A Kicker's Comeback: Garrett Hartley prepares for one more chance

A Kicker's Comeback: Garrett Hartley prepares for one more chance

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Jim Henderson's call still echoes in the ears and sends chills down the spines of Saints fans.

"It's good! It's goooooood! Pigs have flown, hell has frozen over! The Saints are on their way to the Super bowl!"

Garrett Hartley is the man who put that overtime field goal through the uprights but the magnitude of winning the NFC Championship Game didn't hit him right away.

"You get the game winner and we are going to the Super Bowl but it took me definitely even years to truly understand what it meant to the city.."

At that moment, Hartley was on top of his teammates shoulder and on top of the world.

"I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and come through."

But since experiencing the highest of high's, Hartley's career has never been the same. After multiple spells of missed kicks, the Saints eventually cut him during the 2013 season.

"It stung. I was with those guys more than my friends or family. They were my family. When I was released in December of 2013 it was a wakeup call in a sense that you don't take your job for granted."

It's been a struggle to find another one. He caught on with Cleveland late in 2014 then signed with Pittsburgh in 2015, but a preseason injury cost him his job with the Steelers. He hasn't kicked in an NFL game since.

These days, Hartley lives in New Orleans preparing and hoping for one more chance. He stays in kicking shape by following his daily workout sessions, while continuing to wait for the phone to ring. His patience is tested but the 31-year-old believes it will pay off.

"I don't know when that opportunity is coming but I'm going to be ready for it."

Multiple teams have expressed interest, including the Saints and most recently the Chiefs, but he hasn't received an offer.

"I thought there was a time I might get signed with the Jets, they kept me overnight, just like last year with the Giants, I thought it was potentially my job. But, they go in a different direction. That's the nature of the business."

Through the rough-and-tumble of being a kicker without a team, Hartley has had John Carney in his corner. The 53-year-old played with seven teams, including eight seasons in New Orleans. Now he's transferring his experiences to Hartley.

"He's got to prove to the scouts, special teams coaches that he is in shape, that he's focused and he is ready to go, that he is serious about his comeback," says Carney.

In a recent workout at Tulane's Yulman Stadium, Hartley made 17 of his 18 field goal attempts, including eight from beyond 50 yards. He says his greatest improvement has been above the shoulders, learning from his past failures.

"My mindset is completely different than what it was when I was 24, 25.  And going about it and being a true professional."

The tough truth of the NFL is that there are only 32 jobs available for kickers and openings are few and far between, leaving Hartley, and his career 81 percent accuracy rate, unemployed.

"I know with my mindset, I believe this is something that is truly going to happen. It's just a matter of time."

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