With 8 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day continues.
Thursday, Sept. 4, is the day when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.
Over the course of the next 8 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … and for today we take a look number 8.
Yesterday we took a look at number 9, a number worn by none other than one of the most despised Chicago Bears players who just so happened to spend his final days in the league in Green Bay, Jim McMahon.
But today we focus on kicker Ryan Longwell – a player who came out of nowhere to take over the kicking duties when the Packers parted ways with Hall of Famer Chris Jacke and parted ways with Brett Conway in the mid-1990s. Though Longwell himself would eventually leave the team to sign with those hated Minnesota Vikings, the time he spent in Green Bay was pretty special.
John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” tells us about Longwell and his early years with the franchise:
Ryan Longwell was not supposed to be here. He signed as an undrafted free agent in 1997 with the 49ers who were led by his college coach Steve Mariucci, but was cut early in training camp.
Green Bay signed him simply as a second training camp leg. The Packers had released veteran kicker Chris Jacke in the spring and had spent a third round draft choice on Brett Conway from Penn State to replace him.
Conway proceeded to miss three chip shot field goals in his first preseason game and then worked so hard in practice to correct his mistakes that he injured his leg.
Given the opportunity, Longwell seized the job. Conway was put on injured reserve that year and was eventually released.
He bounced around the league due to his unreliability in the clutch.
Longwell, by contrast, was a model of consistency. His sharp performance saved a very embarrassing situation for the Packers who had wasted a high draft choice and a signing bonus on a kid who could not kick in the big leagues. After his first four seasons, Longwell was the most accurate kicker in league history, converting 111 of 131 field goal attempts for an 84.7 percent success rate.
Remarkably, in the less-than-ideal conditions of wintry Lambeau Field his percentage was even higher. In the 2000 season he led the NFC in scoring with 131 points and kicked the first three game-winning field goals of his career.
On that basis, he signed a large multi-year contract in 2001 and then went out and had the worst years of his career. He missed 11 of 31 field goal attempts which lowered his career percentage to 80.9.
His point total of 104 was the lowest of his five-year career tour in Green Bay at the time.
Longwell went on to play nine years in Green Bay, scoring 1,054 of his 1,687 career points while in Titletown.
During his time with the Packers he converted 226 of 277 kicks for an 81.6 percent clip. When he moved on to Minnesota in 2006, he played six years there, hitting 135 of 157 attempts, 86 percent. Playing indoors with the Vikings, his conversion rate was much better playing in a dome, but when you consider he was still over 80 percent while kicking half of his games outdoors at Lambeau Field, that’s pretty good.
By the time he left Green Bay in 2005, he was, and still is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, though Mason Crosby is homing in on the record.
When Longwell announced his retirement from the NFL he did so as a Green Bay Packer, making the pilgrimage back to Titletown in 2013 to make his announcement.
This is not a good way to remember Ryan Longwell, but it is one of the more significant moments in his career:
Ryan Longwell’s career statistics:
Here is the list of those Packers players who have worn #8 over the course of the past 50 years: