Kragthorpe: Francisco hoping for alternate Super Bowl ending
Miami » The play that made former BYU safety Aaron Francisco famous, the catch that placed him on the covers of Sports Illustrated and the 2009 NFL Record Book, is not a pleasant memory.
His wife bought the magazine and friends back home in Hawaii kept asking him about the winning touchdown of Super Bowl XLIII, while Francisco was doing his best to forget about it.
Maybe it was not quite like being posterized as a bystander to a Michael Jordan dunk, but Francisco was in the frame for the wrong reason. Arriving fractionally too late to keep Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes from catching the pass, Francisco was left to wonder what he could have done to prevent the Arizona Cardinals from losing (27-23) and Holmes from becoming the Super Bowl MVP in Tampa, Fla.
His conclusion: Nothing, really. Not that such rationalization took hold immediately, after a missed opportunity that "hurt for quite a while," he said.
He was stung again seven months later when the Cardinals waived him in a move that surprised the fifth-year pro. Defensive backs are judged by their ability to recover, though, and here's Francisco, back in another Florida-based Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, who quickly signed him in September.
The Cards' cut "felt like it was the worst thing that could happen to me," Francisco said this week. "It actually turned out to be one of the best things that could happen to me."
A special teams captain and a fixture defensively in passing situations in Arizona, Francisco is less prominent with the Colts. But he is part of every kick coverage and return group and appeared for several plays as a safety in the AFC championship game. He hopes to do the same Sunday in a setting he describes as "a second chance."
Using the defensive back's mechanism of dismissing plays as opposed to reliving them, he said, "At some point, you've got to let those things go. That's what I've done."
His wife, Nalani, framed the magazine cover for display in the game room of their home in Indianapolis, wanting a Super Bowl souvenir. Francisco rarely glances at it.
Reluctantly, he reviewed the critical plays that most directly involved him -- and Holmes -- during the Steelers' final drive, with Arizona leading 23-20.
» Third and 6, Pittsburgh 26: Francisco blitzed and Steelers running back Mewelde Moore blocked him just enough to keep him from reaching quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who hit Holmes for 13 yards.
Francisco: "That guy's a good quarterback, he sees everything. ... You feel like you're almost there and you've almost got him, but those things happen."
» Second and 6, Arizona 46: Francisco came up to tackle Holmes, but overran him and slipped, enabling Holmes to take a short pass 40 yards to the Arizona 6, where Francisco finally caught him.
Francisco: "I just lost my footing; I don't think there's anything you can do about that."
» Second and goal, Arizona 6: Holmes ran an out pattern into the end zone and Roethlisberger threw into triple coverage, delivering the ball just over cornerback Ralph Brown's hand as Francisco came over to help. Holmes made the catch with his toes pointed barely in bounds. Francisco shoved him and rolled over him, but Holmes held onto the ball.
Francisco: "There's probably nothing I could have done from my spot to change anything that happened."
Those plays aside, Francisco said, "Being in the Super Bowl is a good memory, period. Obviously, I didn't like the ending; none of us did."
He's eager to get it right this time, joining college teammate Austin Collie in effort to give BYU a consecutive pair of Super Bowl winners, following Pittsburgh defensive linemen Brett Keisel and Chris Hoke. Collie was a confident freshman receiver in 2004, but in scrimmages he still made sure to watch out for Francisco, a senior known as a ferocious hitter.
That trait is channeled mostly into kick coverage in the NFL. "The guy is an animal," Collie said. "He brings a certain intensity to special teams that definitely affects the other guys."
Francisco will become a free agent after the season and hopes to stay in Indianapolis. Special teams coach Ray Rychleski hopes so, too, labeling him "a Godsend."
For now, Francisco just wants to create a different Super Bowl ending for himself. If it means not being noticed at all, in contrast to last February, that's just fine.
