To those who recently chose “Ambush” as the most memorable play in Saints history, the man who booted that successful onside kick during the triumph in Super Bowl XLIV has two things to say: Thank you — and I respectfully disagree.
Saints punter Thomas Morstead instead would’ve chosen either Steve Gleason’s punt block against Atlanta in 2006 on the night the Superdome reopened following Hurricane Katrina or Garrett Hartley’s 40-yard field goal in overtime that lifted New Orleans to victory in the 2009 NFC Championship Game and sent the team to Super Bowl XLIV.
“Honestly, it’s amazing to be part of a positive moment in Saints history, and I’ll never forget the whole year, the whole run to the (championship),” Morstead said Tuesday when asked to discuss the fact that “Ambush” beat out Gleason’s punt block and Tracy Porter’s interception return in Super Bowl XLIV in a vote on ESPN.com to determine which Saints play topped all the rest.
However, Morstead continued, “I would have to go on the record as disagreeing and say that I would think the top two plays in Saints history would be Gleason ... and ... Hartley. I’m getting chills just talking about them.”
Morstead spoke to The Advocate on a phone call Tuesday to promote his Sprout6 clothing line, which benefits his charity foundation “What You Give Will Grow,” whose primary focuses include supporting cancer research and aiding children in need. The clothing line hosted a photo shoot, and the merchandise was modeled by youngsters fighting serious illness as well as people striving to have a positive effect in the community by either running or voluntarily supporting charities.
But he also took some time to talk both football and what ESPN’s readership selected as the Saints’ most unforgettable play.
The Saints were trailing the Colts 10-6 at halftime of Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010, when coach Sean Payton ordered kickoff specialist Morstead — a rookie back then — to open the third quarter with an onside kick he’d succeeded in rehearsing all week. It would be the first onside kick ever attempted before the final period of a Super Bowl.
Morstead drove the ball left, and it bounced off the arms and chest of Colts receiver Hank Baskett. The ball then slipped through the arms and legs of Saints safety Chris Reis, who managed to secure the recovery with the help of linebacker Jonathan Casillas while a massive pile of friends and foes formed on top of them.
The Saints subsequently outscored the Colts 25-7 to capture their sole Lombardi trophy so far.
Morstead has since seen the play countless times on television shows, commercials and YouTube videos. Yet the nerves he felt in the moment more than four years ago have not subsided.
“Every time it pops up where I see it, I get a nervous, anxious feeling like I’m not sure if we’re going to recover it or not, even though I know that we do recover it,” Morstead said. “It’s pretty silly.”
Morstead explained that the kick came off his foot the way he wanted it to, but the Saints “didn’t exactly block” how they’d been instructed to.
“It hit a Colt first — you kind of hold your breath there,” Morstead said. “And then there’s this big scrum and (only) then the referees are motioning it’s our ball.”
Despite his opinion about which plays are the best in Saints history, Morstead conceded that he could understand why fans opted for “Ambush.”
“It was just so gutsy to make that call, I would assume people in New Orleans would just take pride in the fact that we’d be a team that would just go for it and put it all on the line,” he said.
Morstead and the Saints officially report to training camp for the 2014 season at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on Thursday. Heading into his sixth year in the NFL and in New Orleans, Morstead said the thing he’s most looking forward to is watching how many undrafted rookies latch onto the Saints’ 53-man roster come Week 1.
“Every year I’ve been here we’ve at least kept one,” Morstead said. “I just love seeing a kid that’s on the outside looking in and doesn’t have a chance by most people’s standards come in and make plays for the team and for himself. It’s pretty neat.”