Whenever January rolls around, there's always a point when Errol Mann leans back in his chair and is overcome with emotion. That's because he's thinking about Super Bowl XI, when his team, the Oakland Raiders, hammered the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 9, 1977.
"There is no more satisfaction for a professional athlete than winning the greatest team game that your sport has to offer," says Mann, a broker for D.A. Davidson & Co. and the former place-kicker on that championship Raiders team. "The satisfaction was unbelievable - like you were sitting on top of a cloud."
Prior to the game, Mann feared the championship would rest on his shoulders, that he would have to kick a field goal in the final seconds to win - or become known as the guy who cost the Raiders the title. As it turned out, he kicked two field goals. The first one, from 24 yards out in the second quarter, gave Oakland a 3-0 lead. The second field goal, from 40 yards away in the third quarter, put the Raiders up, 19-0, and clinched the championship.
"Before the game, you're overwhelmed with fatigue because your emotions are so high and the pressure is so strong," says Mann, who is based in Missoula, Mont. "The last thing you want is to be responsible for a loss in a game of that magnitude."
Mann's NFL career started slowly but wound up brilliantly. He kicked around the league for several years with the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers before landing with the Detroit Lions. He spent eight playoff-less seasons with the downtrodden Lions before getting released halfway through the 1976 season.
But the Raiders were there to scoop him up and were glad they did. In 1977, Mann led the NFL in scoring, received the honor of Raider of the Year and helped the team win the Super Bowl.
Incidentally, Mann became a kicker by accident. He was a running back in high school. When he injured his neck, his only alternative if he wanted to stay in football was to become a kicker. He soon found that the psychological pressure on kickers is enormous because so many games come down to a kicker making - or missing - a field goal in the waning seconds.
"Being a kicker is a lot like being a broker," Mann says. "You have a certain number of things you can control, but you can't control the field and weather conditions, or what kind of a snap and set you get.
"A kicker," he continues, "can't allow himself to approach the game like a linebacker or running back. He has to remove himself from that frenzied approach. The key [for a kicker] is being calm and emotionless. You have to be in charge of your emotions - just like a broker."