The history of former Brigham Young players on game-day active rosters for the Super Bowl:
|IX||Gordon Gravelle||OT||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6|
|X||Gordon Gravelle||OT||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17|
|XII||Paul Howard||OG||Denver||Dallas 27, Denver 10|
|XIV||Gordon Gravelle||OT||L.A. Rams||Pittsburgh 31, L.A. Rams 19|
|XV||Todd Christensen||TE||Oakland||Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10|
|XV||Marc Wilson||QB||Oakland||Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10|
|XVI||Bill Ring||RB||San Francisco||San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21|
|XVII||Mat Mendenhall||DE||Washington||Washington 27, Miami 17|
|XVIII||Todd Christensen||TE||L.A. Raiders||L.A. Raiders 30, Washington 9|
|XVIII||Marc Wilson||QB||L.A. Raiders||L.A. Raiders 30, Washington 9|
|XIX||Tom Holmoe||DB||San Francisco||San Francisco 38, Miami 16|
|XIX||Bill Ring||RB||San Francisco||San Francisco 38, Miami 16|
|XIX||Todd Shell||LB||San Francisco||San Francisco 38, Miami 16|
|XX||Jim McMahon||QB||Chicago||Chicago 46, New England 10|
|XXI||Bart Oates||C||N.Y. Giants||N.Y. Giants 39, Denver 20|
|XXII||Kurt Gouveia||LB||Washington||Washington 42, Denver 10|
|XXIII||Jason Buck||DE||Cincinnati||San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16|
|XXIII||Lee Johnson||P||Cincinnati||San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16|
|XXIII||Leon White||LB||Cincinnati||San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16|
|XXIII||Tom Holmoe||DB||San Francisco||San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16|
|XXIII||Steve Young||QB||San Francisco||San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16|
|XXIV||Steve Young||QB||San Francisco||San Francisco 55, Denver 10|
|XXI||Bart Oate s||C||N.Y. Giants||N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19|
|XXVI||Kurt Gouveia||LB||Washington||Washington 37, Buffalo 24|
|XXVI||Jason Buck||DE||Washington||Washington 37, Buffalo 24|
|XXIX||Bart Oates||C||San Francisco||San Francisco 49, San Diego 26|
|XXIX||Steve Young||QB||San Francisco||San Francisco 49, San Diego 26|
|XXXI||Jim McMahon QB||Green Bay||Green Bay 35, New England 21|
|XXXIII||Travis Hall||DE||Atlanta||Denver 34, Atlanta 19|
|XXXVI||Doug Jolley||TE||Oakland||Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21|
|XXXIX||Reno Mahe||RB||Philadelphia||New England 24, Philadelphia 21|
|XL||Chris Hoke||DT||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10|
|XL||Brett Keisel||DE||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10|
|XLI||Rob Morris||LB||Indianapolis||Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17|
|XLI||Gabe Reid||TE||Chicago||Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17|
|XLI||John Tait||OT||Chicago||Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17|
|XLIII||Aaron Francisco||DB||Arizona||Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23|
|XLIII||Chris Hoke||DT||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23|
|XLIII||Brett Keisel||DE||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23|
Former BYU safety Aaron Francisco will become the 11th player to appear in consecutive Super Bowls with different teams. The others:
|Player||Pos.||Teams (Super Bowls)|
|Preston Pearson||RB||Pittsburgh (IV), Dallas (V)|
|Dwayne O'Steen||DB||L.A. Rams (XIV), Oakland (XV)|
|Ken Norton||LB||Dallas (XXVIII), San Francisco (XXXIX)|
|Deion Sanders||DB||San Francisco (XXIX), Dallas (XXX)|
|Seth Joyner||LB||Green Bay (XXXII), Denver (XXXIII)|
|Eugene Robinson||DB||Green Bay (XXXII), Atlanta (XXXIII)|
|Devin Bush||DB||Atlanta (XXXIII), St. Louis (XXXIV)|
|O.J. Brigance||LB||Baltimore (XXXV), St. Louis (XXXVI)|
|Kim Herring||DB||Baltimore (XXXV), St. Louis (XXXVI)|
|Terrence Shaw||DB||New England (XXXVI), Oakland (XXXVII)|