You could hear every football fan in America collectively gasp on Sunday when Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh botched a 27-yard field goal with only seconds left in the game. The Vikings fell to the Seattle Seahawks 10-9 and were eliminated from the playoffs.
There were several factors that went into why Walsh — who is normally an incredibly solid player within 30 yards — could blow such an easy kick. For starters, it was the third coldest game in NFL history. Jeff Locke, the Vikings punter, was wearing gloves that made it impossible for him to spin the ball into a "laces out" position. The Seahawks defense, the most dominant in the league, was bearing down on him with everything they had. And sometimes, mistakes just get made. All in all, it was a series of unfortunate events that led to one ugly kick and one epic heartbreak.
Given how high emotions run during the NFL playoffs, it was a hard way to end the season. Though his team stood beside him, Walsh felt that he had let them down. Fortunately, one Vikings fan wanted to make sure Walsh knew it was all going to be OK.
Judie Offerdahl wanted to turn Walsh's bad day into something positive, so she used it to teach her first-graders at Northpoint Elementary in Blaine, Minn., about empathy. Despite being a Seahawks fan herself, she guided them in a discussion about how Walsh must have been feeling after that kick. The class decided they wanted to cheer him up, so they drew pictures and wrote letters to the kicker, letting him know they still had his back.
The letters they sent Walsh pretty much prove that Ms. Offerdahl's lesson was a success and these kids have hearts of gold.
"Dear Blair Walsh," wrote a little girl named Sophia according to the Star Tribune, "I know that it can be hard to get through things that make you sad, but you have to try and try again. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. One time I made a mistake when I was doing a cartwheel. I felt embarrassed. But you can still help the Vikings win the Super Bowl next year. Your fan, Sophia D."
But her adorable message didn't end there:
"P.S. You are the best kicker that I know. P.P.S. I hope you win the Super Bowl this year. P.P.P.S. I am really a big fan of you. P.P.P.P.S. I love the Vikings."
The other cards were just as great.
Walsh was so touched by the incredible fan mail and the huge outpouring of support from some of his youngest fans, he decided to go meet those first-graders to let them know how much it meant to him.
For more than an hour, he answered questions, posed for pictures, and signed autographs. There were more cards and signs given to him, with one child even giving him a stuffed frog.
Walsh confirmed to the kids that he does not own a guinea pig, but has a poodle.
The visit was a success and everyone involved will surely remember it for a long time to come. Most of all, hopefully Walsh remembers all of his little fans rooting for him even in his lowest moment when he takes the field next season.
This wasn't the first time this playoff season that there has been a big effort to console a player after a heartbreaking loss. After the Houston Texans fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 30-0 in that wild card game, Arnold Schwarzenegger made a video telling Texans' defensive end J.J. Watt that he's still a winner.
Who are you rooting for in the playoffs? Let us know in the comments!
(H/T: Star Tribune)