- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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On the fourth try, going to the Super Bowl was a snap for Steve Weatherford.
Putting behind him the frustration of three previous losses in conference championship games, Weatherford's cool hands latched on to a low snap as he placed down the ball for a field goal that give the Giants a 20-17 victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and Big Blue's ecstatic punter/holder a reason to scream at the top of his lungs.
Yes, just as he mouthed after tearing off his helmet and running around Candlestick Park like a wild man, Weatherford is finally going to the "[bleeping] Super Bowl."
"That was like unbridled joy," Weatherford said. "That was my soul on TV. That was unbelievable, I still can't believe that happened."
In what he believes is the best year of his career, the Giants punter is riding high heading into his first Super Bowl in what will ultimately be a homecoming game. He grew up 40 miles west of Indianapolis and will be playing in front of family and friends when the Giants take on the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Believe me, it's way more joy than relief," Weatherford said. "It's not like I had to go to the Super Bowl but at the same time, your fourth trip to the championship game, you would expect one of those times you're going to go. I'm glad it's with this franchise, I'm glad it's now because the Super Bowl is pretty much in my hometown so I'm really excited."
Judging by his wild reaction to kicker Lawrence Tynes' game-winning kick, it would be easy to think that Weatherford was the one who booted the Giants to the Super Bowl. He was just as excited before the kick even happened.
"He was animated. When we got a penalty and moved back, and thank God we did because we had grass and he was like, 'Lawrence, this is a Super Bowl spot right here. We're going to the (makes beeping noise) Super Bowl.' Then he ran over and yelled at (Giants coach Tom) Coughlin and Coughlin's like all right, get back out there. Then he's like, 'Let's [bleeping] make this kick, we're going to the Super Bowl." Tynes said. "His reaction, for a guy (who) brings it every week, in his fourth time to try to get there and he finally made it. Knowing that reaction is priceless."
After Tynes made the kick, that's when Weatherford became what his sister described as a "Youtube sensation." His reaction, helmet ripping off and foul word included, was shown in full detail just moments after the win. Tynes said that he has not been able to get that picture out his head, calling it awesome.
Of course, that close-up of Weatherford and his salty language didn't go unnoticed by his mother.
"I think I got in the locker room and I called my parents and I'm like, man, we're going to the Super Bowl and my mom was like what exactly did you say," Weatherford said. "I racked my brain, I'm like 'Mom, we're going to the 46th Super Bowl.' I don't know if she really believed me but she acted like she did."
Now, it's on to the Super Bowl for Weatherford, which had once been a tempting dream for the punter. He lost with the Saints in 2006 in the NFC Championship Game as well as the last two seasons with the Jets in the AFC title game. Three times he had been so close but ended up being just one game short.
Besides his pivotal hold on the kick, the punter played a big role in the Giants' win as he had 12 punts and averaged 46.4 yards per kick. In a game in which field position mattered so much, Weatherford helped keep San Francisco pinned in its own end.
A native of Crown Point, Ind., Weatherford said that he plans to get about 15 tickets for his family, as both sides of his family are from Indiana, and is looking forward to winning the Super Bowl with those closest to him in attendance.
That surely would be some celebration.
"It's more exciting for me really because I know as soon as we win I'm not going to have to travel far to celebrate with my family. It makes it special. Kind of like a storybook," Weatherford said. "It's my first Super Bowl ever and it's 30 minutes from my house. It's exciting. It's an exciting time. It's magical. It's every little boy's dream so it's an exciting time."