As thrilling as the Clint Longley Thanksgiving Day victory over the Redskins was for Cowboy fans, is how painful it was watching the Leon Lett FG blunder in the Dolphins loss on that cold, snowy Thanksgiving Day.
An interesting video that looks back at that game. A game you will never forget if you watched it in 1993, no matter how long you live. Or how hard you may try for that matter.
Leon “The Big Cat” Lett was the large but very quick defensive tackle (hence the nickname) that Dallas found at Emporia State University. Out of H.S., Lett was offered a scholarship to Auburn but a low score on his ACT, sent him to Hinds Community College in Mississippi. Now I’m not saying Lett wasn’t smart but when Auburn can’t get you in to play football, well it must have been a really low ACT score. Just sayin’.
No one accused Lett of being intellectual but on the field, he played with tremendous effort.
Lett wasn’t normally on the FG block team but on that fateful day special team coach Avezzano decided with all the snow, it would be a good idea to have Lett provide a push up the middle. So for that game, it was decided to put him out there. Lett was unintentionally put in a bad situation.
With the Dolphins FG attempt blocked, all the Cowboys had to do was nothing and they win the game. But out of no where, Lett who is the only player out of 22 on the field running toward the ball, slides awkwardly on the snowy field and kicks the ball with his foot while trying to recover it. It allowed the Dolphins another FG opportunity and they won the game.
We learn that Lett was devastated and completely avoided the locker room after the game. Couldn’t face the coaches or his teammates. Humiliated no doubt.
The story goes that a little girl sent Lett a letter and told him that everyone makes mistakes. She pointed out the ridiculous fumble in the super bowl where the Cowboy defender had the ball slapped away while going in for a score.
But that player happened to be Leon Lett too! Anyway the girl’s words of encouragement were what Lett needed to hear.
I like the way coach Jimmy Johnson handled it too. A great coach knows when to apply a boot to the rear of players but they also know when a guy needs to be picked up too. At that time Lett needed to be picked up. Jimmy reassured Lett that he was not going to be cut from the team. Coach Johnson pointed out that other players had made mistakes in the game too.
The Cowboys went on to win another super bowl and I’m convinced they couldn’t have done it without “the big cat” on that defense. I’m also convinced that Lett played with a lot of motivation knowing he cost them the Dolphins game. He played with a purpose to make up for his blunder.
My take away from this unforgettable blunder 20 years later is this:
1. Don’t dwell on mistakes no matter how stupid they are. Everyone makes them. So just move on to the next play, the next game, the next day, and life. Just keep pushing. Good things will come.
2.Encourage those who screw up. If they are beating themselves up already over it, no need to pile on. An encouraging word will go a lot farther. Besides, the next big screw up may be one you make.
3. Have a sense of humor. Being able to laugh at your mistakes can help you get through some tough times.
Last but not least, whatever you do, don’t make any last second changes to the special teams. Just asking for trouble.