It was a celebration more than a year in the making.
When Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby made a 23-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions on Monday, he did what he’s never done but always wanted to do.
Take a Lambeau Leap.
“We had been talking about it for about a year now, honestly, since the last Monday night game-winner,” Crosby said, thinking back to 364 days earlier against San Francisco. A week after a five-miss debacle at Detroit, Crosby beat the 49ers that night with a 27-yard field goal but forgot to celebrate. “As soon as I hit it, I was off to the right and I saw Hunter (Bradley, the long snapper) running and I just took off after him. Yeah, I thought it was well-coordinated. He might have helped me up there a little bit but that’s what it’s all about. It was awesome being able to celebrate with my teammates, with the fans, that was special. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Making it more special for Crosby were the circumstances. The NFL dedicates October to cancer awareness with its “Crucial Catch” campaign. It was a campaign that literally hit home for Crosby just before the start of training camp. His wife, Molly, had been dealing with bouts of coughing and congestion throughout the summer. Some preliminary exams in Green Bay showed a spot on her lung. That led the Crosbys to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for additional tests. A carcinoid endocrine tumor was found. The tumor isn’t as dangerous as other forms of cancer but was obviously a scary diagnosis, considering she’s 32-year-old nonsmoker who otherwise had no health problems.
Following successful surgery that removed the tumor from her lung at the end of camp, Molly Crosby was in attendance, sitting in the end zone of Crosby’s winning kick.
“Obviously, a lot,” Crosby said about the extra meaning behind the kick. “Just the fact that I’m wearing this Packers vs. Cancer hat and the NFL’s doing a Crucial Catch, yeah, I couldn’t ask for a better night for something like that to happen. This team’s special. I’m really happy that it came down to that.”
The Packers took possession at their 18-yard line with less than 7 minutes to play. As the offense slowly moved down the field, Bradley thought of Crosby’s Lambeau Leaping dreams but didn’t want jinx anything or distract Crosby by bringing up a plan hatched over a game of the “FIFA” soccer video game.
“We play ‘FIFA’ a lot, and I was beating him like I always do,” Bradley recalled. “I had one of my celebrations where my guy jumped over the fence and went into the stands. Mason was joking, ‘I’ve never had a Lambeau Leap.’ I’m like, ‘We’ve got to get you one. Next game-winner, we’re going to do the FIFA celebration where I’m twirling my hands.’ He was like, ‘I don’t think I can jump and make it in.’ I’m like, ‘I’ll give you a boost up and we’ll get you up there.’ It was great to see him hit that game-winner and finally get that Lambeau Leap.”
Sure enough, Crosby couldn’t get into the crowd but Bradley was there to give him a boost.
“I’ll be looking forward to that film of him trying to get up there,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “But the wall is a lot higher than you think when you get up to it, especially after some elation and maybe running around a little bit. You start sizing it up and it gets a little steep there.”
Crosby didn’t care, not in the victorious Lambeau Field locker room. Not after having to beat out Sam Ficken to retain the kicking job for a 13th season. Not after his wife’s ordeal this summer.
“That feeling, once you get up in the stands, the energy in there and teammates and everyone’s around, that’s something I’ll always remember. That was great,” Crosby said.