Jerrel "Thunderfoot" Wilson (1941–2005) was an American football player. He was a punter who spent sixteen professional seasons, fifteen of them with the Kansas City Chiefs, in the American Football League and then the National Football League. He was selected to three AFL All-Star Teams and three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls. Wilson was elected to the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1988. He died of cancer on April 9, 2005.
His punts were high, booming shots that arched far down the field, potent weapons in the war for field position. Jerrel Wilson seemed to have the explosiveness of dynamite in his foot, hence the more-than-appropriate nickname of "Thunderfoot." The Southern Mississippi alum was the Chiefs' punter for a team record 15 seasons and is considered one of the best ever to play in the game.
Selected in the 11th round of Kansas City's much heralded 1963 AFL Draft that brought in Hall of Fame members Buck Buchanan and Bobby Bell and fellow Chiefs Hall of Famer Ed Budde, Wilson played more seasons than any player in team history, and his 203 games played are the third most for any player in franchise history behind only guard Will Shields (224) and kicker Nick Lowery (212). He left behind an impressive number of records and honors earned through his kicking expertise: A franchise-record 1,014 punts during his career; highest average yardage in a career with 43.6; in a season with 46.1; in a game with 56.5; and in World Championship games with 46.5. Wilson owns the NFL record for most seasons leading the league in punting average with four, leading in 1965, 1968, 1972 and 1973.
Said Hall of Fame head coach Hank Stram: "Jerrel Wilson made other people aware of how important the kicking game was at a time when special times were not given special consideration. I'm prejudiced, but he's the best punter I ever saw. He'll go down in history as the best kicker in the NFL."
He had four career punts of over 70 yards, each in the first two years of his career, which included a league leading 72 yard boot in his rookie year. He was named to three Pro Bowl teams in three consecutive years from 1970-1972. Wilson was also a reserve running back for the Chiefs and early in his career, accumulating 53 yards on 22 carries spread out over seven seasons. To close his career, Wilson played the 1978 season for the New England Patriots.
Wilson said of his punting style: "The way I attack the football, every time I hit it, I try to bust it, unless I'm around the 50. Then I hit it high. Basically, my power comes from everything. I try to snap everything I have in my body—my hips, knees, everything."
By Dean Hanley
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