Revisiting the Garrett Hartley Kick That Sent the Saints to the Super Bowl

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NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Kicker Garrett Hartley #5 of the New Orleans Saints successfully kicks a 40-yard game-winning field goal in overtime from the hold of Mark Brunell #11 against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

A phone conversation at 2:00 AM can mean any number of things: a sibling with a broken down car, a friend who needs bail money or something far worse. The call Garrett Hartley made at 2:00 AM on January 24, 2010 was something much different. It was a premonition.

Revisiting the Garrett Hartley Kick That Sent the Saints to the Super Bowl

So what was it that popped into Hartley’s head in those early morning hours?  He saw a game-winning 42-yard field goal from the right hash. Hartley’s premonition wasn’t far off. As fate would have it, it would be a 40-yard game-winning field goal from the right hash.

When speaking with the “Voice of the Saints,” Jim Henderson, he made mention of his four favorite calls. Naturally, the Hartley kick highlighted the list. Henderson explained, “1987 I was the play-by-play announcer when the Saints beat the Steelers to guarantee then their first winning season in franchise history after some 20 years. That was a highlight. Then when the Saints won their first playoff game in 2000 against the Rams, that was certainly a highlight, obviously something that had been unprecedented in the team history and that call got a lot of attention. You get connected to moments as a play-by-play guy for better or for worse and in that way you’re sort of immortal. That was an immortalized moment for the Saints that I was glad to be a part of. Then the Hartley kick against Minnesota that sent them to the Super Bowl and then winning the Super Bowl in Miami with the Tracy Porter interception being such a big part of it.”

To most New Orleans Saints fans, the list provided by Henderson was pretty obvious. The conversation continued to Henderson’s famous call of the kick. Those watching the game were treated to a fantastic, jolly call by Henderson. When asked where the “Pigs have flown” call came from, his answer was a bit surprising.

Pigs Have Flown!  Hell Has Frozen Over!

“That’s a good question,” Henderson mentioned. “I’m almost anxious to respond to that.  We have a house up in Mississippi. Some of the best times I enjoy up there are just going out on the lawnmower and mowing the lawn. For some reason, it’s just such a peaceful time to really just connect with your innermost thoughts. So one day I was thinking, ‘What would I ever say if the Saints won the Super Bowl’. And the Saints, for a long time, had a guy in the stands that would hold certain signs up. And in the course of the years, when the Saints were playing well, this guy might put up a sign that says ‘Pigs fly’ or another saying ‘Hell freezes.’  So then I thought, ‘You know, if the Saints won the Super Bowl, I think I would say ‘Pigs have flown.  Hell has frozen over.  The Saints have won the Super Bowl.’”

So if Henderson had the call in his back pocket if/when the Saints won the Super Bowl, why did he use it after they won the NFC Championship versus the Minnesota Vikings?

Henderson chuckled as he gave me the answer. “Well, that Hartley moment was just so climactic and so cathartic.  When that happened, in the back of my mind I quickly said, ‘Ya know, maybe I better not press my luck about saving this call because the Saints might never win the Super Bowl.’  Even the Super Bowl wasn’t that climactic because for the last minute and a half to two and a half minutes of the game you were much assured that the Saints were going to win.”

It was hardly the answer I expected, but honest nonetheless. Henderson continued to state how grateful to be immortalized with that call in the moment.

Inside the Dome

For those Who Dats in the Superdome, the finish to the game was just as exhilarating but the experience was a bit different. Allen Ulrich of the Under the Dome podcast, who saw the game in-person shared, “I was at both that game and the reopening of the Dome and Gleason’s block. Hartley’s kick was louder, but Gleason’s went on longer at that high volume.”

Ulrich went on to paint the emotional roller coaster as he witnessed the Saints and Vikings trade points as the game was drawing to a close. “As Favre started driving the Vikings into field goal range, people got more nervous and anxious. I was standing, leaning forward with my hands on my knees begging for a stop.  Then Porter made the pick (on Favre) and the crowd went crazy again.”

With regard to that concluding kick by Hartley, Ulrich added, “It was so quiet when Hartley kicked, you could hear him hit the ball, then the roar which was more relief than joy”. Ulrich then added, “The other thing I remember was strangers in the stadium and outside hugging me saying ‘We won! We’re going to the Super Bowl.'”

Whether it was the comfort of his father’s words during the 2:00 AM phone call, the confidence of head coach Sean Payton or the wisdom of fellow kicker John Carney, the kick by Hartley couldn’t have been more perfect, in every way.

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