Chris Jacke was clutch.
Jacke, a sixth-round pick in 1989 who was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame on Saturday, kicked for the Packers for eight seasons. His rookie season was like a dream. He made 22-of-28 field goals, including several clutch kicks as the “Cardiac Pack” won six games by three points or less. The most memorable of his three game-winning kicks was a 47-yarder on the last play to beat Tampa Bay.
“That was a fun year,” Jacke said. “As a rookie, you’re just happy to be on the team, you really are. The year that we had — we just missed the playoffs. We were all sitting around and, I believe, it was a Sunday night game that Minnesota had to lose and we would have been in the playoffs. When they won, it made me think, ‘This is going to be pretty easy. Everyone’s coming back, we’re all pretty healthy.’ Then the following two years, we go 4-12. It was a great experience with those guys. It was an honor and a joy to be a part of that 1989 season."
Jacke was an astounding 18-of-31 on field goals from 50-plus yards, the biggest of which was his 53-yarder that beat San Francisco in overtime during the Super Bowl season of 1996.
“That was a great night,” Jacke said. “We were talking a little bit back in the Green Room. Robert Brooks went down in that game; Don Beebe had an incredible night that night. If a receiver’s having a great night, obviously Brett (Favre) was having a great night. The game was going back and forth. I think I had five field goals that night. That’s obviously the game that stands out. I can remember my first field goal in L.A. against the Rams as a rookie. There’s a lot of memories. My bet is, after this evening, this will be the pinnacle of my career.”
After the season, the Packers used a third-round pick on Brett Conway — who flopped and was replaced by Ryan Longwell. Jacke, a free agent, signed with Pittsburgh, his Green Bay career ending with 820 points — three shy of Don Hutson’s then-team record.
“At the time it probably did (bother me) but, in reflection, I don’t think I will be defined by not having three more points and having the record,” Jacke said. “Green Bay has been real fortunate as far as kickers go: Don Chandler, Jan Stenerud, Chester Marcol, Al Del Greco, myself, and then when I left, Ryan took over. He took it up a level from me, and I feel the same way with Mason (Crosby) today. I think he’s taken it up a level, as well. In hindsight, at the time, it was something I wish I could have achieved but it was going to be broken, anyway, eventually.”
Former fullback William Henderson, a teammate of Jacke’s, called Jacke the most normal kicker he’d been around. Jacke took his job seriously, to be sure, but he didn’t consider himself a part of the team in the same way as a quarterback or some other every-down player.
“I was doing the math — I’m a math guy — field goals last 1.4 seconds and kickoffs would last about 10 seconds,” Jacke said. “I did the math, thinking if I had 10 (plays), that’s roughly a minute-and-a-half. What do I do for the other 58-and-a-half minutes during the game? I became a fan of the game. Watching Don Majkowski, Sterling Sharpe, Brian Noble, on up to when Mike (Holmgren) and Ron (Wolf) came in and (watching) the Reggie Whites, the Brett Favres. I was just a fan in reflection. I kind of feel what the fans feel. I love the game. I love watching these guys. To become a part of the Hall of Fame with a lot of the guys that I played with is truly an honor and it’s very humbling.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.