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This Is How It Happened: Thomas Morstead's onside kick in Super Bowl XLIV

Dan Wetzel
·Columnist
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NEW ORLEANS — Thomas Morstead was 23 years old, a nervous rookie whose goal at Super Bowl XLIV was simply to do the basics of his job – handle kickoffs and punts for the New Orleans Saints with as little fanfare as possible.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, head coach Sean Payton put him in the crossfire. With his team trailing the Indianapolis Colts 10-6 at the half and the Colts getting the ball to start the third quarter, Payton feared Peyton Manning, known for his halftime adjustments, would take the ball, drive down the field and blow the game open. So rather than give Manning the ball, he called on Morstead for an onside kick.

“He just walks by my locker,” Morstead said of Payton. “Immediately, I had a pretty visceral response of kind of a panicked feeling and that was that.”

What happened next, not merely the ensuing kick, but the half hour or so that Morstead had to sit in that locker room during an extended Super Bowl halftime and come to grips with the pressure and contemplate how to defeat it is the type of moment that makes sports so dramatic.

These are the single instances, plays, developments, decisions and relationships that can shift the fortunes of games, teams, franchises, careers and even entire sports. The small becomes the big, the little impacts the large.

It’s why Yahoo Sports is launching “This Is How It Happened,” a multi-platform way to delve into these kinds of stories.

There is this written column about Morstead’s moment.

There is video of him telling the story in his own voice.

And there is a longer podcast that includes both a sit down with Morstead at the Saints training facility and an extended conversation between myself and colleague Charles Robinson putting it all in perspective.

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We hope this is the first of many episodes, a unique way to magnify and dig deeper into significant moments that may have fallen out of the public conscious … such as how Morstead overcame a virtual panic attack to deliver an extremely challenging kick and go from unknown rookie punter to a place in Super Bowl lore.

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