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HOF Jan Stenerud Recalls His Own Time in National Guard During Rosecrans Visit

Stenerud and current Chiefs took time to visit the 139th Airlift Wing at Rosecrans on Tuesday


There are only a few things that legendary Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Jan Stenerud didn't accomplish as a professional football player.

He's a seven-time All-Pro, a four-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion. He's the first ever "pure" kicker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the only Hall of Famer to exclusively play the kicker position.

But little know the story that came out of his mouth Tuesday while visiting Rosecrans Air National Guard Base with current Chiefs Allen Bailey, Cairo Santos and Charcandrick West.

After members of the 139th Airlift Wing finished their presentation about the particulars of what happens at the base, Lieutenant Colonel John Cluck opened the floor for questions.

Stenerud raised his hand. He wanted to know if the National Guard was similar to what it was like in the late '60s.

You know, when *he *was a member.

"The thing is I wasn't even an American citizen yet, but I was still eligible with the Visa I had," recalled Stenerud, a native Norwegian. "I joined the National Guard in 1967 up in Montana just when I finished school."

Stenerud had attended Montana State on a skiing scholarship and joined the football team as a senior after getting recognized on campus for his kicking ability. While he went undrafted in 1967, he signed with the Chiefs, and once he did, he transferred to a National Guard unit in Kansas City.

"They met every month right by [Municipal] Stadium," he explained. "It was by 20th and Brooklyn."

Members of the Kansas City Chiefs community caring team visited with Military personnel at Rosecrans Air Force Base on Tuesday. Allen Bailey, Cairo Santos, Charcandrick West and Jan Stenerud in attendance.

As part of the National Guard in the late 1960s, Stenerud said that you had to go through basic training as part of your membership. This was something he said he was lucky to fit in right between his rookie (1967) and sophomore (1968) NFL seasons.

To this day, Stenerud, who went through 13 training camps during his Hall of Fame NFL career, regards basic training as one of the greatest challenges of his life.

"The training was really intense," he said. "It was very demanding. It was really tough. I was just amazed at how hard the training was, how intense it was and what they expected from you."

As part of the final physical testing after training from January to July of 1968, Stenerud said he had to run a six-minute mile in heavy equipment and go through another event called a "low crawl." If a candidate wasn't able to complete one of the events, he started the testing over.

"Basic training in the US army, it was an eye opener. I was shocked at how much they demanded and how tough it was."

So why in the world would an NFL kicker of Stenerud's caliber opt to join the National Guard?

Well, in those days, during the course of the Vietnam War (1955-1975), Stenerud explained that there was no choice.

"If you were a college student, you'd have to go in the army," he said. "We had the draft, so everybody had to go. That's the way it was, so I went to Fort Polk (in Louisiana). That was basic training and what I remember—most of the people left to go to Vietnam. They left for the war. To be very honest about it, not too many people wanted to go to Vietnam. I also wanted to play professional football, so I made an attempt to get in the National Guard and I was able to do that."

Stenerud was never called into active duty as a member of the National Guard, but his six years as a member are what made Tuesday afternoon with his fellow Chiefs that much more special.

"I didn't know that—that's awesome," Cluck said upon hearing about Stenerud. "He was telling about it in the back and that is amazing. Back in his generation, that was expected … I'm glad he's the Ambassador that was here today and he seemed so interested and it was great that we have him."

Along with meeting the military members at the base, Stenerud, Bailey, Santos and West had the opportunity to partake in number of activities, including touring a C-130, shooting a light machine gun in a target range and trying on some of the equipment made available by the 139th Airlift Wing.


Santos, the current Chiefs kicker, was just as surprised to hear about Stenerud's involvement with the National Guard as everyone else.

"I didn't know about Jan," Santos said. "It's crazy that we're so blessed that today we can focus on doing only this."

As Santos rode the bus throughout the military facility with Stenerud, the two talked about the challenges of kicking this weekend at Wembley Stadium in London. Steneurd wanted to know if Santos had heard anything about the grass. Santos replied he heard it's thick. Stenerud smiled.

"I always try to pick his brain, especially with the experience that he has," Santos added. "I try to take it a game at a time, but you always wonder about the future, you know, 'How many years am I going to do this for?'

"I would love to have a career like his and last that long. You always wonder. He kind of picks my brain and keeps me grounded, just to worry about the next game, the next kick."

Stenerud, with his 72 years of life experience that includes so much success as an NFL player in addition to that time in the National Guard, could be arrogant about all his accolades, but it would be difficult to find someone more humble.

He's always kind-mannered and that remained true in the Chiefs opportunity to visit Rosecrans.

At the end of the visit, Stenerud stood with Cluck and handed him an autographed football in exchange for a signed picture of the entire 139th Airlift Wing.

Cluck was so excited to share his world with Stenerud and the Chiefs.

Stenerud was just happy to be back.

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