THE NAVIGATION TOOL TO HISTORICAL PAGES ON THIS WEB SITE ARE AT THE TOP OF THIS SCREEN. THE SITES ARE "TLSN", "SPORTS", "GUEST WRITERS", "MISSIONS", "ARTICLES" , "LOST TOO SOON", AND "SENTRY".
8 months ago I mentioned in a queue release that Jon DeSilva was producing a documentary about Fred Bednarski. In October 2016 the trailer was released. A link to the site about The Kicker is below.
BELOW IS THE TEXT TO A PORTION OF THE DOCUMENTARY ABOUT LONGHORN FOOTBALL PLAYER FRED BEDNARSKI'S FASCINATING LIFE. Edited for the TLSN site by Billy Dale
CHEERS ERUPT FROM HIS TEAMMATES IN THEIR COLORFUL, MATCHING TEAM JERSEYS AND SHORTS AND IN THE GRANDSTAND NO ONE CHEERS LOUDER OR MORE ECCLESIASTICALLY THAN FRED BEDNARSKI AS HE JUMPS TO HIS FEET IN CELEBRATION AT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS 8 YEAR-OLD GRAND-SON MILES AT HIS SATURDAY YOUTH SOCCER GAME, MILES LOOKS UP FROM FIELD LEVEL ABOVE THE FENCE AND SPIES HIS GRANDFATHER CLAPPING AND CALLING OUT TO HIM "WAY TO GO , SON!"
HIS MOTHER IS NOT THERE TO SEE THE JOY, AS SHE IS HUDDLED ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CAMP IN THE COLD BARRACKS WHERE FRED AND HIS FATHER LIVE WITH HER, AND HIS YOUNGER SISTER LUCY AND HIS BELOVEDLITTLE BROTHER JOSEPH. THE BEDNARSKI FAMILY'S LIFE HAS LITTLE JOY ; THEY BARELY SURVIVE THE LACK OF FOOD AND THEIR SURROUNDINGS AREe HARSH AND MINIMAL. THEY HAVE NO POSSESSIONS; ONLY THE CLOTHES ON THEIR BACK. BUT THEY HAVE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF DEVOTION TO EACH OTHER, AND FAITH.
EVERY NIGHT ENDS THE SAME, AS THE ENTIRE FAMILY GETS ON THEIR KNEES AND RECITES THE LORD'S PRAYER.......... IF ONE DAILY ACT DEFINES THE BEDNARSKI'S IT IS THE RECITATION OF THIS PRAYER. THEY BELIEVE IT, AND THEY BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL BE DELIVERED FROM THE EVIL FORCES THAT HAVE UPROOTED THEM FROM THE VILLAGE IN OCCUPIED POLAND WHERE THEY WERE LOADED INTO CATTLE CARS ON THE TRAIN THAT HAS TAKEN THEM TO AUSTRIA NEARLY 1,000 MILES AWAY.
AFTER THE GRUELING TRAIN TRIP, THE POLISH VILLAGERS WERE UNLOADED ONTO THE SNOWY PLATFORM. IMMEDIATELY SIRENS RANG OUT. IT WAS AN AIR RAID, AND ALL WERE HERDED INTO A SHELTER JUST AS THE BOMBS STARTED DROPPING. PEOPLE CRIED AND PRAYED AND HELD ON TO EACH OTHER AS THEY ALL REALIZED THEIR LIVES WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME IF THEY LIVED AT ALL.
Fred has grown into a powerfully built, handsome young man. He takes off his football helmet, beams as he proudly adjust the shoulder pads of his burnt orange, University of Texas longhorn uniform and places his hand over his heart and proudly, if not somewhat out of key, sings the National Anthem. ",,,,O'ER THE LAND OF THE FREE........". these words echo in his head as he looks around at the 65,000 fans including his motter, father, brother Joe and sisters Lucy and julie, are all cheering on his team.
His mind snaps back to that day in 1945 when American soldiers freed the camp where his family had been held for nearly two tortuous years. He hears the cheers of the liberated. American soldiers as they hand out boots and foot rations. They are overjoyed at helping the interred gain their freedom;they even hug and kiss the children! Families, cried, cheered and danced with joy. Children ran with glee shouting "we are going to be free!" "We are going home!"
