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NFL kicker from Campbell, Minn., remembered for straight-ahead style

FARGO - To this day, Cliff Hermes still chuckles about the 1959 Campbell (Minn.) High School 8-man football team he coached.

“I always joked that we had such a poor team, that we only had goal posts on one end because we didn’t score that much,” Hermes said over the phone from his home in Wahpeton, N.D.

That may explain why one of his players, Errol Mann, never kicked field goals. Mann did just fine booting kickoffs and extra points, but nothing so noticeable that would make Hermes think his senior standout could make a career out of it.

But that’s what Errol Mann did, kicking in the NFL from 1968 to 1978. Mann, at the age of 71, died unexpectedly last week at his home in Missoula, Mont.

“It was really kind of surprising in a way that he became such a good kicker,” Hermes said. “We didn’t know him as a kicker in Campbell.”

What Mann was known for in Campbell – a small town located a few minutes south of Breckenridge – was that he was a pretty good student and an all-around athlete who played football and basketball.

From Campbell, he went on to play football at the North Dakota State College of Science in nearby Wahpeton. But even there, he shared kicking duties.

It wasn’t until his two years at the University of North Dakota did Mann start making a name for himself as a kicker. He was a two-time All-North Central Conference kicker who led the team in scoring with 70 points during a conference championship run in 1966.

“He really wanted to go play at Minnesota, but Murray Warmath (the Gophers coach back then) told him to go to Science or UND,” Hermes recalled. “He more or less developed his kicking on his own with a little help at UND.”

Keep in mind, this was back in the day that kickers were pretty much an afterthought. If you were a good athlete who could kick, all the better.

There was even that mentality to a certain degree in the NFL back then. When Mann started his NFL career in 1968 with Green Bay, most kickers still did it the old-fashioned way – straight ahead.

And Mann did it quite well – much like his straight-ahead kicking counterparts like George Blanda, Lou Groza, Fred Cox and Tom Dempsey.

During his 11-year career with Green Bay (1968), Detroit (1969 to 1976) and Oakland (1976-78), Mann made 94 percent of his extra points and 64 percent of his field goals.

One year after booting two field goals to help Oakland beat the Minnesota Vikings in the 1976 Super Bowl, Mann led the NFL in scoring with 99 points.

But there was a sign of things to come in the mid-1960s when Hungarian-born Pete Gogolak introduced the NFL to soccer-style field goals. The last time a straight-ahead kicker booted a field goal in the NFL was in 1982 by Mark Moseley.

So when friends and relatives remember Mann at Friday’s memorial service in Missoula, they will no doubt talk about the straight-ahead kicker who when he left the NFL was ranked 16th on the list of all-time leading scorers. They’ll talk about a kicker who booted six field goals from 50 yards or more and whose 64 percent field-goal percentage was nearly as good as Moseley’s 65 percent and better than Blanda’s 52 percent.

Not bad for a kid who never booted field goals in Campbell, Minn.

Article written by Kevin Schnepf of the Forum News Service

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