Beach ball gone wild: DeOssie gets Super win

The clock read :04 when Steve DeOssie squatted over the ball, ready to snap it back to Jeff Hostetler, who would try to hold it steady so Matt Bahr could kick the 42-yard field goal that would send the Giants to Super Bowl XXV. And then, DeOssie heard a whistle.

"I went back to [Bahr] and said, ‘what are [the 49ers] doing, trying to freeze you out? You're one of the coolest kickers in the league," DeOssie remembers, now almost 15 years later. "He said to me, ‘They're not trying to freeze me out, they know you have to snap the ball.' Well, my knuckles got white."

After the snap and his block on the middle rush, DeOssie's job wasn't done.

"Matt was one of my best friends on the team. He had made a couple of tackles on kickoffs and even though Matt was a small guy, he would throw his body around with anyone. He had gotten his bell rung and was a little loopy," DeOssie said. "After he kicked the ball, I went back to protect him from getting mauled by everyone."

Bahr's kick, of course, led to another famous kick. Or infamous kick, if you're from Buffalo. But while all Giants fans can recite "Scott Norwood, 47 yards, wide right" and many have the tape of the ABC broadcast or the NFL Films highlight reel, there may be only one man who captured the moment through his personal lens.

You probably already guessed who.

"The Super Bowl was during Desert Storm and security was tight. No cameras were allowed," DeOssie recalls. "On the walkthrough the day before, I had brought my video camera, and I decided to keep it there. So at halftime, I wrapped it in a towel and told one of the equipment guys to put it under the bench.

"When it was time for the field goal, I broke out the video camera and positioned myself in a spot where I couldn't get caught in [Bill] Parcells' peripheral vision. I had the only video camera on the field other than the networks. I shot the kick, the celebration, in the locker room. Now, everybody's doing it."

DeOssie was a colorful character, right down to his nickname.

"I had done something to my hair and it turned a yellow/green, and of course I had my red face and wore a blue jersey," DeOssie said. "It was a hot day in training camp and Parcells says, ‘Look at you, you look like a damn beach ball. Soft, round and multi-colored.' To this day, he's one of just a few people who's allowed to call me beach ball."

Don't let all of DeOssie's humorous recollections give you the idea that he was some sort of novelty act, however. He started 13 games at inside linebacker and had a career-high 62 tackles in 1990. He joined nose guard Erik Howard and fellow inside backer Pepper Johnson to form an impenetrable triangle in the middle of the defense that freed up Lawrence Taylor to wreak havoc.

"We had a very good mix and the guys all knew their roles," DeOssie said. "Parcells made it clear that we had enough athletes and we needed guys to set those guys up to make the plays."

The Giants had acquired DeOssie from the Cowboys before the 1989 season for a No. 6 pick in 1990. He immediately noticed the differences between the two organizations.

"The Dallas game-plan was handed down from on high," DeOssie said, referring to Tom Landry. "The first time Bill Belichick asked what I thought of a certain defense, I didn't know what to say. I thought it was a trick question. We were very blessed to have had that type of coaching staff. Those guys would do anything, including asking a player's opinion."

DeOssie credits Belichick for refocusing the defense for the playoffs. The Giants went 3-3 in their last six games and, without comment, the defensive coordinator showed them films of the gang tackling from the beginning of the season that was missing at the end.

"It was a real clear picture that he showed us," DeOssie said, "that we weren't getting to the football the way we were early in the season."

The Giants limited the Bears' Neal Anderson to 19 yards on 12 carries and the Niners' Roger Craig to 26 yards on eight carries en route to the Super Bowl.

DeOssie, 42, is a Patriots pre- and postgame show radio host. He has also done some motivational speaking and works with former Buffalo Bills All-Pro lineman Fred Smerlas at Smerlas' company, All-Pro Productions.

DeOssie's son, Zak, a preseason Division 1-AA All-American at Brown, is now the linebacker in the family.

"He's 6-4, 245, very athletic and obviously very smart, going to Brown," said DeOssie, also a proud pop to daughters Nichole and Christina. "He loves contact, enjoys the violent part of the game. But he has more athletic ability than I had."

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