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Catching up with ... Roger Leclerc

Posted Feb 16, 2005

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Think playing pro football is challenging? Imagine trying to teach algebra and fractions to a classroom full of young teenagers.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Think playing pro football is challenging? Imagine trying to teach algebra and fractions to a classroom full of young teenagers.

Roger Leclerc did both.

Roger Leclerc made 75 of 146 field goal attempts in seven years with the Bears.
After playing seven seasons with the Bears from 1960-66, the former kicker/linebacker spent 30 years as a junior high school math teacher in Agawam, Mass., where he still makes his home.

"That's what I was planning on doing when I was in high school," Leclerc said. "I enjoyed working with the kids and having the same vacations as my kids worked out real good.

"George Halas used to say, 'Football is not an end in itself. It's a means to an end. You're going to have a career after that, so you have to get your education. I got my education and I was able to teach."

Leclerc, now 68, retired from teaching in the late 1990s. He joined the Bears as a 15th-round draft pick from Trinity (Conn.) and emerged as the franchise's second all-time leading scorer with 377 points, trailing only George Blanda (541). (Leclerc has since slipped to eighth.)

Leclerc's best game came late in the 1961 season when he set a team record and tied an NFL mark by kicking five field goals without a miss against the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, those were the only points the Bears could muster in a 16-15 loss.

In 1962, Leclerc's late field goal gave the Bears a thrilling 31-30 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Wrigley Field. Chicago had trailed by two points with less than a minute remaining when Ed O'Bradovich recovered fullback Doug Mayberry's fumble at the Vikings' 20-yard line.

Leclerc, who retired from football after spending one season with the Denver Broncos in the American Football League in 1967, finds it difficult to fathom how salaries have escalated in the sport. Like many of his contemporaries, Leclerc worked in the offseason during his career, selling securities and automobiles.

"When I see the salaries that these guys are getting today, I can't conceive of making that kind of money," he said. "These guys sign a contract and they're set for life. "

The biggest change in field-goal kicking since Leclerc played has been the switch to soccer-style kickers, a trend that began with the arrival of Pete Gogolak, who kicked for the Buffalo Bills in the AFL in 1964-65 and the New York Giants in the NFL from 1966-74.

"I always thought that they wouldn't make it because they had difficulty getting the ball up in the air real fast, but they solved that pretty quick," Leclerc said. "The soccer-style kickers are so much more accurate and so much more powerful. They're much more suited for kicking than we were kicking straight on."

Leclerc currently works part-time in a pro shop at a golf course near his home. He and his wife have two grown sons and four grandchildren. His oldest grandchild, Rick, is a quarterback at Bowdoin College in Maine.

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