The longest field goal in NCAA history was 67 yards - the length of two especially large blue whales or the wingspan of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. It was kicked in 1977 by Texas' Russell Erxleben against Rice.
"I'll never forget the sound it made when he hit it," said Fred Akers, the head coach of the 1977 Longhorns. "It was like a gunshot. We couldn't believe a ball was going that far; it had another eight yards on it, easy."
Erxleben had the strongest boot of any kicker in the program's history. In addition to the 67-yard monster against Rice, he kicked two other field goals over 60 yards during the 1977 season. He holds NCAA records for longest average field goal attempted and made. Erxleben accounts for eight of the 10 longest field goals in school history.
"I would not have hesitated to [have him kick a field goal over 70 yards] had the situation presented itself," Akers said.
In the late 1970s, many collegiate kickers had switched to the soccer-style technique seen today, in which the kick is approached at a running angle. Erxleben was old school: he kicked straight on, with only two steps.
Erxleben was a true all-around kicker for the Longhorns. Not only were his field goals gargantuan, but his punts and kickoffs were things of legend.
"I used to have these huge welts on my arms from catching his punts," said Ken Cleveland, who was a member of the Texas practice squad in the 1970s.
Erxleben accounts for the third and sixth longest punts in Texas history, the former being an 80-yarder in 1976. By Cleveland's account, not once did he fail to boot a kickoff into the endzone, though in 1977 kickoffs were from the 40-yard line as opposed to today's 35.
"On many occasions I saw him put the ball through the uprights on a kickoff," Cleveland said.
Erxleben was also very good at fakes, having been a high school quarterback in his native Seguin.
Coaches didn't risk as much with a missed field goal as they do today. The opposing team automatically started at their 20-yard line, whether the kick was good or not. These days, missing a field goal will give the opponent the ball at the line of scrimmage. Those factors worked toward Erxleben's advantage and are the major reasons why his feats will probably never be duplicated. In 1977 kickers were allowed to use a tee for field goals.
"We practiced kicking off the grass [instead of a tee]," Akers said. "Russell couldn't kick it quite as far, but it was certainly close to it."
The numbers Erxleben posted throughout his college career explain why he was one of only five kickers to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft, selected by the New Orleans Saints in 1979 with the 11th pick.
Perhaps it was his inability to adjust to kicking off the grass, or as Akers suggests, the lack of the team atmosphere that he was used to at Texas, but Erxleben's professional career didn't match his potential.
"The NFL is not like college," Akers said. You're competing with guys for a paycheck. Some of them are really cutthroat."
After wrapping up his NFL career in 1988 with the Detroit Lions, Erxleben got into the foreign currency exchange market, starting a company called Austin Forex International. Erxleben's business collapsed in 1998. It was discovered that he made fraudulent claims to investors, and he was subsequently sentenced to seven years in federal prison in 1999. Erxleben declined to be interviewed for this story.
"He's been out for a few months now," Akers said. "He's not in denial about what he did."
Erxleben's legacy will always carry the asterisk of what happened with his business or what didn't happen in the pros, but his records have stood for almost 30 years, and it will likely stay that way. The next time a Texas kicker attempts a long field goal and nails it, fans will cheer, but those who were there to see Rice and Texas in 1977 will remember that they saw the best.