Sebastien Janikowski's record equalling field goal has shown how far he has come with the Oakland Raiders.
Janikowski's showing how far he has come for the Raiders
A decade ago, Sebastian Janikowski was working on a record. A police record.
The young NFL kicker had accumulated three arrests for bar fights, dating to his college days, and three more for drug possession, driving under the influence and attempting to bribe an officer.
It was no coincidence that Janikowski was drafted and then retained through the tumult by the Oakland Raiders, who apply a different definition of "character" to their player selection.
The team backed Janikowski until he modified his behaviour and matured. Patience paid off as he tied for the league lead with 33 field goals last year, then opened this season with three more, notably one of 63 yards that equalled the NFL's long-distance mark.
Finally, a different sort of record.
"I had a dream that I broke the record, and it was here in Denver," he said.
The dream was not far-fetched. Oakland plays yearly in the mile-high city, the site of a previous 63-yard cannon shot by Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos.
"The ball really carries here," Janikowski said. "To be honest, I didn't really hit it good. It cleared by, like, only one yard."
Janikowski's backstory is not an unusual one for an NFL kicker. He is foreign-born, the son of a Polish football player.
The family relocated to the United States when Sebastian was a child. He took up European football before turning to the American game of the same name but vastly different rules.
Where Janikowski differs from the stereotype of the little foreign player is his size. At 6ft 2in and 250 pounds, he boasts the dimensions of a linebacker.
He has proved durable, never missing a stretch of games in a career that has entered a 12th year.
His powerful left leg changes the dynamics of a game.
"Don't let the Raiders get to the 50, especially if there's any wind at all," Chan Gailey, the Buffalo Bills coach, said. "If they get to the 50, you start getting nervous."
Sixty-three yards, just shy of two-thirds of a football field, was first covered in 1970 by Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints. Because he was born with a toeless right foot, Dempsey wore a special kicking shoe, almost square in shape.
Thought by some to have given Dempsey an unfair advantage, the shoe raised questions on whether his record should be recognised. It was but, seven years later, the league passed a rule that the footwear's surface must conform to that of a normal kicking shoe.
The Raiders contend that Janikowski's effort was from 64 yards, which would make him the sole record holder, and have appealed to the league.
They are likely to be denied. But Janikowski can take another crack at history when the Raiders return to Denver next season.