Overcast skies and the crisp 58-degree air resembled the breath of a peppermint. The wind? Seventeen miles per hour with a 12 miles per hour tailwind. Sixty-nine yards was all that stood in the best way of Ove Johansson and historical past.
Forty-four years in the past, Johansson kicked a 69-yard subject aim towards East Texas State, changing into the record-holder for the longest subject aim in school soccer historical past.
Homecoming weekend introduced the group on Oct. 16, 1976 to Abilene Christian College and Shotwell Stadium. The stands had been brimming with college students, college, workers, dad and mom, alumni. They knew one document could be damaged that day. Wilbert Montgomery was a landing shy of surpassing fellow Mississippi native Walter Payton’s profession collegiate landing document (63). What they did not know of was the dialogue that preceded the sport between ACU teammates Johansson and Montgomery. Each agreed to set information that day.
Two of Johansson’s pregame warmup kicks had been good from 70 yards.
“The leg was working,” Johansson informed NCAA.com in 2019.
Wilbert scored his long-anticipated landing. That did not pressurize Johansson, however one thing peculiar peaked his adrenaline. Ten minutes earlier than he and the Wildcats’ particular groups unit gathered at their very own 41-yard line, Tony Franklin of Texas A&M kicked a 65-yard subject aim (and a 64-yarder later within the recreation) towards Baylor to take full possession of the longest subject aim in school soccer historical past.
“It was thrilling to get on that subject realizing if I make this subject aim then I’ll do one thing that nobody has ever carried out within the sport,” Johansson mentioned.
The kicking gods traveled 270 miles up the street from School Station to sprinkle magic kicking mud onto Johansson’s proper foot in Abilene. He was on track from 69 yards out, a lot that the officers mentioned it could’ve been good from 75 yards.
Some individuals wish to view the kick as a fluke, that mystical powers had been at work that day, that the wind gave the ball an additional life — something to promote Johansson’s achievement quick.
Even the officiating crew was in the least amused.
“One of many refs bought form of upset as a result of he needed to stroll all the best way down there (to retrieve the ball),” Johansson laughed via his Swedish-Texan accent.
He did not know that he would make it, however he knew he was succesful.
Many say the purpose at which his foot met the soccer appeared like a shotgun. Those self same individuals believed the huddle at Abilene’s 41-yard line was a faux. Johansson might hear laughter as he took formation. “However my spouse April mentioned, ’10-15 seconds earlier than you kicked, you would hear a needle fall within the stadium.”
This is precise footage of the record-breaking kick:
Ron Hadfield, Abilene’s former editor of the coed newspaper The Optimist and present editor of the college’s alumni journal, remembers masking the sport from the sidelines that day. He remembers individuals asking coach Wally Bullington why he tried to kick a subject aim from that spot on the sphere.
Bullington responded, “Properly, we would have liked three factors.”
Johansson had solely kicked 4 collegiate subject targets earlier than that recreation. Rising up in Sweden, the vast majority of his life was spent on a soccer pitch. Mockingly, his dream of enjoying soccer moved him to Irving, Texas, in 1972 and to Dallas the place he performed for a European group.
Every cease led to a different important level in his life. A lady within the stands caught his eye throughout a recreation, and he spent halftime utilizing the 24 phrases of English he knew to amass her telephone quantity. He succeeded, and the pair dated for 5 to 6 months till he bought a name.
Whereas taking up a group in Colorado Springs, Davis and Elkins School’s soccer coach witnessed Johansson’s play, and shortly after, supplied him a soccer scholarship. He moved to West Virginia and have become an All-American.
The childhood recreation he adored and moved throughout an ocean for couldn’t evaluate, nonetheless, to the woman in Texas. April was enrolled at Abilene Christian and Johansson sacrificed his athletic scholarship to observe go well with. The Wildcats didn’t have a males’s soccer group, so in an effort to keep in Abilene, he needed to check out for the soccer group. Two kickers already held a spot on the group, and Bullington gave Johansson a pity tryout.
In hindsight, there was nothing pitiful about it. “I mentioned, ‘This little child’s going to fly,’ and I kicked off and it went via the uprights and over the chain size fence of the athletic dorm.”
Coach Bullington replied, “Ove, you simply made the group.”
On the conclusion of the season, he was picked within the twelfth spherical of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers, changing into the oldest participant drafted in NFL historical past at 28 years, 281 days previous and the primary Swedish-born participant within the NFL.
He spent three years bouncing round three completely different groups.
At this time, Saturdays are for soccer. At 6 a.m. Johansson channels his childhood self and activates the tv. Viewing the 110-yard subject with soccer aim posts on reverse ends via the LED lit field, he remembers the 1958 FIFA World Cup. He was alleged to attend the every-four-year occasion in his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden that 12 months. Vicariously, he lives via the Premier League now, and another televised soccer occasions.
The Swede continues on the soccer subject serving to mentor native highschool kickers. He is nonetheless married to April, the lady he fell in love on the soccer recreation, the identical lady he sacrificed his soccer dream for. It has led him onto a path of many successes personally and professionally.
And other people nonetheless ask him to talk about that miraculous day in 1976.