Canadian Kicker Cool Under Pressure
When Shaun Suisham lined up in overtime to kick what would be a walk-off, game-winning field goal against the Miami Dolphins - it had to be surreal for him. After all, what aspiring young football player hasn't sat in the school yard daydreaming about a big NFL event for themselves? For a would-be kicker, that dream would likely involve all of the elements that faced Suisham on Sunday - at home, in front of nearly 100,000 fans watching your every movement, and with the game on the line in overtime.
The 25-year old from Wallaceburg, Ontario, simply did what he'd probably done in his mind a thousand times before; hammered the kick straight down the middle to give the Washington Redskins a 16-13 victory at Fed Ex Field.
In a fairly ugly affair, Washington and Miami were locked at 13-13 after regulation time. The Redskins won the coin toss to start overtime, elected to receive, and took their opening drive straight down the field on Miami. The offensive line was dominating the line of scrimmage, and the Dolphins seemed powerless to stop Washington on the ground. So it came as a bit of surprise that head coach Joe Gibbs sent Suisham out on first down for the field goal attempt, rather than try to bang away on the ground three more times, for a few extra yards.
Shaun was unaffected by the move; "I was pleased we kicked the field goal immediately. I feel as if that was a decision made based on my ability."
Good point. Obviously Gibbs had full confidence in his kicker and preferred to have a 40-yard field goal attempt, than trying to run even one more play and risk a costly turnover or a loss of yardage.
Suisham walked out on to the field at Fed Ex for what would officially be called a 39-yard attempt as it was about an inch short of the 40-yard mark; 91,000 people collectively held their breath, as the Redskins walked up to the line of scrimmage, and stop.
Time-out Dolphins, as coach Cam Cameron tries to 'ice' the Redskins kicker. Does that really ever work at the NFL level?
"The time out gave me additional time to prepare for the kick - check wind condition, check field conditions, etc." Suisham offered, "I felt great and I was excited."
The two teams lined up for the kick a second time, and again the crowd quieted in anticipation; the snap was true from Ethan Albright, the hold was good from Derrick Frost, and Shaun pounded it through the uprights like it was a point after attempt at practice.
The team swarmed the kicker as the stadium erupted. "I don't recall what it sounded like after the kick, but the guys were pretty excited," Suisham said, "The stadium was electric the entire game."
The crowning moment of a young Canadian kicker's career?
"That field goal was definitely the biggest kick I have had to date. Since I began kicking in high school, I have been practicing and preparing for that opportunity."
It looked that way Sunday - Suisham was focused, poised, and confident.
He did learn a thing or two about big kicks when he was in high school; at Wallaceburg District Secondary, his final kick was a 58-yard field goal to win the 1999 Kent County championships. That gruff Southwestern Ontario winter must put ice in your veins.
Against the Dolphins on Sunday, Suisham was responsible for ten of the Redskins sixteen points. He had field goals of 44 yards, and 31 yards to go along with his 39-yard overtime winner. He earned a game ball, and the Redskins earned a much needed win to start the 2007 season.
After the game, Suisham got to celebrate the win with his wife and his family in the player's parking lot.
The Washington Redskins and their entire community will be celebrating all week.
This article was released on 2007-09-12.
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