2 p.m., WTOP-TV-9, Texas (11-0) vs. Notre Dame (10-1)
One day, says Russell Erxleben, someone is going to spot a football at his own 30-yard line and, gasp, attempt a 80-yard field goal. "I hope," he says, "it's goona be me."
For now, however, the young Texas junior with the original bionic leg would be content to have a few of what he describes as "chippies" Monday against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. And how does he define a chippie? "If it's inside 50 yards," he says, "I never really should miss. Actually, I ought to make every one."
Erxleben, a 6-foot-4, 218 pound specimen with a down-home twang and a Texas-size ego, comes into this Cotton Bowl in a nasty frame of mind. He has missed his last six attempts, all of them from 49 yards or longer, and he is trying to comeback from the injury a kicker fears most - a pulled leg muscle.
"I've been pretty scared about it," he said the other day. "It was the first time I'd ever done anything like that to my leg. It kind of messed my mind up. I've been getting pretty depressed."
Erxleben hurt his leg missing a 49-yard kick against TCU, then sat out two games.
Last Tuesday, for the first time in six weeks, Texas' team doctors allowed Erxleben to kick. "I'm healthy again" he said, "not even any kind of twinges. You don't know what a relief that was."
For Erxleben, and of course a Texas coaching staff that allows him to kick from incredibly long ranges.One day last October, Texas was beating the bejabbers out of Rice when coach Fred Akers asked Erxleben to go in and punt (he does that, nicely, too).
"Let me try a field goal," the brash kicker said.
"Get serious," Akers responded.
"I am serious," Erxleben said. "Were ahead by 47, what's the difference?"
"Go do it," Akers said.
And he did, hitting an NCAA record 67-yard field goal. Piece of cake, he says now. "In practice, I've kicked one 73 yards. Ol' Tony Franklin (up the road at Texas A&M) says he's hit from 76. Oh yeah, somebody's gonna hit 80, if they'll let us try.
The Longhorn staff has never been hesistant about allowing Erxleben to kick. Against Oaklahoma, he hit kicks lf 64 and 58 yards, and missed from 69. He had field goals of 58 and 52 yards to beat Arkansas, and a 60-yarder against Texas Tech.
He also punted for 45-yard average this season, had a 71-yard pop that traveled 85 yards in the air against Oklahoma, and has booted several footballs the length of the field in practice season at Austin. "With every little help from the wind," he adds.
Erxleben is aware that the professional scouts are saying he will be among the first five players selected in the 1979 draft. And he has prepared accordingly.
He also knows there are significant rule differences that will prevent him from bombing the football as a pro. In college, an 80-yard field goal attempt also serves the purpose of a punt.In the pros, an 80-yard miss means the ball comes back to your own 30. George Allen; or anyone else, would rather commit suicide first.
Erxleben also is allowed to use a tee now on field goals. In the pros, he must kick off the ground.Professional goal posts are five yards narrower, and kickers are not allowed to use their favorite kicking footballs, those squishy soft ballons that rise like the Goodyear blimp.
"I know all that stuff," he says. "And I'm prepared for it. In practice, I don't use a tee at all, and I've cut down in the games to a half-inch tee. Without a tee I've kicked 'em 60, 65 yards. I can handle it."
Erxleben grew in tiny Seguin, Texas (population 15,000), "where if you make a mistake, everybody knows it." His father ran the post office, and his older sister, Cathy, used to chase footballs to help little brother prepare for punt pass and kick competitions."
"I never tried to copy anybody's style," he said. "I just tried to kick it as high and as long as I could. The guys I really enjoy watching now are Ray Guy (Oakland) and that fella on the Redskins, Mark Mosely.
"I read all that stuff about him supposed to be using steel in his foot. What a bunch of bull. He's got the strongest kicking leg I've ever seen. The guy on the Cowboys, (Efren) Herrera, took a real cheap shot at him when he said that stuff.
"He did the same thing to me'." Herrera got on Tom Landry's TV show and said I would never make it in the pros because I'd never kicked under pressure. I couldn't believe it. I'd like to get him out on a field and see what would happen."
Of course, the kickout would start at 80 yards.