John Lee, UCLA's field goal artist, will be playing pro ball next year as the first 1980s kicker picked in the first round of the college draft by an NFL team.
That's the consensus prediction of the scouts, among them Les Miller of the Kansas City Chiefs and Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys.
Although the NFL hasn't had much luck with first-round kickers, Miller said, Lee is impressive because of his all-around athletic skills.
"John could play wide receiver," said Brandt, vice president of the Cowboys. "He beats me playing golf."
Four kickers have been first-round choices, but only Ray Guy of the Raiders, who in school doubled as kicker and punter, was an exceptional athlete. Other first-rounders were Charlie Gogolak of the 1966 Washington Redskins, Steve Little of the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals and Russell Erxleben of the 1979 New Orleans Saints.
"Several clubs will probably have two first-round draft choices," Brandt said. "Look for Lee to go to one of them."
Dirk Borgognone of Reno looms as another potential pro kicker. His 68-yard field goal last week set a national high school record that beats the pro record by five yards.
"College and prep kickers kick from a tee," Brandt said. "A lot depends on how (Borgognone) adjusts to kicking off the ground."
Lee, who began his athletic career as a baseball player in South Korea, also faces that adjustment.
The Bruin specialist has worked on ground kicks--but not lately--with Ben Agajanian, who has coached many NFL kickers.
In the game of the week Sunday--Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers--the question is: Can San Francisco's linebackers and defensive backs successfully blitz the mobile Chicago passer, Jim McMahon?
The Bears doubt it. Halfback Walter Payton, talking about Sunday's win at Tampa Bay, told Chicago writers: "(The Buccaneers) made a couple of mistakes, and one was that you can't blitz McMahon. If you do, he can beat you. They did and he did."
When the 49ers knocked Chicago out of the playoffs last winter, 23-0, McMahon was injured and did not play.
Since returning to the lineup, he has given the Bears (5-0) their most powerful club since the 1940s, when they were the intimidating Monsters of the Midway.
"Take the ball down the field and score on the first series," McMahon said. "Put 21 points a half up there. That's all the intimidation you need."
With only Payton, the Bears were a running team. With McMahon--as good as Payton is--they're a passing team. They're averaging 142 yards rushing, 252 passing.
Two things have hurt the 49ers (3-2) this year in their erratic race to catch the runaway Rams (5-0) in the NFC West:
--San Francisco opponents are concentrating on taking away quarterback Joe Montana's staple, the short pass. And as usual, he has thrown the long pass inconsistently.
--Opponents vividly recall San Francisco's Super Bowl win last winter. Therefore, despite their slow start, the 49ers are facing fired-up teams every week.
As Chicago Coach Mike Ditka said, no team can call itself a Super Bowl contender until it has knocked down the Super Bowl winner.
"A year ago when we beat the Raiders, they were the Super Bowl champions, and that gave our team tremendous confidence," Ditka said. "The world champs (are) the barometer you judge your team by."
The Cowboys (4-1) are alone atop the East Division of the NFC again this week in another tribute to their coach, Tom Landry.
For more than 20 years, Landry's opponents have been coming at him, and occasionally beating him, but he seems to outlast them.
In the beginning he had to hold off the Cleveland Browns' Blanton Collier, who was then in Landry's division. After losing a big game or two to Collier, Landry finally got the upper hand. And kept it.
Next, George Allen of the Redskins and Don Coryell of the Cardinals made runs at him, and out-finished him, now and then. Landry outlasted them, too.
Later, the Redskins came at him again with Joe Gibbs. Then the Cardinals made another run with Jim Hanifan. And Sunday night, Bill Parcells of the New York Giants thought he had Landry for sure.
But every time, Landry has gotten away.