Almost 22 years before, Steve DeOssie stood in nearly the exact same spot inside Candlestick Park. Now his son, Zak, found himself there.
And the stakes were every bit as high.
Steve couldn't bring himself to watch the television feet in front of him 10 days ago -- couldn't watch his boy do this.
He had shouldered the exact same burden in 1990, knowing that if his job wasn’t done perfectly on a winter night in San Francisco, the season would end and the New York Giants' Super Bowl hopes would go unfulfilled.
Now, a generation later, Steve was 3,000 miles from where his son, Zak, held the ball in his hands.
And he wouldn't watch.
Steve played linebacker and was the Giants' long-snapper when Matt Bahr's 42-yard field goal capped an improbable 15-13 upset of the two-time defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers in 1991.
He had never even offered a bit of long-snapping advice to Zak -- the long-snapper in the Giants’ NFC Championship win over the 49ers two weekends ago. He always told his son if he needed help, he would give it to him.
But now, with Zak having a hand in Lawrence Tynes' 31-yard field goal attempt on a rainy night in San Francisco, there was nothing Steve DeOssie could do about whether his son ultimately succeeded or failed.
"You always want your kids to be successful -- you always want to try and put them in the best position, but you can't control it once they’re out there," Steve DeOssie says on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, site of Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI.
"They're on their own and it’s one of those things you get so nervous about."
So when Tynes' field goal sailed through the uprights, setting up a Super Bowl rematch between the Giants and Patriots, Steve never watched. But he knew exactly what his son was feeling.
Steve spent 11 years in the NFL, spending time with the Cowboys, Giants, Jets and Patriots. But no game, including the Super Bowl, had ever caused him the kind of anxiety he felt watching his son. It wasn't like it was the first time, either.
Four years ago, Tynes hit a 47-yard field goal in the NFC Championship against top-seeded Green Bay -- again following a snap from Zak DeOssie.
The kick set up the Giants' monumental upset of the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, giving Zak DeOssie his first Super Bowl ring. He became part of the first father-son combination to win Super Bowls with the same team.
"That's surreal," Zak says. "That's something my father and I will have forever."
But given how the Giants got to Indianapolis -- on a field goal inside Candlestick Park -- still amazes Zak, considering the path the Giants took in 1991.
As 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had this season, 49ers coach George Seifert called timeout just before Steve DeOssie was preparing to snap the ball back to holder Jeff Hostetler.
On the sideline, DeOssie figured he would try and calm Bahr's nerves. Bahr had made a couple tackles and had suffered a concussion, DeOssie remembers.
"Matt -- they can't freeze you on a kick," DeOssie told Bahr.
Bahr, without flinching, looked DeOssie in the eye and said, "They don’t care about me. They’re worried about the snap -- they want you to be frozen."
DeOssie was speechless.
Now, more than two decades later, Zak DeOssie was in the same predicament. This far into his long-snapping career, he almost expected coaches to call timeout before the ball was snapped.
Tynes, meanwhile, kept reminding himself to step lightly because the field was so wet after rain had fallen for much of the game. DeOssie went about his business as usual.
Long snapping is all about consistency. DeOssie, who, like his father, made the transition from college linebacker to NFL long snapper, remained calm. His father had never told him anything more about the art form, but to have fun.
The rest, he knew was mental.
"You figure out what you can do to get the ball back there and put that on repeat," Zak says.
Tynes jokingly refers to Zak as "one of the best 32 long snappers in the world." But when the time came for Zak to do his job in San Francisco, Tynes wasn’t concerned. He didn't really have time to be.
Zak delivered the snap to Weatherford and then looked up. Back in Boston, Steve was staring at the floor.
The ball left Tynes' foot and Zak knew the kick was true. As soon as the ball cleared the uprights, Zak’s mind flashed back 22 years. The Giants -- again -- were heading back to the Super Bowl following a win in Candlestick Park on a kick that came from a snap by a DeOssie.
"That means a lot," Zak says. "First to be in the Super Bowl is mind-boggling, but to get there by taking the same exact route as my father just means the world to us."
The irony wasn’t lost on Tynes, either.
"His dad snapped a game-winner at San Francisco, the same uprights," Tynes says. "History always repeats itself but that’s certainly an amazing story that a father and son to have experiences as close as that."
On Sunday, Zak will be partaking in his third Super Bowl -- the second as a player. He worked as a ball boy for the Patriots for two years in high school.
He was on the sidelines in New Orleans for Super Bowl XXXVI, when Adam Vinatieri delivered a last-second 48-yard field goal to give the Patriots a 20-17 win over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams.
Sunday, he will get his second Super Bowl shot against his former employer.
And again, Steve DeOssie will be watching. As much history as father and so have shared, Zak couldn’t imagine his Super Bowl experience playing out any other way.
After Eli Manning hit Plaxico Burress with a last-second touchdown pass to complete the Super Bowl upset of the Patriots four years ago, Zak and Steve embraced on the sidelines. Zak can't remember a smile bigger than the one he saw on his father's face that night.
The photo still hangs in Zak's home.
"My father is my biggest hero and he always has been," Zak says. "To have him here, in this capacity, is a dream come true."
So, can Steve see the game coming down to a last-second field goal? Yes.
Does he want to live through another round of last-second drama?
Not in the least.
"I want his team to be up 40 points," Steve says. "Given the choice between that and the last-second field goal -- that means anyone has a chance.
"But if it comes down to that, Zak will get it done."
Like father, like son.
Jeff Arnold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jeff_arnold24.
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