The Buffalo Bills came tantalizingly close to winning their first Vince Lombardi Trophy against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991.
All Bills kicker Scott Norwood had to do was kick a 47-yard field goal between the uprights and the confetti would fall from the rafters to the delight of the Bills Mafia.
Unfortunately, Norwood’s kick sailed wide right.
Instead of the Bills celebrating Super Bowl glory, their in-state rivals, the New York Giants, whooped it up after a thrilling 20-19 victory.
Consequently, Norwood has been dealing with that stinging loss for years.
Prior to that ill-fated kick, Norwood rose from obscurity. The former high school and college soccer standout put in the work and reaped the rewards when he broke into the NFL ranks in 1985.
Before long, Norwood became part of a loaded Bills team that featured Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, Steve Tasker, Thurman Thomas, and Bruce Smith.
Norwood made headlines when he led the league in scoring and broke O.J. Simpson’s franchise scoring record in the 1989 NFL season.
This is Scott Norwood’s incredible football journey.
Scott Allan Norwood was born in Alexandria, VA on July 17, 1960. He has an older brother, Steve, and a younger sister, Sandra.
Norwood’s dad, Del, was a legendary baseball coach at Washington Lee High School. He’s currently a member of the Virginia High School Hall of Fame.
When Del was younger, he pitched in the minor league and even received a spring practice invite from the Boston Red Sox.
Regrettably, Del Norwood never played in the Major League Baseball ranks.
Nevertheless, Del used his passion for sports to mentor his children in baseball and soccer. His oldest son, Steve, pitched and played in the outfield for the Virginia Cavaliers during his college days. MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers eventually drafted him in 1978.
Sandra, the youngest in the brood of three, excelled in field hockey, soccer, and basketball.
Scott Norwood attended Thomas Jefferson High School in his hometown of Alexandra, VA. He played soccer and football for the Jefferson Colonials.
Soccer was Norwood’s first love during his formative years. His father Del was upset when he chose soccer over baseball. However, he let his son follow his heart.
When Scott was 17 years old in 1977, the gridiron became his life’s calling instead.
Hanging out Sunday afternoon with my Spartan Dawg, and Buffalo Bill, TE Butch Rolle with Bills' fans in Herndon, Virginia as they watch the game and honor former players Butch Rolle, TE, Scott Norwood, K and Thomas Smith, DB. Man!!!! We had a great time. pic.twitter.com/ZgwWKmZLZh
— Shane Black (@ShaneBl63129446) May 31, 2019
According to Sports Illustrated’s Karl Taro Greenfeld, Colonials head football coach Mike Weaver approached Scott one day after soccer practice. Weaver told him he had heard about his dynamite kicking abilities on the soccer field.
The soft-spoken Norwood told Weaver that his kicking prowess was “okay.” The latter, in turn, told him that the Colonials football team needed a kicker. With that, Weaver tried convincing Norwood to try out for football.
Scott discussed the matter with his family over dinner that night. Del, who had always gone all out for his three children, asked him if he really wanted to do it.
Scott told him between bites that he had given it some thought and nodded in agreement.
Del and Scott began practicing kicking drills at Jefferson High daily. Scott relied mainly on his soccer instincts and soon began drilling 45-yard field goals with relative ease.
“It just felt good,” Norwood told Greenfeld some 27 years later. “I was comfortable with it pretty quickly.”
Before long, Scott tried out for the kicking spot with the Colonials and passed with flying colors.
It didn’t take long for Norwood to make his mark on Jefferson High’s special teams play. He drilled field goals at a consistent rate until he led his state’s region in scoring.
When Norwood nailed a game-winning field goal against the Colonials’ rivals, the Annandale Atoms, college football scouts took notice.
Scott Norwood ultimately decided to remain in-state and commit to the James Madison Dukes. He would eventually become one of the most prolific kickers in that school’s football program history.
College Days with the James Madison Dukes
Scott Norwood attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA from 1978 to 1981. He majored in business.
Norwood lettered in soccer and football for the James Madison Dukes during his college days.
When Scott was a true freshman in 1978, he found himself in a similar predicament to when he was in high school in Virginia: the football team badly needed a kicker.
Apparently, the Dukes football team had heard about his past track record in high school. Before long, Dukes’ head football coach Challace McMillin asked him to try out for the football team.
“They enticed me to come out and play for them,” Norwood told BuffaloBills.com in the fall of 2013. “I would just break during soccer practices and come over in my soccer uniform. I’d go over and kick field goals.”
GO DUKES RT @si_vault: Scott Norwood works on his field goals. Rumor has it his kicks tend to veer right. pic.twitter.com/8Iq6mJuE
— quaRYANtine (@ry_hudson) January 23, 2013
Although Scott was the soccer team’s second-leading scorer, he soon bid them farewell and switched over to football.
Norwood told the Buffalo Bills’ official website 35 years later that the excitement factor lured him onto the gridiron in college.
Scott thought the idea of playing football before a huge sellout crowd was enticing—it was something he could not resist at the time.
Norwood nailed 15 of 21 field-goal attempts and emerged as the best kicker in Division I-AA football during his junior season in 1980. He also earned First-Team All-State honors that year.
Despite Norwood’s emergence as a clutch kicker, the Dukes struggled during his four-year stint. They averaged barely five wins per year from 1978 to 1981.
Since the program’s inaugural season in 1972, the Dukes had made the NCAA playoffs just once in ten years.
Nevertheless, Scott Norwood would experience winning football with a Buffalo Bills team that made an incredible four consecutive Super Bowl appearances from 1990 to 1993.
Pro Football Career
The Atlanta Falcons signed Scott Norwood as an undrafted free agent prior to the 1982 NFL season. Unfortunately, Norwood didn’t make the Falcons’ regular-season roster that year.
