Short’s Kick To Remember
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following column, written by Jim Riggs, the late Post-Journal sports editor, appeared in this newspaper on Oct. 2, 2010 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of area resident Al Short’s “kick to remember” when he was a member of Colgate University’s football team. Short, who passed away last month at age 90, was a man whose figurative reach extended into the worlds of business, philanthropy and sports, particularly golf. We are reprinting Riggs’ column to honor Short’s considerable legacy.
After Al Short graduated from the Nichols School in Buffalo in 1943, he attended Colgate University on a hockey scholarship and had a very successful career playing left defense. In his senior year he was the co-captain and the Raiders were the NCAA hockey champions with a perfect 14-0 record.
Short had some memorable moments on the ice, but he also had one very memorable moment on the gridiron.
During his freshman year at Colgate, Short played soccer to stay in shape for hockey, but during his sophomore year he switched to football, which he had played along with baseball and hockey at Nichols.
“I was a good athlete in high school, but I was not a good football player,” Short said in his office at Short & Smith Insurance earlier this week.
On the Raiders’ football team, Short was the second-string tight end.
“I was good at catching the ball, but I was not a good tackler,” Short admitted.
He noted he loved contact in hockey, but for some reason that didn’t carry over to football.
Colgate also needed a kicker and Short tried out for that position along with left halfback Jim Cox. During a competition before the season opened they each kicked 25 extra points and both Cox and Short made them all. Coach Andy Kerr made the decision that Cox, who was also the team’s punter, would kick extra points and Short would be the backup.
So Short, the scholarship hockey player, was a second-strong end and kicker. But just being on the Colgate football team was an honor. Now the Raiders are in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, but long before that, they were one of the top programs in the country. The 1932 Colgate squad was undefeated and unscored upon, including shutouts over Penn State and Syracuse. After that season, the Raiders were disappointed they weren’t invited to play in the Rose Bowl.
The big game on the Colgate schedule each season was against Syracuse. Like Ohio State-Michigan, Florida-Florida State, Auburn-Alabama and Army-Navy, Colgate-Syracuse was the highlight game in New York. Colgate still leads the series, 31-30-5, but it was discontinued in the 1960s after Syracuse began to dominate with 14 straight wins, including one by a score of 71-0 during its national championship season of 1959.
Short noted the tables turned with the arrival of running backs such as Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little at Syracuse.
In 1945, Colgate had a 2-4 record when it played Syracuse at Archbold Stadium on Nov. 17. The Raiders led the rivalry, 27-18, but in 1944 Syracuse had won, 43-13. In warmups before the game, played on a cold and wet day, Fox and Short practiced extra points. Fox was again expected to handle those chores in the game, but he told Kerr he was having a poor day place kicking. The coach told Short if they needed to kick an extra point, he was the man.
In the second quarter, Cox threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Warren Davis, who was Short’s roommate.
Soon, both roommates were on the field as Short had to kick the extra point. Short recalled he struck the ball thin and the line drive barely cleared the crossbar for a 7-0 Colgate lead.
What the kick lacked in height, it made up for in distance as it carried many rows into the end zone seats. Short remembered the official said, “Young man, that’s a 30-yard field goal.”
When Short returned to the sideline, his happy coach grabbed him and said, “That means a big damn ‘C.'”
That meant Short had definitely earned his letter for playing football.
When asked if he was nervous before the kick, Short recalled, “It happened so fast I didn’t have time to get nervous.”
Syracuse also had a 15-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but Angelo Accoella’s extra-point kick was wide and Colgate held on for the 7-6 victory, thanks to Short’s extra point.
The following week, Syracuse tied Brown, 6-6, and Short’s second collegiate extra-point attempt was blocked.
And that was the end of Short’s collegiate football career.
“Hockey was all I cared about,” Short said and he concentrated on that for his junior and senior years before graduating with a degree in economics. And he also lettered in golf for four years.
But that one extra point earned Short a lot of publicity. His name was prominent in both the Associated Press and United Press International reports of the game the next day. The Buffalo Courier-Express had a subhead: “Allen Short, Buffalo Boy, Place Kicks Winning Point.”
But that point didn’t just win a game for Colgate, it won THE GAME. In a wrap-up of the 1945 football season in The Colgate Maroon, the last paragraph said, “Well, that’s the season in a nutshell. No one is crying that it was any 1932, but neither are we saying that it was a failure. The boys beat Syracuse; what more can we ask?”
That was 65 years ago and Short’s extra point is still making news at Colgate. Thanks to (area resident) Paul Hedin (a Syracuse graduate!) contacting Colgate president Jeff Herbst, Short was honored last Saturday prior to another meeting of Colgate and Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. It was the first time the teams had played since 1987.
Among the many mementoes Herbst and athletic director David Roach presented to Short were a football signed by the current Colgate team and a Raiders’ jersey with Short’s No. 17.
Short has been back to many Colgate football games, but watching the Raiders play in the warm and dry Carrier Dome brought back no memories of the gray, rainy day when he made his famous kick at Archbold Stadium.
So how did the renewal of the rivalry go? Syracuse won, 42-7, for its 15th straight win over the Raiders.
But Short is quick to point out it was only 14-0 at halftime.