BOISE, Idaho — For a brief moment, Kyle Brotzman thought he was about to live every kicker's dream. Boot a game-winner as time expires. Keep alive your team's championship hopes. Be the hero.
The moment was brief. Too brief for Brotzman, Boise State's senior kicker and all-time leading scorer, and the rest of Bronco Nation.
"I honestly thought I had hit it straight," Brotzman said of his 26-yard attempt to win the game as time expired in the fourth quarter. "Then I looked up and it was sailing to the right and I was like, 'That's probably not going. It's not going to work.' "
The comments were part of an interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi that aired on Wednesday. The interview contained Brotzman's only public comments since missing two short field goals late in the Broncos' 34-31 overtime loss to Nevada the night after Thanksgiving in Reno.
Brotzman was right, of course. The kick didn't work. It missed, just right. Barely. And that distance will shrink as the years pass.
Brotzman knew the stakes before he ever swung his right leg on that chilly Reno night.
"It's pretty much a kicker's dream to kick a last-second kick to win a game," Brotzman told ESPN.
Make it and Brotzman lives out not just every kicker's dream, but the dreams of anyone who has ever thrown up a final shot at a backyard basketball hoop or taken a final swing at batting practice or tried to hole a final putt on the practice green. This one is for the NCAA title or it's a home run in the World Series or it's a birdie putt on No. 18 at Augusta.
Few of us ever get a chance to live it out. Fewer still consider what would happen if we got the chance and failed. But what if it happened twice?
"It's a tough thing to try to block that last kick out. It was (no) more than 2 minutes ago that you had just missed a game-winning kick," Brotzman said. "I just thought about that last kick a little too much to be honest. That was still in the back of my mind. I didn't want to fail again."
He did, as we all know. As has been shown over and over and over again. This time, perhaps overcompensating, he pulled it left. And this time, he didn't even get a brief moment of suspense.
From the moment he kicked it, "I knew it wasn't going in." Then what?
When you sink that final fake free throw — after you were fouled on the final backyard buzzer-beater, of course — you cheer. The crowd goes wild. What you never have to do is walk inside a locker room filled with teammates who have been working toward and dreaming of an undefeated regular season, a trip to the Rose Bowl, a national title game.
"I teared up. Just the fact of what I felt I had lost the team, as far as a BCS game or whatever was going to happen down the road," Brotzman said. "That was probably the most heartbreaking thing, that I had let down my teammates."
Then the harassing phone calls started. And the nasty Facebook messages. I hate you. ... I hope you die. ... You lost us a ton of money. ... I had a bunch of money riding on this game.
The blackjack dealers in Reno made inappropriate Brotzman jokes. In less than 12 hours, he was a punchline. No one dreams of being a punchline. No one works out and kicks and moves to within nine points of the NCAA all-time scoring mark to become a punchline.
His teammates defended him. In pats on the helmet on the sidelines. In public comments. In private conversations.
"It means a whole lot to me. We have a stronger team than we originally thought. I think we're a lot closer now. That one game, it wasn't just that kick that did anything, I think it was that game," Brotzman said. "Suffering a loss, I think it brings you closer." There was a backlash to the backlash. "The Bronco Nation Loves Kyle Brotzman" sprung up on Facebook and more than 38,000 people "liked" it.
I hope Brotzman got the biggest roar during Saturday's Senior Day festivities, not out of sympathy because he missed two kicks but because of his pass on the Riddler in the Fiesta Bowl, because of four years' worth of punts and extra points, because he has made more field goals than anyone in Boise State history.
And because we've all dreamed of being the hero — and never considered what it'd be like if we failed.