The 1993 game was my first time playing on Thanksgiving and lo and behold we hit a snowstorm in Texas that day. It was an interesting time because we were playing without Dan Marino after losing him for the year to the Achilles injury. Steve DeBerg was our quarterback and started that game. We were doing really well even without Dan. We were 8-2 going into that game and feeling really good offensively. Not have our leader, number 13, was hard but we had overcome that at that point and we knew it was a critical, critical game for us and we were prepared.
Looking back in hindsight, I remember vividly that I was sitting in a special teams meeting. Most of the time the offensive linemen, we don’t really pay attention because it’s for field goal protection and we figured, “how important is that going to be?” But sure enough, it was extremely important. Mike Westhoff, the great special teams coach, went over the night before the game that if the ball is tipped we had to go towards it and if they touch it we can recover it. I don’t remember him doing that prior to that game so I don’t know if he had an inkling that the weather was going to be an issue or just that he knew Leon Lett and his whole history was on the other side.
The actual game was a hard fought football game. I can remember Keith Byars doing the snow angel in the end zone at the beginning. To play in the snow was always fun and it kind of equalized things out for us as an offensive line. They had a very talented defensive line and a very talented team. However, in the snow, they didn’t know where we were going and we did so we had an advantage. There was a light snow the night before but on the day of the game, I was always one of the first players on the field and watching the snow come down through the hole in the roof was kind of magical.
Of course the game came down to that field goal try by Pete Stoyanovich (from 41 yards out with 15 seconds left in a 14-13 game). Jeff Dellenbach was our center. I lined up to Jeff’s left. On field goal protection you’re in a mass of people and you always are listening for that thud. You never want to hear that second thud because that means it was blocked. He kicked it and we heard the thud and another thud. I remember seeing the ball travel forward and Bert Weidner go by the ball and then out of nowhere here comes our angel and our hero, Leon Lett.
You can see some of their teammates waving their arms to get away from the ball. Leon came running up. He looked like he was sliding into third base or home plate at the 10 and I don’t know why. If he had just dove on the ball he would have gotten it, but he slid and kicked it an. Jeff recovered the ball and we knew after that we were going to win the game. So we lined up again and Pete kicked it through and we won the game. I’m sure Coach Shula thought it might have been redemption for the snowplow game but he didn’t bring that up.
I can remember we all walked into the locker room and we were chanting, “See you Monday,” and that was one of the first times Shula ever said, “You got it guys. You earned it.” I remember Richmond Webb stayed in Texas with his family because we had off from that Thursday to the next Monday and that was a nice little bonus, but unfortunately we didn’t win another game that season.
That ended up being the only Thanksgiving game I played in during my career and I’ll take it. Being a part of NFL history is special and I will never forget that day in the snow.