But home would never be the same, as their village was incorporated into the Soviet Union at the war's end. the Bednarski's would never live there again. The family spent the next three years living in a displace persons camp waiting for the chance to come to America and praying for that day every night with the whole family on bended kneew reciting the Lord's prayer.
THOSE PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED IN LATE 1949 WHEN THE ENTIRE FAMILY BOARDED THE GENERAL STURGIS, a US army TRANSPORT SHIP AND SAILED TO ELLIS ISLAND.
" America ! The land of the free, and the home of the brave! We are home now and we will live in freedom." says Ferdynand Bednarski in broken Englishas the Statue of Liberty comes into view from THE deck of the Sturgis. "our new life is now beginning!"
FOOTBALL HAD ALWAYS BEEN FRED'S REFUGE IN AMERICA. MR. BUMS THE DAIRY OWNER AND THE FAMILY'S SPONSOR HAD TAKEN FRED TO A SMITHVILLE HIGH SCHOOL GAME, WHEN THE BEDNARSKI'S FIRST MOVED TO HIS FARM. FRED DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THIS GAME PLAYED WITH AN OBLONG BALL OR EVEN MUCH ENGLISH, BUT HE WAS FASCINATED BY THE RECKLESS ABANDON OF THE PLAYERS. A FEW YEARS LATER AFTER HIS FAMILY HAD MOVED TO AUSTIN, HE WOULD WATCH THE BOYS PLAY FOOTBALL ON THE PLAYGROUND AND WAS DELIGHTED WHEN HIS SCHOOL MATES URGED HIM TO PLAY TOO.
FRED GREW STRONG AND HE WAS FAST. FOOTBALL WAS A NATURAL FOR HIM AND HE COULD NOT WAIT FOR THE DAY'S CLASSES TO BE OVER SO HE COULD GET OUT ON THE PRACTICE FIELD. HE LOVED PLAYING AND ESPECIALLY LOVED KICKING THE BALL. HE WAS A MARVEL AND KICKED OFF, PUNTED AND KICKED EXTRA POINTS WITH HIS UNIQUE STYLE IN JUNIOR HIGH, ALWAYS TO THE BEWILDERMENT OF THE OTHER TEAM AND MUCH TO THE DELIGHT OF THE FANS, HIS COACHES AND FELLOW PLAYERS. HIS FIRST COACH TRIED TO KICK THE FOOTBALL LIKE FRED AND DAMN NEAR DISLOCATED HIS HIP. YEARS LATER DARRELL ROYAL TOLD HIS COACHES, "NOBODY MESS WITH BEDNARSKI. I DON'T KNOW HOW HE DOES IT, BUT LET'S NOT SCREW IT UP!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
AS FRED RUNS ONTO THE FIELD, KICKING TEE IN HAND, COACH DARRELL ROYAL PATS HIs SHOULDER AND SAYS, "KNOCK 'ER OUT OF THE BACK OF THE END ZONE, LIKE YOU ALWAYS DO BEDNARSKI!" THE COACH IS IN HIS FIRST YEAR AT TEXAS, BUT WITH HIS MATINEE IDOL GOOD-LOOKS AND MAGIC TOUCH WITH PLAYERS, HE IS ON HIS WAY TO BECOMING ONE OF THE ALL-TIME GREATS IN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHING RANKS.
WHEN ROYAL HAD ARRIVED IN AUSTIN THE PREVIOUS SPRING, FRED WAS THE ONLY LONGHORN PLAYER HE KNEW MUCH ABOUT. AS THE COACH OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, HE HAD SENT A SCOUT TO AUSTIN TO WATCH TEXAS PLAY THE USC TROJANS, THE HUSKIES' NEXT OPPONENT. IN A STAFF MEETING, ALL THE SCOUT COULD TALK ABOUT WAS THIS TEXAS KICKER HE HAD SEEN THAT MADE FIELD GOAL, AFTER FIELD GOAL ASTONISHINGLY FROM 50 YARDS AND BEYOND DURING WARM-UPS.
