"Holy Toledo!"

December 10, 2007

Whatever Happened To The Barefoot Kicker?

Filed under: NFL — Bill @ 2:26 pm

Have shoes become less expensive? Have footballs become harder? Has shoe contracts become too lucrative? Are today’s kickers too soft?

I can’t recall the last time I saw a barefooted kicker. My wife & I were discussing the barefooted kickers this weekend so I decided to do some research on the subject. Here is what I discovered…

The First Barefooted Field Goal: Of course the original barefooted kicker was Tony Franklin of the Philadelphia Eagles. A star kicker from Texas A&M, Franklin was drafted by Dick Vermeil in the 3rd round (pick #74) of the 1979 NFL draft. The first ever FG by a barefooted kicker occurred in Veterans Stadium on September 2, 1979 when Franklin helped the Eagles defeat the NY Giants 23-17. The NFL had a rule that stated “no bare legs allowed” so Franklin would wear the top portion of a sock on his kicking leg. Franklin played in the NFL for 10 seasons (1979 to 1988) and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1985.

The Longest Barefooted FG: As a rookie Tony Franklin kicked a 59 yd. FG at Dallas on a Monday night November 12, 1979. At that time it was the 4th longest FG in NFL history. Three years earlier (on October 16, 1976) Franklin kicked a 65 yd. FG for Texas A&M setting the record for the longest FG in collegiate history. His record was broken later that same day when Ove Johansson kicked a 69 yd. FG (but Johansson wore a shoe). In that same game Franklin also kicked a 64 yd. FG, and he remains the only college player to ever kick two 60+ yard field goals in one game (with or without a shoe!).

The Most Famous Barefooted FG: In the 1987 AFC Championship game in Cleveland John Elway orchestrated what is now known as “The Drive.” Rich Karlis kicked the game tying PAT as well as the game winning FG in overtime to advance the Broncos into Super Bowl XXII vs. the Redskins.

The Most: In the 1984 there were 4 full-time barefooted kickers which appears to be the most in the league at one time. Those 4 were Franklin, Mike Lansford, Rich Karlis, & Paul McFadden. If you include punters you can add Jim Miller to the 1984 list of barefooted kickers.

The Last Barefooted FG: For the first seven weeks of the 2002 season Jeff Wilkins of the St. Louis Rams kicked barefooted. Despite hitting 9 of 12 FG’s Wilkins ended his barefoot experiment by putting on a shoe in week 8, thus officially ending the era of the barefoot kickers. Traditionalists criticized Wilkins because he wore a tightly wrapped ace bandage around his kicking foot.

Here is the best list I could come up with of the barefoot kickers (If you know of any I am forgetting let me know):

– Tony Franklin, kicker 1979-’88 Eagles, Patriots, & Dolphins

– Jim Miller, punter 1982-’84 & 1987 49ers, Cowboys, & Giants

– John Goodson, punter 1982 Steelers

– Rich Karlis, kicker 1982-’90 Broncos, Vikings, & Lions

– Dave Warnke, kicker 1983 Tampa Bay (he kicked one extra point barefooted)

– Paul McFadden, kicker 1984-’89 Eagles, Giants, & Falcons

– Mike Lansford, kicker 1982-’90 Rams

– Tommy Thompson 1997 49ers (kicked off barefooted but wore a shoe for punts)

– Jeff Wilkins, kicker Rams (barefooted for only 7 games of the 2002 season)


– The Patriots, barring some kind of miracle, will go 17-0. Move over Mercury Morris there is another ship about to dock in your harbor.

Look at the Patriots remaining schedule: They face the N.Y. Jets & Miami. New England won more games in the month of November than the Jets & Dolphins have won all season COMBINED. The Patriots final game is a Saturday night affair against the N.Y. Giants. By that time the G-Men will have a solid lock on the #5 spot in the NFC with no chance to improve or fall back. Sadly the game that will send the Patriots into the history books will be nothing more than a preseason type game.

(I still say that the Ravens should have beat the Pats but the refs robbed them!)

– The Oakland Raiders had their worst loss of the season Sunday. It was the first time all season they have not been close in the 4th quarter. It was nice to see Andrew Walter play QB. His throwing motion is like sweet music. Next up for the Raiders is Peyton Manning and the Colts in Oakland. I wouldn’t be surprised if JaMarcus plays a few series (Russell was the #3 QB yesterday so he wasn’t likely to play).



  1. What about Max Runnegar? I believe he punted barefoot for the Philadelphia Eagles in the early 1980s.

    Comment by RJ — January 11, 2008 @ 7:49 am

  2. Great post. I was thinking about this on the drive to work. Thanks for the research!

    Comment by Michael-thefatlossauthority — March 25, 2009 @ 9:23 am

    AT TENNESSEE 1972-1974

    Comment by RICKY TOWNSEND — June 3, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  4. No slight intended Ricky, my article was primarily discussing barefoot kicker of the NFL.

    Thanks for “volunteering” your comment.

    By the way, did you know former Vol O-lineman Mickey Marvin?


    Comment by Bill — June 9, 2009 @ 5:47 am

  5. The Eagles’ Roger Ruzek also kicked barefoot.

    Comment by Matt Brosseau — September 29, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  6. What about earliest barefoot kickers? A 1961 High School kicker in the State playoff’s in Texas from Dayton High School consistently kicked 50 yards and better. Punted barefoot and kicked off with shoe. Bubba Toler, 1961 Quarter Back and Linebacker for Dayton High School, Texas.

    Comment by Calvin Westcott — November 11, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

  7. Bit of a dead post time-wise, I know but still the list is the most comprehensive I’ve seen on the internet. Anyway, thought I’d add Lee Johnson, of The Oilers, who kicked off barefoot and swapped around for punts, sometimes shoe, sometimes not.

    Also, Mike Clendenen who place-kicked for the Broncos in the pre-season and strike season.

    There was also a barefoot placekicker at the Raiders during the strike season but I don’t remember his name, sorry bud.

    I kicked barefoot for my time around the Arena and CFL in the late 90’s. I sailed through my try-out for the Claymores in the then World League only to be busted by the weather in the final go-around, when torrential rain for three days turned the playing surface into a paddy-field and the bete noir of all barefoot guys came into play, as on mud it becomes very hard to push off from the second power step without slipping. Can still kick the odd 50+yd FG even at my decrepit age, so going naked must have something going for it!

    Comment by Graham Coia — September 16, 2010 @ 4:32 am

  8. I remember back in the 1970s the Oakland Raiders had a barefoot kicker…. was it Blanda? Don’t remember who is was, just remember always talking about it.

    Comment by Shesin — September 28, 2010 @ 5:46 am

    • Yes, Robin was my half brother and played for Denver 83 to 85′, barefoot as the story goes…

      Comment by Barb — February 5, 2017 @ 6:11 pm

  9. anyone ever heard of barefoot kicker robin olton?said he played for broncos 83 to 85

    Comment by bob secrest — February 23, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    • I work with Robin. He’s a great guy and fun to be around.

      Comment by bw — September 16, 2011 @ 11:03 am

      • He went to Wisconsin and has mentioned playing for the Broncos.

        Comment by bw — September 16, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  10. According to Pro Football Reference the kickers for the Broncos from 1983-85 were Rich Karlis (’83-’85), Luke Prestridge (’83), & Chris Norman (’84-’85). He also doesn’t come up on their player search. It’s possible he may have played during the preseason but he never made a kick during the NFL regular season.

    Comment by Bill — February 23, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

  11. Six years later: How about a barefoot punter? John Goodson, Steelers 1982.

    Comment by Jay — February 26, 2017 @ 1:30 pm

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