this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Garrett Hartley doesn't look like a hero. Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley says he turned to holder Mark Brunell before his 40-yard field goal attempt split the uprights and said, 'We're going to Miami.' The New ...
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|01-30-2010, 03:09 PM||#1|
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Garrett Hartley doesn't look like a hero.
Chris Granger/The Times-Picayune
New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley says he turned to holder Mark Brunell before his 40-yard field goal attempt split the uprights and said, 'We're going to Miami.'
The New Orleans Saints' 5-foot-9, 196-pound kicker is diminutive by NFL standards. His baby face and big brown eyes make him look 23 going on 18.
You'd walk past him on the street or stand next to him in the checkout line at the grocery store and never know he was the guy who just kicked the Saints into the Super Bowl.
He wears his blonde hair in spikes and leans toward X Games fashion: T-shirts, hoodies, conductor hats and knit caps.
His unassuming demeanor makes him fade into the background on a Saints roster loaded with stars such as Drew Brees, Darren Sharper, Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush.
"I'm just the 5-foot-9 guy walking around with long hair that looks like a surfer dude, " Hartley said. "People tell me I need to get a suit for interviews."
Everyone wants a piece of the surfer dude these days. Hartley has been a popular interview subject for the media horde at Saints headquarters in Metairie as the team prepares for the first Super Bowl appearance in club history. His 40-yard field goal sent the Minnesota Vikings to a 31-28 overtime defeat, the Saints to their first Super Bowl and a nation of loyal fans into a state of delirium.
Days later, the magnitude of the kick still seemed lost on the former Oklahoma standout. He has fielded calls from family and friends and conducted more than his usual number of interviews. Otherwise, not much had changed for Hartley, even if his heroics had changed everything around him.
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"I never let myself get up, " Hartley said. "I try to stay on an even keel. The next two weeks are going to be the most important of my life. I think that's most important."
Hartley's humility is not an act. Bill Hartley said his youngest son has always been that way since he first started playing sports as a youth soccer star in Southlake, Texas.
"It's not shallow, " Bill Hartley said. "It runs deep in him."
Well-wishers learned that Sunday night as they hugged and thanked Hartley amid the post-game frenzy downtown. Not everyone recognized Hartley, who admitted he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of gratitude.
"I'm like, for what?" Hartley said. "I played a game. Yeah, we're going to the Super Bowl, and it's cool, it's awesome. I guess I'm not used it."
Hartley's calm demeanor paid off in overtime Sunday. He said he was not nervous as the Saints drove into range for the winning kick. He knew the game might come down to his powerful right leg and was eager to atone for a missed 37-yard attempt that cost the Saints a victory a month earlier against Tampa Bay.
He knew exactly what he'd done wrong that day. He'd rushed his approach, causing his kick to hook to the left. It was the only field goal he'd missed in his Saints career other than a desperate 58-yarder at the end of regulation against the Redskins. He was ready for redemption.
Hartley was confident he would make the kick because, at least in his mind, he already had. He had a premonition on the night before the big game that he would make a 42-yard field goal from the right hash mark. The visual was so powerful he called his father in the middle of the night to tell him.
"Shouldn't you be sleeping?" asked Bill.
Such calls are not uncommon for the Hartley family. A former kicker himself, Bill understands the neuroses of the position. During such times, he tries to help his son "clear the gray matter." It's the kind of support only a father can lend at 2:15 a.m.
"You've been doing this a long time, " said Bill, who relocated to Hideaway, Texas, a town of 3,000 residents 80 miles east of Dallas, four years ago. "You'll be fine."
The next night, Bill stood in the stands at the Superdome with wife, Cookie, and their oldest son, Taylor, and hoped he was right. As her son lined up for the 40-yard attempt, Cookie, an elementary school teacher in Lindale, Texas, just down the road from Hideaway, said she tried to encourage her son telepathically from her seat.
"OK, Garrett, ease into this, you have the mental toughness and know how to do this, " Cookie whispered.
Advice was not in short supply on the field, either. As the Saints penetrated Vikings territory in overtime, John Carney, a 21-year veteran who now serves as the Saints' kicking consultant, told Hartley to relax, clear his mind and to slow down his mechanics.
Loquacious defensive end Anthony Hargrove tried to sidle up to him but Hartley waved him off.
Finally, after a Vikings timeout, Saints Coach Sean Payton strolled up to him. As the entire Superdome stood in anticipation, Payton nodded to a fleur-de-lis logo on the front wall of the terrace seat decking between the uprights.
"You just groove this thing, " Payton said. "I don't want you thinking about anything but hitting that fleur-de-lis up there. I'll carry you in. Just hit your kick, son. Here's why: You deserve to be here."
Hartley stared intently straight ahead. He did not respond.
"I was already there, " Hartley said.
The kick was true and pure. Hartley compared it to the feeling a hitter gets in baseball when he crushes a home run.
"Really clean, " he said. "I didn't even feel it."
Before the ball split the uprights, Hartley turned to holder Mark Brunell and said, "We're going to Miami."
Hartley missed the fleur-de-lis. But not by much.
"Once it came off my foot, I maybe looked up for a split-second but I never actually watched it go all the way through because I knew it" was good, Hartley said. "I got my reaction from the fans."
A throng of teammates swarmed Hartley at midfield. Jeff Charleston, Remi Ayodele, Jason Kyle and Lynell Hamilton heaved him heroically on their shoulders. Then a second wave washed over them and the mass of humanity crashed to the turf in a raucous, rollicking black-and-gold dogpile.
"It was 98 percent fun, 2 percent pain, " Hartley joked, "trying to get about a thousand pounds of guys off me."
Someone asked Hartley if he appreciated the significance of his accomplishment. True to form, he deflected the attention to his teammates and coaches. Then he paused, if for only an instant, to reflect on the moment and allowed himself a rare snippet of satisfaction.
"It was just a remarkable thing what it's done for the city, " he said. "It was the most enjoyable experience of my life, and something I'll never forget."
Saints fans undoubtedly would agree with him.
New Orleans Saints' Garrett Hartley shrugs off acclaim after historic kick | - NOLA.com
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|01-30-2010, 04:51 PM||#3|
Mrs. Drew Brees
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: The Who Dat Nation (by way of South Dakota)
Blog Entries: 1
Re: New Orleans Saints' Garrett Hartley shrugs off acclaim after historic kick
Hartley will be remembered among the great Saints kickers, such as Tom Dempsey and Morton Anderson.
|01-30-2010, 05:49 PM||#4|
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Conroe, TX
Re: New Orleans Saints' Garrett Hartley shrugs off acclaim after historic kick
Little ole' Hartley! Who would have "thunk" it? Little David, slaying the giant Goliath with his slingshot...ahem, make that kicking leg!