September 07, 2011
Former Dolphins' Kicker von Schamann Was A True Patriots' Killer
BY: R.R. Marshall
If you've been a fan of the Patriots for many years no doubt you have discovered that there a certain few players on the opposition that seem to have a knack for having big games against the Pats. From the AFL days of Broadway Joe Namath to the present era of Peyton Manning, these so- called "Patriots' Killers" have made life miserable for members of Patriots Nation.
But it's not only quarterbacks that have stuck it to the Pats. Enemy kickers have proven to be just as lethal over the years, case in point is former Miami Dolphins kicker Uwe von Schamann. A seventh round pick by the Fins in the 1979 NFL draft, von Schamann had moved to Forth Worth Texas from Germany at age 16. He won a scholarship to the University of Oklahoma in 1975 and became a local legend for the Sooners, earning the nickname Von Foot for his prolific kicking ability including a last second field that beat Ohio State in 1977 (henceforth referred to by Oklahomans as "The Kick").
Unfortunately for the Patriots he would continue his game-winning exploits in the NFL. Von Schamann showed he would be a nemesis for the Patriots in his very first game against them on October 21, 1979 when he booted home a career-long 53-yard field goal in his very first attempt in Foxboro. It would be the first of 17 career field goals he would make against the Pats, which was the most he had against any team in the NFL.
"I really enjoyed kicking on the artificial turf in Foxboro," said von Schamann. "It was what I was used to from my college days at Oklahoma. I preferred kicking in places like New England and Buffalo compared to the Orange Bowl because often the field would have bare spots and they just used green paint to cover the dirt. It made it tough for kickers there."
Over the next two seasons he would accomplish something no other kicker had ever done against the Patriots, defeat them in consecutive years with clutch overtime kicks. The first occurred on December 8, 1980 in a Monday night contest in Miami, a game now remembered as the night John Lennon was shot and killed in New York City.
The Patriots desperately needed a win to remain in the race for the division title but their game-winning field goal attempt was blocked at the end of regulation, and when Miami hit on a big play on their first possession of overtime enter von Schamann. He calmly booted a game-winning 23-yard field goal that shattered the Patriots postseason hopes.
But the German-born kicker was far from finished. The 1981 season was a miserable one for the Patriots, as a team that was picked to go to the playoffs stumbled home with a 2-14 record. However, in Week #10 they had a chance to upset the playoff bound Dolphins at home, and when Steve Grogan engineered a long drive that culminated with a John Smith field goal to tie the score with only seconds to play it appeared the Foxboro Faithful would be going home happy.
Unfortunately a Patriots' turnover in overtime set up that man von Schamann once again, and his 30-yard field goal not only gave Miami a 30-27 win it was head coach Don Shula's 200th lifetime victory.
"I remember that game well," said von Schamann. "After the game Coach Shula told me he loved me. He rarely even spoke to me, so I'll always remember that!"
It appeared nothing could stop the deadly accurate kicker's assault on Patriots' fortunes, that is until Mother Nature herself stepped in. December 12, 1982 would become known as the Snowplow Game in Patriots history, and it helped bring an end to von Schamann's streak.
"I got to the stadium and found out that they didn't have a tarp, so the field was covered with layers of snow and ice," said von Schamann. "I went out and tried to figure out how I could just stand up on it, not to mention try to kick! It was the toughest conditions I ever had to try to kick in."
Before Patriots kicker John Smith booted his game-winner in the 4th quarter ably assisted by Mark Henderson's now famous John Deere tractor the Miami kicker lined up for a 45-yard attempt midway through the 3rd quarter. But von Schamann's streak of game-winners versus the Patriots would come to an end. His kick was low and blocked by Ken Simms, leaving the rest to history.
"If you go back and watch the film I actually tried that field goal without my kicking shoe," laughed von Schamann. "I thought it would help me lift the ball in those conditions, but it didn't work out that way."
Three years later von Schamann's NFL career would come to an end and he would torture the Patriots no longer. His career mark of 101 field goals and 67% success rate may seem low by today's standards, but his lifetime totals against the Patriots were significantly higher.
"When I came to the Dolphins in 1979 I knew relatively little about the NFL, but many of the veterans from the Dolphins Super Bowl teams were still there and I learned about the league and the rivalry with New England," said Von Schamann. "Those games against the Patriots were extremely competitive, and I was glad I was part of them."
These days von Schamann resides in Oklahoma where he helps run a kicking camp and his own consulting business. He also keeps busy as a soon to be author and as a motivational speaker and has his own website at www.vonfoot.net. Both of his sons are active in sports, and his oldest son Duke recently signed to play baseball at Texas Tech. His dream is to play for the New York Yankees someday; just what we need, another von Schamann to torture New England fans.
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