SALT LAKE CITY — I was expecting to meet a shipwrecked sailor, a tormented soul, a broken-winged bird. But the most reviled player in Boise State football history was none of those.
Since Kyle Brotzman missed two kicks last November that derailed the Broncos' hopes of a national championship, he has done fine. The Bill Buckner of college football is alive and playing for the Utah Blaze, looking downright well-adjusted.
But doesn't he get night sweats? A tic in his eye?
Please. The man seems as well adjusted as Ron Howard.
"I decided (what to do) two days after that game, and just got over it," said Brotzman.
Welcome to the first season of the rest of his life.
If you don't know Brotzman's name, you don't closely follow college football. He was fairly well known before last Nov. 26 as the kicker for the Boise State Broncos. The top scorer in Western Athletic Conference history, he once made 118 consecutive PATs.
He even threw a 30-yard pass on a fake punt that set up the game-winning TD in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl.
Brotzman could do no wrong.
But with BSU undefeated and facing the Wolf Pack, he missed the game-winner from 26 yards with two seconds left in regulation, then sheared a 29-yarder in overtime against Nevada. That ended the Broncos' hopes of a national title.
The backlash was both quick and mean. Callers began leaving threatening phone messages and firing off cruel remarks in the social media. And it's true, he was among the most notable sports foul-ups since, well, Buckner, who also lives in Boise.
Yet Brotzman shrugged it off as "just people saying stuff and I didn't think anything of it, unless it was directed to me face to face, and then I'd probably have said something."
He estimated only two people said anything to his face.
"I'm OK talking with them if they want, but usually people won't show their face, which is fine, that's their deal," Brotzman said. "There's not much I can do about them."
After seeing the initial flood of outraged message board and Facebook postings, family and friends started their own support pages with titles like "We Still Love Kyle Brotzman."
Too bad Facebook didn't exist in Buckner's playing days. He will forever be linked to a bungled grounder that many believe cost the Red Sox the 1986 World Series.
Buckner eventually moved West to escape bitter fans and accusatory media. But this year he took a job as manager of the Brockton Rox of the Can-Am League. Incidentally, Brotzman has met Buckner, though it was before the field goal incident.
Brotzman also talked with Jeret Peterson, the aerial skier from Idaho who was sent home from the 2006 Olympics after scuffling at a post-event celebration.
"He helped me get through this whole thing," Brotzman said.
Whatever advice he got, Brotzman apparently took it to heart. He is what Blaze coach Ron James calls "a down to earth, humble, receptive player; a 'Yes Sir, No Sir' kind of guy."
He has made 21 of his 26 PATs in Arena Football. That's not great in college, but the crossbar is higher and the goalposts narrower in the AFL. He is 0-for-1 on field goals but James loves Brotzman's long kickoff distance, because in the AFL kicks are played off the rebound net.
Meanwhile, each day Brotzman puts a little more distance between himself and the misses that made him famous.
"Those two kicks don't define me," he said, without a hint of defensiveness.
He added that "things are going to happen to you and, oh well, I've just got to get over it. You sign up for this job and you have to take some heat sometimes and that's OK with me."
He has even kept a sense of humor. Asked if in 15 years Wikipedia will still have an entry about his famous misses, he said, "I hope not. But probably there will be a little thing saying stuff from back in college. That's all right with me."
So this is where it stands 71/2 months after the misses that rocked Idaho: Buckner has made his peace with Boston, and is back in baseball. The Red Sox have two World Series titles and BSU is in the Mountain West Conference. Brotzman has moved on to the AFL.
The lesson is that if things go bad, figure it out and change the ending.
Misses don't need to last a lifetime.
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