His name might be synonymous with the 27-yard miss that booted the Vikings from the NFL playoffs, but the kicker is refusing to let it define his career. The perspective gained from a classroom of first-grader is helping, too
Maybe, I thought, Blair Walsh’s playoff-altering 27-yard field goal miss nine days ago was because Richard Sherman was so close to blocking an earlier field goal and Walsh had to alter his delivery to be sure Sherman didn’t get this one.
“No,” said Walsh. “That’s not what I was thinking about.”
Or maybe it had something to do with the wind or the weather or the laces not being rotated correctly by holder Jeff Locke.
“No,” said Walsh.
With time to watch the biggest chip shot of his career, and to think about his form and his approach to the missed field goal that put Seattle instead of Minnesota in the final eight, there is nothing deep nor dark about what happened on this kick, Walsh told The MMQB.
“What happened was, I rushed it, and I didn’t have to,” Walsh said. “I didn’t power through. It is inexplainable. The whole thing … I rushed the process, and you never should do that on a kick. I watched it one time—on the tablet we get from the team. I watched it, and I saw what I did wrong. I rushed it.
“The hardest thing is knowing I let my team down. I get emotional when I think of that. That’s my job, and I didn’t do it. When we all came in on Monday, the day after the game, and I have to look at them, that’s the toughest thing.”
But there is one thing Walsh is quite sure of. He is not sure he can watch football right now, because when he does he thinks of the fact that his miss put the Vikings out of the games we’re watching now, and that quasi-torments him. While Walsh hurts for the fans who love the Vikings and were gutted by losing that game, he does feel strongly that the miss will not mar his career to the point that he’ll have to do something else.
“A missed field goal is not going to define who I am—and it is not going to ruin my life,” he said matter-of-factly.
A lot more matter-of-factly than most 26-year-olds could say about being in a very public profession, and knowing that whenever fans of the sport think of his name, they’ll think of this shanked kick.
What helped Walsh is facing up to the deed immediately. In fact, when he came off the frigid field in Minnesota that afternoon, he stood at his locker and said he was ready to face the music immediately. He credits his college coach, Mark Richt, for making every player in the Georgia program accountable. “Coach Richt told us, ‘If you want everyone there to celebrate when you do something great, you have to be there, accountable, when you fail.’ ”
So he stood there for 10 or 12 minutes, answering waves of reporters with the same question. How? How did you miss a kick that, up until that point in 2015, had been converted 189 of 191 times from 27 yards and closer? Then he cried, and no teammate could console him. The next day, what meant something was special teams coach Mike Priefer telling him how great a kicker he was, and how the Vikings were proud that he was their kicker. Some evidence: In his four seasons kicking for the Vikings, Walsh has the 10th-best field goal percentage—85.2 percent—in the history of the league.
“I love the NFL,” said Walsh. “I love my job. I respect the game so much, because I know what it means to so many people. So I do not take this lightly. But whatever everyone has said to me—fans, my coaches, my teammates, kickers from other teams, the people in the community—honestly has restored my faith in humanity.”
That was underlined when Northpoint Elementary School in Minneapolis organized the students in its four first-grade classes to send the Vikings 80 notes and drawings of support for Walsh. He was so overwhelmed that he visited the school and the teacher who arranged it all, Julie Offerdahl, to express his thanks. “I’ll keep every note,” Walsh said. “That was incredibly special. I’m so fortunate to be a part of this community. It shows you that life is about more than the outcome of a football game. People who don’t know, who’ve never met you, can be incredibly compassionate when something bad happens to you.”
Now Walsh has to be sure this one kick doesn’t ruin the next 10 years of them.
“I believe I’m one of the best in the NFL,” he said, “and this will drive me to be more successful. I will not dwell on this. I can’t.”
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