They are supposed to be flaky, flightly little fellows with large and powerful legs, these so-called kooky kickers of football, an image fostered by such paragons of sanity as Alex Karras.
"I can't stand those little jerks," Karras once said. "They come in singing their little song. . . 'I am go-eeng to keek a touchdown; I am go-eeng to keek a touch down.'"
It is an image that Mark Moseley and many of his placekicking colleagues abhor. "Ask a player how they feel when they're coming off the field after a guy had kicked a game-winning field goal," Moseley said yesterday. "Ask 'em if they think their kicker is flaky then. I guarantee you'll find a little different attitude."
And yet there are so many stories that tell you otherwise. Special teams coach Paul Lanham recalled a kicker he coached at Colorado State who needed 30 minutes to get out on the locker room. He put his shoe on the same way, slammed the locker three times and went to the bathroom twice. You name it, he did it."
There was Booth Lusteg, who once was cut by five minor-league teams even before one NFL season began. Released by the Jets at age 26, he showed up four years later in Buffalo and hadn't aged a day, at least that's what his brother's driver's license said.
Once, after missing a short field goal, Lusteg was walking in downtown Buffalo when a man got out of a car. "Are you Booth Lusteg?" he asked.
When Lusteg said yes, the man socked him in the nose, hopped in the car and drove off. Later, when Lusteg told the story to a member of the Bill's front office, he was asked why he hadn't reported the incident to the police.
"I didn't tell them," he said, "because I had it coming."
Then there was Peter Gogolak, who had one right-footed kick blocked by an onrushing linemen, only to kick it again, this time with his left foot, cleanly through the uprights.
Or Garo Yepremian's ill-fated pass agaisnt the Redskins in the Super Bowl of 1972, when his kick was blocked by Bill Brundige. Yepremian picked up the ball and completed a perfect toss, to Redskin cornerback Mike Bass for a 49-yard interception touchdown.
"I feel very bad I tried to be a passer on one of those plays," Yepremian kept repeating in the locker room. "I don't remember what happened. The ball bounced back. I reached out, got it and as soon as I picked it up, my mind went blank."
Chester Marcol, who will do the placekicking for the Green Packers Monday night against the Redskins, did his bit to foster the image of the slightly unbalanced kicker by off on beer bringes through the first five years of his career.
Marcol talks about it freely now, nine months after he says: "I just stopped. I flat out quit drinking.
"I don't think it was the pressure of kicking. Pro football was just a whole new way of life for me - all the attention, the excitement - and I guess I couldn't handle it.
"I just went on beer binges. I put on 40 pounds. I go out with the fellas just to have one or two, and I'd wind up not going home. I did things I didn't realize I was doing. I'd be places and I didn't even know where I was, wake up not knowing at all.
"If you hear people say you can't have a problem drinking beer, they're full of it. So I've stopped. I'll go to a bar now and I'll have Tab of orange juice. Of course, I had a bad game last week and people kid you and say you were better when you were fat. At least I can laugh about it now."
Curt Knight, who kicked for the Redskins for five years, does not laugh at all about his kicking experiences. He quit the team before the 1974 season, mostly because, "I was not satisfied with my working relationship there. There should come a time when you have proven your ability. When you have a bad day, it shouldn't be a reflection on your ability.
"When I had a bad day, the reaction I got from the coaching staff was that my ability was being questioned, not whether I was doing badly. Why I gave it up has something to do with the degree of unhappiness I had.
"I cannot overemphasize how unhappy I was."
Knight, now 34, became a free agent halfway through that 1974 season when he reported to the Redskins and the club put him on waivers. But he was never picked up, and now he believes he has been blackballed from the NFL.
"Just look at the situation in Minnesota," he said. "What is Fred Cox still doing kicking footballs? And yet, nobody from Minnesota has ever contacted me. How long would it take me to get in shape? To beat him out? About a half hour. To kick in the league, two or three weeks.
And what would the ideal situation be for a kicker? Knight was asked. "It's what I had under Lombardi," he said. "I had a coach, Harland Svare, who made me feel I was as good as anyone who ever kicked. He made me feel like I was King Kong. If I wnet out on Thursday and had a bad day, he never doubted I had the ability."
No one doubt these days that Knight's successor, Mark Moresley, has ability. His special team's coach, Lanham, calls Moseley the best long field-goal kicker and the best kickoff man in the National Football League.
"Curt had trouble with pressure," Lanham said. "He always said that kicking in practice was tougher than kicking in the games. He'd get withdrawn. He wouldn't say much, he'd try to stay by himself. Mark is the exact opposite.
"The reason Mark made that field goal last week (a club record 54-yarder against the Eagles) is because of his ability to concentrate and square himself after a mistake.
"Mark missed two kicks in that game, but he completely blocked them out of his mind on the third one. I've worked with kickers who took five minutes to tie their shoes after they missed one."
Moseley spends most of his time during the week putting on the six pairs of socks he wears to make his kicking shoe fit just right. During a game, he takes the size-10 kicking shoe off and puts on another shoe, size-12 1/2, fitted with a 2 1/2-pound weight to swing his leg back and forth and keep loose.
During the practice week, Moseley kicks at a set of goal posts he built himself out of irrigation pipe. Instead of the uprights being the standard 18 1/2 feet across, Moseley kicks at a homemade target 10 feet wide.
"In order to make a field goal with those goal posts," Moseley says, "you have to be perfect everytime. There's no room for error. It just makes me concentrate that much more. You form a picture in your mind of doing it, and then when you get out on the field for a game it looks so wide. It makes the picture look that much bigger."
Moseley sees nothing odd about this method of preparation, nor does he beleive that there is any more pressure on him to perform than any other player on his team.
"I've never felt the pressure that badly," he said. "When I was growing up, my father always made me responsible to do things, whether it was keeping the lawn mowed or throwing out the trash. Responsibility to me is pressure, and I've always handled that.
"I also played quarterback and cornerback in college. I was an all-state running back in high school. I knew what the game is all about, and that helps you deal with the pressure.
"And you can't classify a missed field goal as a choke. It might not be the kicker's fault. Maybe it's the hold or the snap, any number of things."
Moseley, unlike many of his colleagues around the league, also has very little time to be alone. When he is not kicking, he plays quarterback and runs plays against the first-team defense. If both Redskin quarterbacks were hurt in a game, Moseley would step in and play the position.
"When I was in Philadelphia, Sam Baker used to come out, kick a few balls and go to the end of the field and sit on some dummies when the rest of the team practiced," Moseley said. When practice was over, he'd kick a few more, go in and shower and go home. Tom Dempsey used to sit in a wheelbarrow and watch practice in New Orleans. I couldn't do that. I'd like to think I'm a part of his team. I hope these guys do, too."
Still, there are times when Moseley will wander off from his teammates. "I'll just walk around and think about what I have to do." he said. "I'll stand there and get a picture of the center. I see the snap, the hold and the ball going through the uprights, I form a picture of it in my mind.
And always the picture is the same. Moseley, you see, keeks field goals, not touchdowns. No flake here.