ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Ove Claes Johansson (’77), an alumnus of Abilene Christian University who made history on the football field with a world-record 69-yard field goal, died on September 20, 2023, at the age of 75.
Johansson was born in Sweden on March 31, 1948. At the age of 20, he joined the Swedish Navy and later went to America to study at Davis & Elkins College. In 1974, Johansson helped the ‘Senators’ reach the men’s soccer national championship game and was awarded all-conference honors.
He met April Lark Bankes (’77) in Dallas while playing for a European exhibition soccer team in 1972. They started dating in 1973, and he enrolled at ACU in 1975. Johansson attended football games that Fall to watch Bankes march with the Big Purple Band, and they got married in August 1976.
Johansson started practicing football that spring, using a shaving cream cap as a kicking tee. His efforts caught the attention of a football player and then the head coach, who added Johansson to the team.
Before the season began, Johansson was already planning on making a world-record field goal. According to an article from ACU, Johansson said this to Bullington the day before the game, hoping to make history.
“Coach, on Saturday, Wilbert will set a national record for touchdowns in a career,” Johansson said, brimming with his typical fjord full of self-confidence. “And if you give me the opportunity, I will kick a world-record field goal.”
ACU’s 1976 homecoming game at Shotwell Stadium was set to make history as Wilbert Montgomery (’77) prepared to break Walter Payton’s all-time collegiate career touchdown record of 76, which he did before halftime. However, another record was broken within the first quarter.
ACU led 7-0 in the first quarter, but a Wildcat drive stalled at their own 48-yard line. Bullington turned to the 28-year-old senior in his sixth-ever football game and told him this was his shot.
Johansson gave it his all and kicked a world-record 69-yard field goal, igniting a celebration in the 13,000-person crowd. Bullington later on shared that he wasn’t surprised, having seen Johansson’s pregame performance.
Courtesy of Abilene Christian University
On that day, his kick was on par with Texas A&M kicker Tony Franklin’s record field goals of 64 and 65 yards in College Station, Texas. However, the kick Johansson made has remained unmatched for 47 years in all levels of high school, college, and professional football. According to Pro Football Network, Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens holds the record for the longest field goal in NFL history after making a 66-yard field goal in September 2021.
Johansson, who had just turned 29 years old, was chosen by the Houston Oilers in the twelfth round of the 1977 draft, making him the second oldest player ever to be drafted by a league. Unfortunately, his time in the NFL was cut short due to a knee injury he suffered during ACU’s postseason game against Harding University. Throughout two seasons, he spent time on the rosters of Houston, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Dallas Cowboys.
In 1980, he founded Johansson and Associates Financial Services and served as president of Great Nation Investment Services. During ACU’s 2001 homecoming halftime, he made a 53-yard kick at the age of 53 to commemorate his record kick 25 years prior.
Johansson was inducted into the ACU Sports Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class in 2006. In 2016, he served as grand marshal in the university’s Homecoming parade with Montgomery, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Johansson’s celebration of life service will be held on Thursday, October 12th, at 10:00 a.m. at Central Church of Christ in Amarillo, Texas.