January 04, 2018 02:41 PM
Chip Lohmiller was already a Pro Bowl kicker for the Washington Redskins during the 1991 season.
But when his team advanced to Super Bowl XXVI, he took on an additional role as well:
That Super Bowl, which pitted Lohmiller and the Redskins against the Buffalo Bills, was played at the Metrodome on Jan. 26, 1992 – marking just the second time the game had been played in a cold-weather location.
And as the lone Minnesotan on either team's roster, it fell to Lohmiller – a former Woodbury High School and University of Minnesota standout – to both show off and explain winter life in his home state.
"It was a crazy week," recalls Lohmiller, who played in the NFL from 1988-96. "I was coming back home, getting to play on the field I played on in college, and everybody in the world wanted tickets.
"I really wanted to get my teammates to experience Minnesota. There'd been that Halloween snowstorm a few months before, and there was a lot of snow on the ground that year. So I remember going out and doing a lot of stuff early on during the week with ESPN and places like that."
That included organizing an ice fishing trip with teammates Art Monk, Earnest Byner and Monte Coleman, even if the three novices in the group grew a little nervous at the prospect of driving a vehicle across frozen water.
"I figure I'll either drown or catch a fish," Monk told reporters at the time.
"Those guys liked to fish, but they'd never tried ice fishing before," Lohmiller remembers. "They got a little nervous when we drove out on the lake for the first time. That was kind of humorous. But it was a great experience. They still talk about it to me whenever the guys on that team get together."
While Lohmiller was the only Minnesota native in the game, Buffalo Bills then-rookie defensive end Phil Hansen was pretty familiar with the state as well. He'd grown up next door in North Dakota and played college football at North Dakota State.
He said the game was like a homecoming for him too.
"Even coming from Buffalo, the other guys on the team talked about how cold it was up in Minnesota," recalls Hansen, who played with the team from 1991 to 2001.
"It was average for me. But I have to say, it never got as cold in Buffalo as it gets in Minneapolis. The other thing I remember is that they still had supper clubs around then. There aren't as many of them around anymore. But they still had supper clubs, and the other guys from all over the U.S. on our team had no idea what those were. I was the only one who did."
Both Hansen and Lohmiller said they were scrambling to fill all the ticket requests they received.
"You can never have enough," Hansen said with a chuckle.
"I had to work some magic with other players and make some trades," Lohmiller added. "Then I bought a bunch of tickets too. But I came up with all of them."
Lohmiller said he also brought teammates to the headquarters of Zubaz, the Minnesota-based brand of flashy, baggy pants big at the time.
And he hosted them at his house in Woodbury.
But that was early on during Super Bowl week. By Wednesday, he said head coach Joe Gibbs was keeping everybody focused on the game itself. That included taking the team out of the way to a hotel near Albertville the night before the game.
"We didn't know where we were going," Lohmiller said. "We just got on the bus and went. I was the only guy who even knew what direction we were headed. But I had no idea there was a hotel up there.
"It was funny because we were on the bus on Interstate 94, and Maple Grove wasn't as built up as it is now. So we really started to get out there in the country. We saw snowmobiles in the ditches. Half the guys on the team hadn't even seen snowmobiles before. I didn't know where we were headed – the next big town was St. Cloud.
"But we got to the hotel and it was nice being out of the way like that. We had great meetings the night before and we were all ready to play."
Hansen and the Bills escaped to a quieter location as well.
But perhaps the night in Wright County did the trick. Because things went the Redskins' way in the game itself. Washington beat the Bills 37-24 – a victory in which Lohmiller kicked three field goals of 34, 25 and 39 yards, and went 4 of 4 on extra-point attempts.
Of course, there was a moment with the game still scoreless in the first quarter when a botched snap scuttled what would have been an easy 19-yard field goal attempt.
"It's funny because people were kidding me about that afterward," Lohmiller said. "I think Vegas had odds on me being the guy to score the first points in the game and it didn't happen."
But he did come away with a Super Bowl title, even if the game itself was kind of a blur.
"To tell you the truth, I really don't remember much about the game at all," he said. "I remember kicking my last field goal, but that's about it. I was just so focused and in the zone to perform that it all kind of zoomed by.
"I remember after the game, (quarterback Mark) Rypien and I went back out on the field and took some pictures. Then we went back to our team hotel in Bloomington and had a get-together. But me and a bunch of other guys had to hop on a plane to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl at about 4 a.m. the next day."
But both Lohmiller and Hansen said they look back on their Minnesota Super Bowl experience fondly.
Though for Hansen it was the start of a trend already underway in Buffalo. The loss to the Redskins was the second of what would prove to be four-straight Super Bowl losses.
"When you lose a game like that, you usually try to forget it," said Hansen, who now resides in Detroit Lakes and is the color analyst for North Dakota State football radio broadcasts.
"But it was a great experience. To go from NDSU to the NFL and the Super Bowl was packing more experience into one year than some people do in a lifetime. And to be able to play the game close to home was exciting.
"Obviously, the icing on the cake would have been to win."
"When Super Bowl time comes around, the memories all come back," said Lohmiller, who resides in Cross Lake and has been the head football coach at Pequot Lakes High School the past 14 seasons. "It's been 26 years now. But it was such a great experience to be able to come back home and win a Super Bowl title here. The community did such a great job hosting that game. It was all really exciting."
And Lohmiller is happy to see the game returning to Minnesota this season. Super Bowl LII is scheduled for Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium, which stands on the same ground the Metrodome did back in 1992.
"The Super Bowl has gotten so much bigger since then," he said. "There's so many more events that go along with it now. But it's good to see the community getting involved and getting excited about hosting it again. Everybody is coming together. I'm sure it's going to be another big success."
Updated: January 04, 2018 02:41 PM
Created: January 03, 2018 06:00 PM
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