While Steve Weatherford celebrated with his teammates in the New York Giants’ locker room after the 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, thoughts inevitably turned to Terre Haute … his hometown.
And how the party will continue when he comes home.
“It’s unbelievable. I can’t wait to share this with everybody back home. It’s so special, especially to get it back here and to get it the way we did it,” Weatherford said.
The way the Giants did it was to come from behind, but New York also claimed its fourth Super Bowl championship due to the foot of Weatherford as well. The former Terre Haute North and University of Illinois standout punted four times and averaged 40.8 yards per punt.
More importantly, three of Weatherford’s four punts landed inside the Patriots’ 10-yard line.
“I was able to execute when it counted most. It was an unbelievable feeling,” Weatherford said.
The first of those punts set up the Giants’ first points of the game. With the Giants stopped at the New England 42-yard line, Weatherford punted to the right corner. It landed at the 3-yard line, took a favorable bounce off the backspin and was downed at the Patriots’ 6-yard line.
One play later, New England quarterback Tom Brady was under pressure in the end zone and uncorked an incomplete pass down the middle of the field. There was no receiver close to where Brady threw the ball. Intentional grounding was called, and because it occurred in the end zone, it resulted in a Giants’ safety to give New York a 2-0 lead.
“Inside-the-20 punts are something I pride myself on. I try to create as much field position as I can, especially with the incredible defense and defensive line we have. If you can put it inside the 5, it makes it very difficult for the other team to drive on us,” Weatherford said.
And that favorable bounce? Manna from heaven for any punter in any game, but in particular, on a punter’s first career boot in a Super Bowl.
“Sometimes it bounces forward, sometimes it goes backwards. Fortunately for my first punt in a Super Bowl, it went backwards,” Weatherford said.
In the second quarter, Weatherford found the coffin corner for a punt that was ruled out of bounds at the New England 4-yard line. Another third-quarter punt resulted in a Patriots’ fair catch at the 7-yard line.
Weatherford was also flawless in his holding responsibilities for kicker Lawrence Tynes, who booted a pair of field goals and an extra point.
Weatherford, who signed with the Giants in July 2011, was claimed from the New York Jets. It was fitting that the Giants had to reclaim their season after being 7-7 and in danger of missing the playoffs to the bitter end of the regular season.
“We’re a resilient team. Ten weeks ago, we were 7-7 and we win the Super Bowl. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Weatherford said.
Weatherford became the first Terre Haute native to be part of a Super Bowl championship team. Former Terre Haute South standout Mark Jackson played at wide receiver in three Super Bowls for Denver, but the Broncos lost all three.
Weatherford was asked who jumped to mind from Terre Haute as he celebrated on the Lucas Oil Stadium gridiron as a Super Bowl champion.
“I couldn’t even begin to list them. From all of my teachers in middle school and high school, to [Vigo County School Corporation Superintendent] Danny Tanoos, who has been my best friend since I was 14 and helped me develop as a man and a player,” Weatherford said.
“It feels so good because I know every single person in Terre Haute is as elated as I am. It almost kind of feels like they won it too.”