The two players with Utah collegiate ties reflected the huge differential between a missed field goal and a made field goal in the postgame locker rooms after the silver anniversary Super Bowl ended Sunday in favor of the New York Giants over the Buffalo Bills, 20-19.
In the Giants' locker room, starting center Bart Oates, an ex-BYU Cougar, stood on a makeshift podium next to ABC sportscaster Brent Musburger, accepting the Vince Lombardi winner's trophy on behalf of his teammates as a worldwide viewing audience of an estimated 750 million watched.In the Bills' locker room, backup linebacker and special teams player Hal Garner, an ex-Utah State Aggie, walked from the showers to his locker in the midst of almost total silence.
The game wasn't decided until Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds remaining. The kick looked like it had the distance but was wide to the right. Not by a lot. But enough to crown the Giants champions of the NFL, and send the Bills home to Buffalo without championship rings to order.
The outcome of Norwood's kick turned the Giants' locker room into a mass of victory celebrations, and the Bills' locker room into a library.
"The character of this team is one that refuses to quit," said Oates, who won his second Super Bowl ring in six years with the Giants and who will move on to play in his first Pro Bowl next week in Hawaii.
"Our rallying cry the whole week was to be in the game for 60 minutes," he said. "We knew it would be a close game. We've had close games all year. We barely beat the Patriots, and they were supposed to be terrible."
Oates suggested that the Bills' penchant for winning by big margins may have had an adverse effect when it came to the closing moments.
"They ran roughshod over most teams," he said, "while we had to learn how to hang in there and keep our composure."
In the Bills' locker room, Garner, who played every special teams down and made some key blocks and assisted tackles for the Bills in the turnover-free game, said he was as numb as coach Marv Levy had been when he addressed the team after the game.
"He told us he didn't know what to say. He said we'd had a great year," said Garner. "He said this doesn't mean anything, because the Bills will be back next year."
"I don't know what to say," continued Garner. "I can't take anything away from the Giants. They kept the ball a lot. We should have taken them out early, but we didn't. I've never had a loss like this. Those close losses in college to BYU, they don't compare.
Of the Bills' final drive, which took them from their own 10-yard-line to field goal range in the last two minutes, Garner said, "We did everything we were supposed to do to get down there. But you can't take anything away from Scotty (Norwood). I feel bad for him, but it wasn't one guy who lost this game. If we had won it would have been a team win, and it has to be a team loss."
Garner, a four-year veteran, finished his current contract with the Bills this year but said, "I plan to do everything I can to come back with the Buffalo Bills next year."
As for Oates, a six-year NFL veteran and nine-year professional veteran who also played in the USFL, he reiterated what he'd said earlier in the week about possible retirement. The 1982 BYU graduate recently earned his law degree from Seton Hall University and has accepted a job with a law firm in New Jersey. He said he needs to decide whether to be both a football player and a lawyer, or go into law full time.
"If I can talk the (Giants owners) Maras into keeping this trophy," he said as he held onto the Lombardi Trophy, "then I'll retire."
"As I said before," he continued. "I'll sit down with my wife, either in Hawaii next week or the week after that, and make a decision. I'm undecided right now. After so many years, your body starts complaining about going through training camp again and all of that."
Oates won a $36,000 share as his part of the winning team's share. Garner and the rest of the Bills won $18,000 apiece.