PLUS, EVERY TIME THE LONGHORNS KICKED OFF THE BALL SAILED THROUGH THE END ZONE. "AND GET THIS COACH," THE SCOUT SAID, "..THE GUY LINES UP WAY BEHIND THE BALL AND FIVE YARDS TO THE SIDE AND USES THE INSIDE OF HIS SHOE LIKE A SIDE-WINDER! NEVER SEEN NOTHING LIKE IT!"
"WE AIN'T PLAYING TEXAS OR THEIR KICKER, HOWEVER HE DOES IT. TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT USC!" ROYAL HAD DEMANDED.
IN THE FIFTH GAME OF THE 1957 SEASON TEXAS WAS PLAYING THE #10 RANKED UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS WHEN ROYAL SENT FRED ONTO THE FIELD TO MAKE AMERICAN FOOTBALL HISTORY. THE LONGHORNS FACED A FOURTH DOWN AND FOUR FROM THE ARKANSAS 30-YARD LINE. "MAKE IT, SON," ROYAL YELLED OUT AS FRED SET THE KICKING TEE DOWN ON THE HASH MARK AT THE 37-YARD LINE. HE TOOK TWO STEPS BEHIND THE BALL AND THEN TOOK THREE PACES TO THE SIDE OF THE BALL AND READIED HIMSELF. "TRICK PLAY! WATCH FOR THE FAKE!" THE ARKANSAS COACHES AND PLAYERS WERE MYSTIFIED. "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS GUY DOING?" THEY WONDERED AS THE BALL WAS SNAPPED. FRED TOOK THREE BIG STEPS PARALLEL TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, THEN PLANTED HIS LEFT FOOT AND WHIPPED HIS RIGHT LEG AROUND AND STRUCK THE BALL WITH THE INSTEP OF HIS SHOE.
THE PIGSKIN EXPLODED OFF OF HIS FOOT, HIGH AND TRUE AND EASILY SPLIT THE UPRIGHTS 37 YARDS AWAY. FRED HAD JUST KICKED THE THIRD LONGEST FIELD GOAL IN SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE HISTORY AND HIS NAME INTO THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECORD BOOKS AS SCORING THE FIRST FIELD GOAL EVER, SOCCER-STYLE. THE CROWD AND THE ARKANSAS PLAYERS WERE STUNNED . FRED RAN TO THE SIDE LINES YELLING AND JUMPING FOR JOY IN THE ARMS OF HIS COACH, WHO SAID, "CALM DOWN SON, YOU GOTTA GO KICK-OFF FOR US NOW!"
AND THE TOP SONG IN 1957 IS
Sherrington: often overlook, Texas Bednarski is the true pioneer of soccer-style kick.
Published: 08 December 2012 10:09 PM
Updated: 08 December 2012 10:09 PM
Whether it’s a Rotary Club or a confederation of coaches or just a sportswriter calling, Fred Bednarski likes talking about the immigrant experience.
First, though, you have to understand where he came from. First the Soviets invaded and then the Nazis. One day, little Fred got in a cattle car and woke up in Austria........................................................
Fred had played a lot of soccer while at the DP camp, and he didn’t see why the shape of a ball should matter. No one had ever seen a kicker come at a football from a 45-degree angle before. No one in college or the pros did it, and certainly no one at Fred’s junior high.
He eventually walked on at Texas, where he sent kickoffs high and deep. Because of strict substitution rules and conservative times, he didn’t attempt a field goal until his junior year.
Even as Fred lined up a 40-yarder on Oct. 19, 1957, in Fayetteville, Ark., the Razorbacks didn’t believe it.
“Fake! Fake! Fake!” yelled Arkansas’ little safety, Fred Akers.
Darrell Royal fooled the man who would one day succeed him at Texas. The kick was one of the longest in SWC history at the time.
Bednarski never made another field goal. History was made, however. Pete Gogolak, a Cornell kicker who played in the NFL, usually gets the credit, but research by the Washington Times concluded that Bednarski’s kick was the first, college or pro, done soccer style.
Audiences have a hard time believing Bednarski’s story, but, as they say, you could look it up.........................................
