Bill's Norwood walks in terrible seclusion

January 28, 1991|By John F. Steadman | John F. Steadman,Evening Sun Staff

TAMPA, FLA — TAMPA, Fla. -- He walked alone. And never has a more forlorn figure been seen on a football field. Scott Norwood, in a dramatic conclusion, was the difference between winning and losing the Super Bowl.

Not in the 25-year Super series had it come down to the final play. In Super Bowl V, when the Baltimore Colts won the coveted prize, Jim O'Brien broke a tie with a 32-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.

A miss would have meant overtime. But in Super Bowl XXV, it was a win or lose at that instant for Norwood and the Buffalo Bills. He came on the field with eight seconds left, 47 yards from the goal post.

If he connects, the score reverses: from a 20-19 defeat to a 22-20 triumph. Ten Bills were in a huddle but Norwood remained apart, keeping his thoughts to himself. While waiting, he casually swept his right leg in a soft, unhurried kicking motion.

This was to approximate a $1 million kick -- the difference between the players' winning share of $36,000 and the losing one of $18,000.

A gathering of live witnesses, 73,813 strong, looked on in Tampa Stadium as Norwood awaited the snap. Adam Lingner delivered the ball straight and true to holder Frank Reich, who put it down for Norwood to kick.

His leg came through, the ball elevated over the Giants' straining linemen. Norwood followed the flight for all 47 yards.

Norwood put his left hand toward his mouth and then turned away . . . head down. Crushed and distraught.

Yes, the ball was off-target. The Giants carried on as jubilant victors have been known to do. For Norwood, it was a long, lonely walk to the bench.

David Pool and Mark Kelso, as teammates, came to offer encouragement. But to no avail. Norwood was wiped out in spirit and emotionally drained.

His helmet was cradled in his arm and he walked a path behind the Bills' bench. The game was over, champion decided and the trophy would soon be presented.

Norwood then made the longest walk of his 30 years. It was down the sideline alone until he found the tunnel. The jubilant sounds of the victors erupted and echoed about the huge outdoor chamber of concrete.

Kickers must live with the good and the bad. To Norwood's credit, he didn't blame anyone but himself. "I let a lot of people down today," he almost whispered.

"I believe I concentrated too intently to make sure I was going to kick it hard enough. I was thinking distance. That might have hurt me.

"I usually get my kicks to 'draw' [meaning a right to left movement] but that never happened. The ball stayed straight. I kept waiting for it to come in or drift inside the post. But it never did. It just stayed out."

Scott Norwood seems too fine an individual but the burden is his to carry.

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