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NFL - Norwood Returns a Decade Later

By Patrick Moran
Friday, July 12th, 2002

It's often times wrongful that one man has his career and legacy based on one play. Michael Jordan missed various last-second jump shots. Ted Williams left the winning run on third base more then one time in his career. Pucks have slipped behind the pad of Dominik Hasek at critical times on occasion, and even Tiger Woods has blown a few tournaments by missing "gimme" putts.

These are some of the best athletes to ever play their respective sports. But the point is that even the best of them have moments they'd rather forget.

So because Scott Norwood missed one kick, why is he taken into account as being one of the all-time biggest choke artists? Well, because it wasn't just a kick he missed. He missed the kick.

Flashback to January 27, 1991. Tampa Bay, Florida, site of Super Bowl XXV. Buffalo, despite being solidly favored, trails the New York Giants, 20-19, with eight seconds remaining. Scott Norwood comes on to kick a game-winning 47 yarder. The kick sails wide right and Buffalo loses. Norwood becomes perhaps sports biggest goat of all-time.

Nevermind that New York controlled the ball for over 40 minutes. Nevermind that New York had 24 first downs and ran 17 more plays then Buffalo. Nevermind that Darryl Talley, Leonard Smith, and a host of others regularly failed to make third down stops which led to New York converting 9 of 16 third downs. The game should have never come down to a last-second field goal attempt, but in all but a few peoples mind, the Bills lost because of Scott Norwood.

Immediately after the game, fans were considerably compassionate towards Norwood. At the team rally following the game at Lafayette Square in Buffalo, fans gave him a standing ovation and cried for him. Norwood cried along with them.

"I didn't hurt so much just because of the kick," Norwood said. "That kick was about all the people in Buffalo and nothing else to me. When you talk about the Buffalo Bills, it's all about the people who support the team. The first Super Bowl was an emotional time. I just felt bad for the people, that's why I cried."

Warmth turned to sourness towards him as the Bills proceeded to lose the next three Super Bowls. Fans at the time of Norwood's near-miss felt they'd have other opportunities to win the Super Bowl. They did. The team simply never played deserving enough to win another one.

Norwood wasn't around for the last two. He was essentially run out of Buffalo after the end of 1991 and was never heard from again. He didn't catch on with another team. As the years went on following 1991, the fans wrath gained momentum as they came to grips that Norwood's kick was the closest Buffalo would come to wining the big game. And because of that, Norwood became the chief scapegoat.

Scott Norwood isn't that much different from the prototypical die-hard Buffalo Bills fan. He's replayed the kick many times throughout the years. Every single time he does, the effect is the same. The ball starts off precise, but then drifts right and continues to drift right as it gets closer to the goalpost. If the 47-yarder would have been from 44 yards, the kick is good and he's a champion. But it's not, and he's the goat.

Norwood doesn't like to scrutinize the kick too much because no matter how much he does, it still goes wide right.

"It wasn't a short kick by any means," he said. "In that instance, I didn't do my job and I didn't get the job done and I have to take the responsibility for that. I planted my foot about six inches farther then I wanted to with the kick. If I didn't do that, the kick probably would have been good."

Time does heal all wounds and in Norwood's case this was proved this past July 21st when Norwood came back to Buffalo to compete in the Jim Kelly vs. Dan Marino Final Showdown, a game played for charity. When his former teammate Jim Kelly called on Norwood to volunteer his services for the game, he wasted little time saying yes.

The event was the first time Norwood had been publicly back in Buffalo in over a decade. His wife, Kim Burch, is a native of Western New York and they've slipped into town a few times throughout the years for family visits and a wedding. But he had entirely remained out of the public eye and crossfire of Bills fans the whole time. So naturally Norwood didn't recognize what to expect when his name was announced in front of over 15,000 fans on hand for the event.

To his delight, the crowd was overwhelmingly approving of him. Norwood got the largest ovation of the night along with Kelly and former coach Marv Levy.

"It was one of the best feelings emotionally I've ever had," he sad. "It felt so great to come back to Buffalo for an event for Jim Kelly's charity and to be with the amount of great players here is tremendous. It felt great to hear that kind of response from the fans. It made me feel very warm and appreciated for what I did do for the team over the years and not for what I couldn't do."

As for the charity event itself, Buffalo won over the Dan Marino-led NFL All-Stars, 42-34. In the game, Norwood was successful on both of his extra point attempts. Both kicks drew a deafening applause from the crowd. The situation never called on him to attempt a field goal, though he made no bones about being ready to give one a shot.

"I was ready," he said. "I always prepare myself to be ready. The game didn't call on me to put one up, but I was more then ready to go."

Norwood has moved on with his life since leaving the NFL. Now 42, Norwood married Burch in 1989. Together they have 7-year-old twins Carly and Connor and a 5-year-old in Corey. He is a financial adviser residing in Northern Virginia. He's complacent with life. He lives in a nice house and is successful with his current career. But he still misses the game and he missed being back in Buffalo.

I've had a great career and I played a lot of football before when I played professionally so I don't think it's ever going to be out of my blood." He said. "It's great to be in this kind of environment and paired up again with great players like Steve Tasker and Don Beebe and so many others. I'll always miss it a little bit."

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