Sitting in Brabbs’ home office, ratty shoe and all
Eleven years ago this Saturday coach Lloyd Carr summoned Phil Brabbs onto the field. Second later he punched his ticket to Michigan Football’s Valhalla as his 44 and a half, but who’s counting?) yard kick sailed true and sunk Washington 31-29. Phil was mobbed by his teammates, you hugged the person next to you and probably spilled a few things. Life was good. Michigan Replay via WolverineHistorian if you need it:
I briefly caught up to Brabbs this week and he shared a few memories of that great day and more. Dig it:
MVictors: So heading into that final drive, you had already missed a couple kicks in the game and Troy (Nienberg) had just missed a short kick that might have sealed it. So when exactly did you know that you were going to be the one attempting the final kick?
Brabbs: [laughs] When coach Carr pointed at me! It was right before I went in. Both Troy and I were warming up. I had a sense that if it was going to be a longer field goal they were going to call my number, but we really didn’t know how it was going to turn out. If John [Navarre] hit a long pass they could have called my number or they could have called on Troy, but either way we were both were atrocious at that point in the game. [laughs]
MVictors: Did anyone say anything to loosen you up in the huddle or before the kick?
Brabbs: No, no…kickers don’t participate in the huddle for good reason [laughs]. I go out and I find my spot seven yards out. John comes over and puts his finger down on my spot. I step back, do my ritual and kick the ball. I do remember, I think it was [Ron] Bellamy…he kind of gave me a hug as I was coming on the field. The whole thing was so surreal, like a dream. I’m walking on the field like I’d done this a million times, although I hadn’t even made one kick in the Big House, and Bellamy gives me a hug, I pick my spot, I take my steps back, I recite Phil 4:13, and I kick the ball. I looked up at it’s like…oh my gosh, this just happened!
John and I are jumping up and down. The place just went nuts, I don’t even know how to respond so I just start running and take a beeline toward the middle of the field. The Michigan sideline just consumed me. Of course I’m at the bottom of the pile, contorted, my kicking toe was probably tied around my back but I didn’t care. I remember thinking, ‘This happened. This really just happened.’
MVictors: So how often to people bring up the kick to you?
Brabbs: I moved to Charlotte just after I graduated so I didn’t hear much about it. When I moved back to Ann Arbor I guess didn’t realize how much the town is [into Michigan football]. It’s amazing how many people remember. People remember it better than I do. It amazes me how much the fans and the people in Ann Arbor recall those moments like they were yesterday.
MVictors: For many fans, especially for fans my age, for better or for worse the name Brabbs is instantly and permanently associated with that precise moment in 2002.
Brabbs: Well I’m glad my name brings back positive emotions [laughs], because we were a few seconds or one kick away from my name being cursed!
MVictors: Do you have anything from the Washington game that you’ve held onto that reminds of that day? Did you get a game ball or something?
Brabbs: It’s funny–you do collect a bit a Michigan paraphernalia as a player. You’ve got Rose Bowl this, and Orange Bowl that, and Outback bowl this. I finally have an office in my home but haven’t put up all the pictures yet. But my parents got an AP photo of the kick blown up and I had all the players who were part of that play sign it. So it’s got 11 signatures, mine included, and it’s a pretty large picture of the kick. My parents even had it inscribed, ‘The Kick, August 31, 2002.’ So that’s in my office but I haven’t hung it up yet. It’s just kind of leaning up against the wall. But I also have the shoe. I kept my game shoe from that year, and it’s so ratty! It’s the shoe that went with the kick.
MVictors: Now that was a hot day and the game looked to be over at a couple points down the stretch. Have any of your buddies or classmates ever admitted, to your face, that they left the game early? I know a couple guys [Scotty Mudbowl & K’s] who left early, and I am certain a lot of others did, too.
Brabbs: No. I’ve not from heard one person that had left, but I know about one in every ten probably did. I tell you I wouldn’t blame them. It looked doubtful, especially after Troy missed that last one it didn’t seem like we’d have enough time for another kick.
MVictors: In closing, can you give us an update: How bad are you kicking cancer’s ass?
Brabbs: [laughs] That’s my favorite thing to talk about. It’s just getting dominated. I mean, a year and a half ago I got the results that the cancer wasn’t showing up anymore and we’ve maintained that same domination. I’ve kicked its ass and actually, it’s not even taking up my mind space. I’ve really moved on from that. I’m helping a friend of mine launch a Consulting business–I’m full-time, working for myself. My kids are now 7, 5, and 3 so they’re about to start school so we’re into life things now. We’re finally taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Now we can get back to normal things.’ It’s awesome. This is normal parenting and life ‘stuff’ that we get to deal with and we don’t take it for granted.
A huge thanks for Phil B for the time! Check him on Twitter at @Brabbs.
Related: Hmm, could it be that’ll we’ll be discussing a certain game from 2002 on This Week in Michigan Football History on Saturday’s pregame show?? Hmm? I wouldn’t bet against it.
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