Kevin Fixler
    Sport Matters

17 November 2015

The NFL Pioneers Who Kicked Off Their Cleats


The temperatures in Cleveland had dropped below freezing. Unlike the local children, who were bundled up, one young man dressed only in polyester and wearing a single shoe ran around in the cold. The Browns were ahead and gunning for just their second playoff win in nearly 20 years when Denver’s Rich Karlis stepped onto the field — with a bare right foot and only 5:32 remaining on the clock.

The unexpected heroics of quarterback John Elway, who led the Broncos on “The Drive” in that ’86 AFC Championship Game and broke the hearts of the 80,000 Cleveland fans present, are the stuff of legend. Less well known was Karlis’ stunning contribution to one of Elway’s career highs: He kicked the game-tying extra point after a 98-yard drive to take it to overtime before once again pacing out to the frigid hash mark with everything on the line. When commentators remarked that Karlis’ 33-yard game-winning boot just barely toed it through, they were uncannily accurate … and he became one of the NFL’s most renowned barefoot kickers.

Read the story exclusively at OZY.

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