GREEN BAY – Ryan Longwell was watching from afar. Not just watching, really, but admiring.
Last January, the former Packers kicker had just finished playing in a charity golf tournament in Orlando as Green Bay’s NFC Divisional playoff showdown in Dallas approached crunch time.
Mason Crosby was lining up a 56-yard field goal to take the lead with just over a minute and a half left. Shortly thereafter, Crosby was on the field again for a walk-off 51-yarder, which he was forced to kick twice when Dallas called a timeout right before the first snap.
Eyes glued to a TV in a bar at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness – kickers remember every detail – Longwell couldn’t have been more impressed to see his successor in Green Bay come through.
“He made really three of the biggest kicks I’ve ever seen in that playoff game,” Longwell said this week just before heading out on the 12th annual Tailgate Tour with the Packers’ contingent.
“The thing about those positions is no one understands what it’s like unless you’ve been there. You can play a video game, you can be in other sports, but when the whole game is on your foot and you just know you have to perform … you’re confident in your abilities but your legs still feel like jello. There’s nothing that can simulate that situation until you’re there, and he just pounded three through.”
The 56-yarder was the longest in Packers’ postseason history. The 51-yarder was the longest game-winner in NFL postseason history, and it knocked out the NFC’s No. 1 seed and sent Green Bay to the conference title game.
“The pressure and the situation, just incredible and a true asset to not only what he is physically, but who he is mentally,” Longwell continued. “He’s just the strongest guy and understands and has perspective on the job, which allows you to kind of free-flow in those situations.”
The kicks in Dallas added Crosby’s name to more places in the team record book, and he’s spent the past few years climbing above Longwell to the top spot for pretty much every significant kicking and scoring mark. He bested Longwell’s career points record in Week 2 last season.
An accomplished kicker for nine seasons in Green Bay (1997-2005), Longwell harbors no bitterness whatsoever as his records have fallen. Now retired and running a sports academy in the Bahamas, he’s in touch with Crosby regularly. He calls theirs a “great relationship,” one fostered no doubt by the two seeing each other twice each season for the first five years of Crosby’s career and the last five of Longwell’s, with the elder kicking for the NFC North rival Vikings.
Other than the Dallas game, perhaps the only thing that’s impressed Longwell more about Crosby was how he handled his horrific 2012 slump. Crosby accepted a reduced, incentive-laden contract the following year, won his job in training camp, and earned a new, top-flight contract heading into last season.
“He basically bet on himself, and that is so much confidence and so much faith to put all the chips on yourself,” Longwell said. “That’s kind of how we want it as athletes. Since then, he’s been so good, so steady.”
As for seeing his Green Bay records surpassed, Longwell hopes Crosby is nowhere close to done.
“I have so much respect for that guy I hope he puts them out of reach forever,” Longwell said. “But knowing how this business works, there’s probably some kid that’ll come along that can kick 70-yarders and break all his records. That’s just the nature of the beast. But Mason is far more deserving than anybody else to be at the top of that.”