Bootin’ Ben Agajanian

August 28, 2016 is kicker Ben Agajanian’s 97th birthday. Agajanian, who lost four toes on his right foot in an accident while in college, was signed by the Eagles in 1945 and later that year acquired by the Steelers for whom he scored his first NFL points. Over the next 20 years, Ben would kick for eight teams in three leagues during 13 seasons and score 655 points.

One of those teams was the 1961 Packers. Agajanian had kicked for the Giants when Vince Lombardi was the team’s offensive coach in the mid-1950s. With Paul Hornung in the Army Reserves and Jerry Kramer hurt, Vince was searching for a kicker in mid-November. On November 14, the Associated Press reported that the Dallas Texans of the American Football League had passed Agajanian through AFL waivers with the expectation of acquiring Green Bay taxi squad quarterback Val Keckin in return, despite the fact the two leagues were at war. Officially, the NFL considered Agajanian a free agent. Keckin, however, refused to report.

The 42-year old Agajanian had only made three of nine field goals with the Texans in 1961, but one was for 51 yards the week before against Buffalo. Bud Lea reported on November 18 that the Packers had signed Ben after he passed through waivers, with no mention of compensation. And there is no mention of compensation when Stram discusses the “trade” in his book, They’re Playing My Game.” Cliff Christl talked to Agajanian in 2002 and quoted him saying that after the Buffalo game, “Then I flew home and got a call from one of Lombardi’s assistants, and he says, ‘The deal is off. They won’t let you come.’ I said, ‘They already traded me.’ So I called Hank Stram and told him, ‘I’m going to Green Bay. I don’t care what you say.” He said, ‘Good luck.’”

Agajanian officially appeared in three games for the Packers, but only scored in two. On November 19, he kicked five extra points against the Rams. A month later in the season finale on December 17, he kicked a field goal and three extra points again against the Rams. Other than that, he was insurance in case Hornung couldn’t get leave from the reserves.

Ben went to training camp with the Packers in 1962, but was cut on September 4. Two years later, he turned up again in Green Bay as a kicking coach trying to straighten out a slumping Hornung. Agajanian also had a kicking school for many years and tutored many NFL kickers. Ben’s son Larry was drafted in the seventh round of the 1969 draft by the Packers but failed to make the team as a defensive lineman, instead spending the season on the taxi squad.

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