New York Giants: 15 G-Men who changed the game forever

Odell Beckham, New York Giants. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Odell Beckham, New York Giants. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
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4 – Pete Gogolak

It’s quite odd that someone born and raised in Hungary until they were a teenager would make this list, let alone for two different reasons. But like his contributions, Pete Gogolak was anything but conventional in his heyday. Every kicker over the last 50 plus years, from middle school to the NFL has Gogolak to thank for their job.

His first impact was on how the ball was kicked. Gogolak was born in Europe where soccer is king. When he started watching American football, he wondered why the kickers came at the ball from what he considered to be an odd angle (straight on) and struck the ball with their toes. Gogalak experimented with soccer techniques such as coming at the ball from a diagonal and using his instep to make contact. It’s the way every kicker does it today. Consider Gogolak as the father of modern place kicking.

His second contribution to changing the game is a bit more obscure yet at the same time was a key factor in the NFL-AFL merger. In 1965, the New York Giants had a kicker named Bob Timberlake who made just one of his 15 field goal attempts. They were desperate for a quality kicker and owner Wellington Mara went to extreme measures to bring in a good one.

At the time, the owners had an unwritten agreement not to sign AFL players and create a bidding war. Gogolak used a clause in his contract that allowed him to become a free agent in 1966 after spending his first two seasons with the AFL’s Buffalo Bills. Mara’s controversial signing of Gogolak did just what owners feared, it drove up player salaries as teams tried to steal players from their competitors.

The financial impact of higher wages put teams from both leagues in financial straits. Eventually, economics forced the merger and it was all started by a kicker.

By the way, Gogalak played nine seasons for the Giants before retiring in 1975. He is still the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 646 points.