Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,037
This is the grave of Don Chandler.
Born in 1934 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Chandler moved to Oklahoma with his family as a child. He lived in Tulsa and was a football player on Will Rogers Ropers High School team. Like a lot of football players in these days, he could do a lot of different things. In his case, he was both an excellent kicker and a running back. He attended Bacone College in Oklahoma and then transferred to the University of Florida. For the Gators, he really became a dominant kicker, while continuing to play some running back. In 1955, he was the nation’s leading punter, averaging 44.3 yards a punt. That put him slightly ahead of Earl Morrall of Michigan State, who would later be famous as the most prominent backup quarterback in NFL history.
In 1956, the New York Giants selected Chandler in the fifth round to be their punter. He remained with the Giants through the 1964 season. He instantly was among the best punters in the league, leading the NFL with a 44.6 yard average in his second season. He also handled most of the placekicking duties, though he wasn’t as great as he was a punter. However, he did lead the NFL in field goal percentage in 1962, hitting 19-28 for a 67.2 percent rate. This is hilarious to me because NFL kickers are now such specialists and perfectionist that a 19-28 season would be a ticket to the margins of the league and if you had two of those in row, you are gone, watching at home on Sunday. For his career, he was a 58 percent kicker, which is atrocious in modern context.
In 1965, Chandler was traded to the Packers. Now, Chandler was coming off a 9 for 20 season on field goals. That’s pretty bad! He was also getting sick of playing and was asking if he could just not show up to practice except maybe once a week. So why would the Packers want him? Well, Paul Hornung was handling kicking duties there and in 1964, he went…..12 for 38! Ouch! So in the context of the time, he had a reliable leg. The other part of all this is that teams took kicking so unseriously during these years that the Giants decided to move Chandler because they just figured they didn’t want to spent a roster spot on a kicker and would have a bunch of their other players split those duties. Anyway, Chandler’s experience made him a key person on the dominant Packers teams of that era. He punted and kicked for the Packers for three years, through 1967. They won the NFL title all three of those years, including the first Super Bowl in 1967. He was an All-Pro that year as well. Although he still had juice in his leg, Chandler decided to retire after that 1967 season. He already had a real estate business on the side back in Tulsa and wanted to make more money than he could as a kicker.
Chandler did lead to one important rule change. During the 65 playoffs against the Colts, Chandler kicked a field goal. It was only a 22 yard attempt. He….probably missed it. He thought he missed it. Colts fans definitely thought he missed. But the goalposts weren’t very high. So the refs ruled it good because it flew so far above them. This is how the Packers moved to the title game, since it put the Packers into overtime as they were down 10-7 before this. This led to enough outrage that the NFL raised the goalposts to modern heights after the season. This is one of the rare blown calls that changed the trajectory of the NFL. As a Seahawks fan, I’ve seen two of these. The first is when the refs totally blew a touchdown call against the Jets that knocked Seattle out of the playoffs and brought instant replay into the NFL permanently. The second was the legendary Fail Mary against the Packers that forced the NFL to come to an agreement with the referees’ union.
Chandler received plenty of honors over the years. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s, which usually is a sure sign of going into the Hall of Fame unless you are a kicker. In 1975, he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. He is on the New York Giants Wall of Fame and is a member of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. But as a kicker, he never was going to make the NFL Hall of Fame. I wonder if there will be a Veterans Committee move at some point to get him in there, especially given how many other players from those mid-60s Packers team have been inducted. But probably not since kickers have so little respect among other players in the NFL.
Chandler moved back to Tulsa in retirement. He died there in 2011, at the age of 76.
Don Chandler is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Let it be known that this series is very attuned to the needs of the LGM community and its demand for MORE KICKERS. Rob Bironas started the legendary kicker subseries and now there is Chandler. Let’s see all the kickers! Chandler has the 141th highest field goal percentage in NFL history, at 58.3 percent. Of course nearly all the top in this category are still playing. If you want this series to visit more kickers near him on this list, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. John Leypoldt, who was the Bills kicker in the 70s and is 134th on this list, is in West Falls Church, Virginia, and Fred Cone, who was the Packers kicker in the 50s and is 143rd on this list, is in Clemson, South Carolina. Previous posts in this series are archived here.