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On sale at Newsstands June 18!
Getting His Kicks
From burning his redshirt to helping earn a Super Bowl victory, it’s been a wild ride for Garrett Hartley

Lining up for a career-defining kick, Garrett Hartley felt the immense pressure. The former University of Oklahoma standout had hit 9 of 11 field goal attempts during the regular season, but the 23-year-old was still stinging from a missed a 37-yard try with five seconds left in week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Now his 40-yard overtime attempt against the Minnesota Vikings would send the New Orleans Saints to the Super Bowl.

On the sideline just before the kick, Saints head coach Sean Payton asked Hartley to target the fleur-de-lis on the Superdome’s second deck.
Looking out onto the field in overtime, Hartley said the pep talk was a real confidence booster.

“You just groove this thing,” Payton told Hartley in a quote archived for the ages by NFL Films.
“I’ll carry it in. Just hit your kick, young son. Here’s why: You deserve to be here.”

Although Hartley made the famous kick, his prediction of the moment was actually two yards off. The night before the NFC Championship Game, Garrett couldn’t sleep so he called his dad at 2:15 in the morning.

“Dad, I have a feeling I’m going to hit a game-winner from 42 yards on the right hash,’ and I think I was off by about two yards,” Hartley said during the post-game press conference.

“It was funny, just the whole game, how this thing played out. And I just keep thinking about it — ‘Is this really happening?’ It was kind of like Never Never Land.”

Hartley’s life is forever changed by his recent dream season, but he has experienced his fair share of struggles on the road to success. His near-flawless OU career started by burning his freshman redshirt. His Super Bowl season included missing four games due to a drug suspension, a trying experience that eventually led to what he calls “one of the best things that could possibly happen to me.”


SOONER BOUND

Playing football at Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas, Hartley garnered the No. 2 prep ranking nationwide at his position, according to Rivals.com. Hartley, who was scheduled to go to the University of Texas’ camp, fatefully attended an OU football camp, where he was the only kicker out of 600 players.

Hartley described being impressed by Oklahoma’s tradition and facilities. He said pieces were falling together that eventually drew him to Norman.

“Before I knew it, Uwe von Schamann and Coach (Bob) Stoops (were) watching me kick,” Hartley, who committed verbally to OU after his junior year.
“That Sunday, Coach Stoops told me to bring my father up there, (and) once we’d leave, he’d be calling the next day to offer a full scholarship.”

Near the close of his redshirt-freshman season in 2004, Hartley was pegged to replace junior place kicker Trey DiCarlo, a former Lou Groza Award finalist. Stoops reportedly told Hartley to discuss burning his redshirt with his parents before coaches pulled the trigger. The kicker remembers having long conversations about the subject with his mother and father. And he understood the sacrifice.

(editor's note: This is just a portion of the Garrett Hartley feature that appears in the Spring Football Issue of Sooner Spectator, due in stores May 1. To subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877)