Simply known as "The Play," it is probably one of the most bizarre plays in college football history and, maybe, sports history. On Nov. 20, 1982, quarterback John Elway led Stanford down the field and kicker Mark Harmon booted a 34-yard field goal to give the Cardinal a 20-19 lead, and apparent win, over California with four seconds left in the game.
But on the ensuing kickoff, California's Kevin Moen grabbed a squib kick and lateralled it to Richard Rodgers, who lateralled to Dwight Garner, who lateralled back to Rodgers, who lateralled it Mariet Fiord who lateralled back to Moen. Moen then ran through the Stanford marching band, which started onto to field, and raced into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Five laterals, 57 yards, a game-winning touchdown and a marching band. It became simply known as "The Play." Phillip Lee recently got in touch with Kevin Moen to find out what he's been up to.
PHILLIP LEE: What have you been doing lately?
KEVIN MOEN: I've been involved in the real estate business for the last 12 to 15 years. I was involved with some partners in a real estate company, which we recently sold. I still perform some real estate functions for clients of mine and I'm doing a lot of coaching. My son is 12 years old and involved in baseball and football. I've been highly involved in the coaching profession on the little league level.
PL: Did you think about continuing your football career?
KM: I think everybody who plays major college football has an aspiration (to play in the NFL) and I did as well. I actually went to training camp with the Raiders (in 1983). I hung around for a cup of coffee and got released. The following year, I went to training camp with the Broncos and lasted a few weeks there. It's just a hard avenue to go when you come in as an unheralded free agent because they have a lot of draft picks and other guys who are ahead of you. I played really well when I was with the Broncos, but I just didn't have what they were looking for and they released me. At that point, it was just too much effort to continue on in a "very, very maybe, you'll make it kinda mode." It was just time to get on with life. I went back into teaching and coaching. I coached at the high school level and taught high school history for a few years and transitioned into the real estate business.
Moen breaks down
Stanford kicked what they perceived to be the winning field goal with four seconds left. After that, things took on a life of their own. We had a group of guys with (defensive back) Richard Rodgers on the sideline saying "Hey, just don't let the ball die."
PL: Talk about "The Play." Is it as fresh in your mind today as it was 19 years ago?
KM: It was such a unique experience and a unique event, not only in "Big Game" history, but also in football overall, that I tend to relive it -- primarily around this time every year. So, although it doesn't seem like it happened yesterday, it doesn't seem like it happened 19 years ago either. It's still a pretty fresh memory and a pretty fond memory to look back on. Because so many people still relate to that play, it's a situation where I get to think about it and talk about it quite often. I'm just happy that we ended up winning so I didn't have to relive a negative thing over time.
PL: Was there a set play for the kickoff return?
KM: We did not have any kind of set play. It was simply random luck. What I will say is that a key element was the awareness of the people involved in the play. Richard (Rodgers) was an old high school option quarterback, I was an old high school option quarterback, Mariet (Ford) was a great athlete and Dwight (Garner) had a good sense to get rid of the ball before he went down. The people had the awareness to get rid of the ball. There was no set play, but on our post-game workouts on Sunday, (former Cal coach Joe Kapp) implemented a game called "grab ass." There would be 15 guys on a side and you could lateral the ball, throw it, chuck it, you could do anything. It was kinda like a big rugby game. Maybe that had a part in "The Play" because what happened resembled what we did on Sunday. So we'll give some credit to Joe Kapp for implementing the grab-ass game and instilling the spirit of never dying and never quitting.
PL: Did you know that it was going to be a squib kick?
KM: I didn't. Our coaches sent out our onside kick return team as opposed to our conventional one. I guess they had some idea that they were going to squib it. At point, I was still grumbling that they had scored the field goal. We were actually short one guy. I believe we only had 10 guys on the field so there was a big hole in the middle of the field. I actually went from where I was supposed to be to about 10 yards closer to the middle of the field where the kick ended up coming.
PL: I understand that you've made friends with the Stanford trombone player, Gary Tyrrell, who you crushed in the end zone after scoring the touchdown.
KM: Yes, I have. Gary and I have on numerous occasions gotten together to do talks and events in relation to the game. I probably see Gary more often than I do a lot my old teammates. I see Gary once a year if not more.
PL: How did you meet Gary?
KM: By me running over him, it kinda started a lifelong relationship there. Shortly after the play, the group of guys who were involved in the play and Gary were invited down to Los Angeles to do a TV show. That was our first introduction and then it's kinda been a continual get together ever since. He has fun with it.
PL: When was the last time you saw all the guys?
KM: It's probably been 10 years if not longer since we've all gotten together.
PL: Do you stay in touch with any teammates?
KM: Mostly Richard Rodgers. Richard has stayed involved in the coaching profession. He's a coach up at Portland State. I talked to him a few months ago. The other guys are all scattered and they've gone they're own way.
PL: Have you ever talked to John Elway about the game?
KM: I haven't. I read a lot of his comments over the year and I'm happy to say that it sounds like he's gotten over the bitterness. His comments after the game and in the ensuing years were always pretty negative. Now I'm starting to see things (from Elway) like "I can appreciate the significance and uniqueness of the play." But I never had the chance to sit down and go over it with him.
PL: Do you have a copy of the game?
PL: How often do you watch it?
KM: I've probably seen ("The Play") a thousand times, but I don't sit at home and watch it. It just happens to be on or I'm at events where that they end up playing it. It's still out there quite a bit so I don't have to go home and look at it. It's kinda out there all the time.
PL: So you've never popped it in the VCR and watched it?
KM: Only on occasion when people are over and they're talking about it and say "Hey, let's put it on." It's always a fun thing to watch. It's also a fun thing to listen to (Cal announcer) Joe Starkey do the play. He's caught off guard and at the end, he's roaring with excitement. It's also fun to listen to the play-by-play.
PL: How has this play affected your life?
KM: It's created a lot of notoriety that would not have been there otherwise. Beyond that, I look at it as one unique aspect of college football and a tremendous honor to be involved in something so unique. It's a nice feeling to take with you down the road to know that you were involved in something fairly unique. Football has always been one aspect of my life, but it's never been the end all. I keep it in perspective. I was very fortunate to be involved with a great group of guys who all had a major role in making that play successful. I was just one cog in the machine. When I look back on it, I smile and say that was great, but beyond that it hasn't taken over my life. It's not something that I get up every morning and say, "I'm the guy that scored the touchdown." It was my senior year and the last game of my college career and so it was great to end it on a very significant play.