Follow Kevin Sherrington on Twitter at @KSherringtonDMN
Fred Bednarski: Amazing Life of a Holocaust Survivor, Football Innovator
Posted on January 29, 2011 by Jeff Nixon
About Jeff Nixon
Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Fanhouse – January 26 2011 By Chris Harry Senior NFL Writer
AUSTIN, Texas — In the 1950s, field goals in college football were rarer sights than even facemasks, so the University of Arkansas defense immediately was suspicious that fall afternoon in Fayetteville when one of its biggest rivals, Texas, began lining up for a surprisingly long field-goal attempt in the first quarter.
Razorbacks safety Fred Akers figured something fishy was in the works as he watched Longhorns fullback Fred Bednarski move into kicking formation. Akers quickly sounded the alarm when Bednarski not only backed away from his holder, but did so at a diagonal angle.
It was an entirely different look to the single wing — with the holder kneeling behind the center — and thus set off all the familiar alarms.
FAKE! FAKE! FAKE!
IT’S A PASS!
WATCH FOR THE END AROUND!
And watch everybody did, as the ball was snapped, placed and Bednarski kicked the first soccer-style field goal in either college or pro football, stepping in from 45 degrees and bombing a 40-yarder that kick-started the Longhorns to a 17-0 upset of the 10th-ranked Hogs.
The year was 1957. Before Pete Gogolak took Cornell and later the AFL and NFL by sideways storm. Before Jan Stenerud became the only designated placekicker inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bednarski, a Polish immigrant whose family settled outside Austin, didn’t turn place-kicking upside-down, but he did turn it sideways by being the first more than a half-century ago...............
“We didn’t know it at that time,” recalled Akers, now 72 and retired in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, “but we were witnessing history.”.....
THE AMERICAN DREAM
After nearly four years in a DP camp in Poland, the Bednarskis packed for Ellis Island and the United States. They were to be relocated to North Dakota, but a job there fell through. Instead, the welfare organization charged with placing them found work on a dairy farm in Smithville, Texas, about 20 miles from Austin. Ferdynand Bednarski became a farm hand. The children, now 13, 11 and 8, went to school, and soon the family moved to Austin.
One day at Fulmore Junior High School, Fred sat and watched while the kids played football at lunch. He’d been to games before, but understood the marching band better than the game. Still, one of the boys invited him to play. Better yet, invited him to try kicking the ball.
“Went 40 or 50 yards, at least,” he recalled.
The football coach happened to be on the playground that day, too.
Who is that kid? He’s that Polish boy, Coach
The next day, Bednarski was wearing a football uniform and playing the game for the first time. Bednarkski spoke six languages, but he knew nothing about the rules of the game with the funny-shaped ball. It was bunch of kids pushing, shoving and fighting. Eventually, he was put on defense and told to put the guy with the ball on the ground.
“He ran toward me, I stuck my foot out and tripped him,” Bednarski laughed. “It was easy.”
And illegal, which Bednarski quickly learned.
What the coaches at Fulmore and later Travis High learned was that Bednarski was a terrific athlete. While waiting assignment in the DP camp back in Poland, he’d learned to play soccer and volleyball and ran track. It didn’t take long before Bednarski not only understood how to play football, but excelled at it too, becoming an all-city performer as a fullback and kicker.
A soccer-style kicker.
“That’s the only way I ever kicked,” he said. “You can control the ball better.”.......
His kicking might have been peculiar, but it was good enough for Texas coach Ed Price to invite Bednarski to join the Longhorns as a walk-on in the fall of 1955. Freshmen were ineligible to play during that era, so it wasn’t until the ’56 season, his sophomore year, that Bednarski’s foot first gained fame.....
Football rules were different then. Substitutions were far less frequent and more controlled by officials. When a team scored, a player on the field had to attempt the point-after. There were no kicking specialists.
So the circumstances — in this case, fourth-and-long from the Razorbacks’ 33 — made Royal decide to give his big-footed fullback a chance to kick a field goal. A long one.
“It was unheard of,” said Akers, that Arkansas defensive back who 20 years later would succeed the retiring Royal as head coach at UT in 1977. “And when he lined up in that funny place in the backfield we took the rush away and absolutely knew they were going to pass it or do something tricky.”
“Man, did that ball go. Would’ve been good from 10 more yards.”