Former UNB football player credited with record 53 years later

In a game against Saint Dustan’s University on Sept. 24, 1966, Thomas Pinckard, a long snapper on the University of New Brunswick Red Bombers football team made a punt attempt from his team’s 21-yard line that made history.

The punt was recorded as the longest in Maritime Intercollegiate Athletic Association history, until it was broken in 2014, but then re-recognized as an even longer punt this September after a two-year investigation.

Pinckard received an email in September which said his punt would be re-recognized as the furthest. He said the first people he told were his six friends he had played football with at UNB.

“Then everybody started emailing me. From the team, from UNB, guys from all over the country … guys I haven’t heard from in 46 years.” 

In 1966, Pinckard kicked the ball across the field’s goal line and out the back of the end zone at UNB’s College Field. The punt was recorded at 89 yards in 1966, but was officially ruled at 114 yards this year. The measurement of a punt has changed because the end zone now counts.

Pinckard, who studied law at UNB from 1962 to 1969, said he received a letter from a statistician informing him of the record he had set in 1966 but hadn’t thought about it since, until it was broken in 2014.

Pinckard was informed by an old teammate when there had been a punt that had traveled further.

“It didn’t matter to me either way, because every record is going to get broken,” he said.

“He called me one day and said they had been measuring punts differently and they had included the distance [the ball] traveled through the end zone.”

But this meant Pinckard’s punt would have actually been recorded further if they had included the end zone. The end zone at UNB’s College Field is 25-yards-long, meaning the punt would actually be 114 yards in length. Pinckard sent an email to Canadian University Sports and the two year process to re-determine the longest record began.

When looking at national football statistics, the record seems to be longer than any punt recorded in university or professional football in North America.

U-Sports asked UNB if they could find the old engineering blueprints of College Field, along with film.

“And they were able to, shockingly,” Pinckard said.

An engineer stamp on the drawings showed the end zone was 25 yards. U-Sports then sent down an employee to College Field to confirm it was still the same length, and it was. The only problem was the recording.

“It doesn’t show the end of the punt,” Pinckard said.

“It shows it clearly going over the returners heads by a large margin. But the film ran out … it was in the last two minutes, if I recall.”

Pinckard then went through the old team photo in attempt to find witnesses of the punt. He found the game’s official timer, Mark Jewett.

“He had a vivid recollection of it,” Pinckard said.

“So that’s how it came together.”

Pinckard said after he finished his education at UNB, his football careered slowed down, as he wanted to focus on getting a job as a lawyer. He played for the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ farm team in St. Catherine’s, saying he was able to go play games all over, such as Detroit and Cleveland.

Pinckard, born in Hamilton, is now living in Dwight, Ontario. He said his record breaking punt isn’t his proudest sporting moment because they are all important to him.

“[The punt is] the one that’s getting the attention,” Pinckard said.

“When I played football, I played as hard as I could.”

Pinckard was also in the world’s longest canoe race, as well as recently competing in the 2014 World Master Swimming Championship in Montreal.

Getting the punt in the record book wasn’t personally important to Pinckard. He said he wanted to do it for his teammates and for the Red Bombers.

“My drive to get it recognized was to get one Red Bomber record in the bloody books,” he said.

“Just for the guys. For all the guys that played for the Bombers.”

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