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Kragthorpe: Francisco hoping for alternate Super Bowl ending
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

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.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

BYU and the Super Bowl

The history of former Brigham Young players on game-day active rosters for the Super Bowl:

Bowl Player Pos. Team Result
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. RamsPittsburgh 31, L.A. Rams 19
XV Todd Christensen TEOakland 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 QBL.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 sC 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

Super Bowl switch-ups

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)

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