Who Is The Kicker?
Fred Bednarski was the first soccer style kicker in American football and kicked the first soccer style field goal in NCAA history for Texas against Arkansas in 1957 as a part of Coach Darrell K. Royal’s first team at Texas.
However, Fred’s journey into the history books wasn’t an easy one. Before he could introduce a new style of kicking to college football, Fred first had to survive the Nazi occupation of his home country.
As Russian and German forces clashed in Poland during World War II, the Bednarski family was taken from their home in Poland by German troops and relocated to a forced labor camp in Salzburg, Austria.
When the war finally ended and the Bednarski family was liberated from the camps, they still faced 4 years of waiting in a displaced persons camp before they were able to finally immigrate to the United States. In 1949, They received a sponsorship to come to America and settle in North Dakota.
However upon arriving in New York, they learned that those arrangements had fallen through and they would be sent back if they couldn’t quickly find another sponsor. Fortunately, a family dairy farm in Smithville, Texas accepted the Bednarski family and brought them to central Texas.
From Smithville, Fred found his way to Travis High School in Austin and then The University of Texas where he became the first person to kick soccer style in a collegiate game.
After college, Fred passed on an opportunity to play professionally with the Baltimore Colts and instead joined the same military force that once liberated his family from the labor camps.
Lt. Bednarski was quickly promoted to Platoon Leader for the 720th Military Police Battalion out of Ft. Hood. In 1962, his unit was sent by President Kennedy to Ole Miss University during the protests and riots surrounding James Merideth, the first African-American student at Ole Miss. Fred’s unit was assigned to provide around the clock security for Merideth, escorting him to classes and sleeping in and around his dorm room.
After his distinguished service in the Army, Fred went on to become a successful business and family man and was a 1976 recipient of the Americanism Medal.
Fred currently serves as the American Ambassador for the Polish Professional Football League and is the founder of the Polish-American Foundation.
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