Norwood then signed with the United States Football League’s (USFL) Birmingham Stallions in 1983. He went on to spend his next two pro football seasons in Birmingham, AL.
Norwood started his brief USFL career on a strong note. He nailed 25 field goals for the Stallions in the 1983 USFL season.
Alas, Norwood tore his knee cartilage the following season. Birmingham eventually released him.
After Norwood left the Stallions, he returned to his old stomping grounds at Thomas Jefferson High School to train with his dad, Del.
Father and son went back to the old drawing board. It was a throwback to Scott’s high school days when he tried out for the kicker position with the Jefferson Colonials in 1977.
After putting in the work, Norwood received a training camp invite from the Buffalo Bills. He was one of ten kickers the Bills tried out in 1985.
Out of sheer and fiery determination, Norwood bested the nine other aspirants and earned a contract with the Bills prior to the 1985 NFL season.
Norwood, who had bounced around the NFL and USFL in the past three years, suddenly found himself on the same roster as future Hall of Famers Andre Reed and Bruce Smith.
Norwood proved he belonged in the National Football League ranks. He made 13 of his 17 field-goal attempts and all 23 of his extra-point attempts for the Bills as a rookie in 1985.
However, Norwood joined Buffalo during one of the worst stretches in franchise history. The Bills won just two games under third-year head coach Kay Stephenson that year.
After earning consecutive trips to the AFC Divisional Round in 1980 and 1981 under legendary head coach Chuck Knox, the Bills hit rock bottom. Buffalo averaged just four wins per season from 1982 to 1985.
Happy 54th Birthday to Scott Norwood. Guy scored a lot of points for the #Bills #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/kMbTH7Hcy6
— John Kucko (@john_kucko) July 17, 2014
Things did not get any easier for Norwood and his team in the first two years of the Marv Levy era in Buffalo from 1986 to 1987. The Bills averaged barely six wins during that forgettable two-year stretch.
Worse, the Bills extended their postseason drought to six years. Since the historic AFL-NFL merger in 1970, Buffalo had missed the postseason 15 times in the past 18 years.
Norwood’s production dipped in his second and third years in the National Football League. He made a combined 27 of 42 field-goal attempts from 1986 to 1987.
On the other hand, he was nearly perfect in all of his extra-point attempts. He made 63 of his 65 PAT attempts during that same two-year time frame.
The Buffalo Bills became a force in the AFC during Norwood’s last four years in the NFL from 1988 to 1991.
The Bills already had quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, center Kent Hull, linebacker Cornelius Bennett, and free safety Mark Kelso to complement Norwood, Smith, and Reed.
Norwood told Greenfeld in 2004 that he fit right in with that squad. As for Kelly, one of the greatest quarterbacks of his era, he thought his kicker displayed the same intensity that most of his Bills teammates did in the late 1980s to early 1990s.
“Everybody looks at kickers as being a little sissy to a certain point,” Kelly told Sports Illustrated in 2004. “But Scott was one of us. He had that mean face, that linebacker face. I loved that guy.”
Although Scott Norwood was intense on the gridiron, he was shy and unassuming off of it.
Norwood had always been an introvert since his childhood days in Virginia. According to The Buffalo News’s Tim Graham, Norwood would suddenly disappear during some get-togethers with his Bills teammates during their playing days.
That trend continued when he and his wife, Kim, visited western New York well into their retirement years.
Norwood enjoyed his finest season as a pro in the 1988 NFL season. His 32 field goals led the league that year. He also made all 33 of his extra-point attempts. All in all, Norwood’s 129 points lead the NFL in 1988.
#OTD in 1988 Scott Norwood hits a 33 yard field goal with 13 seconds left to give the Buffalo Bills a 23-20 win over the New England Patriots. The field goal was Norwood's third on the day. Patriot kicker Teddy Garcia missed on all 3 of his attempts as well as an extra point. pic.twitter.com/h5SKvnwaBZ
— ThisDateInBuffaloSportsHistory (@BuffSportsHstry) October 23, 2022
To nobody’s surprise, Norwood, the former high school soccer star turned placekicker, earned First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors following that memorable 1988 NFL campaign.
Norwood added another feather to his cap when he won the prestigious Golden Toe Award—an accolade reserved for the NFL’s best kicker—from Pro Football Weekly that year.
Scott eventually made Bills franchise history in his fifth year with the team in 1989. After scoring 454 points by the end of the season, Norwood became Buffalo’s all-time leading scorer.
That feat was remarkable considering he surpassed Bills Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson, per Greenfeld.
Simpson was in Buffalo, NY the weekend Norwood broke his franchise scoring record. The two men exchanged pleasantries inside the Bills’ locker room.
It was something Scott Norwood would never forget. In fact, it was his fondest memory as a member of the Bills organization, per their official website.
The Bills’ most memorable stretch in franchise history coincided with Scott Norwood’s ascension in the NFL kicking ranks in the late 1980s.
Since Norwood earned Pro Bowl honors for the first and only time in his memorable seven-year NFL career in 1988, the Bills averaged almost 12 wins per year from 1988 to 1991.
Scott met his future wife, Kim Burch, who worked in sales at a J.C. Penney outlet in Buffalo, NY during the Bills’ unforgettable rise in the NFL ranks.
They began dating after Scott purchased bedding from Kim. They eventually walked down the aisle in April 1989—three years after their first encounter, per Sports Illustrated.
Since Norwood’s memorable 1988 NFL campaign, the Bills made four consecutive postseasons and two straight Super Bowl appearances until his retirement following the 1991 NFL season.
When Steve Christie took over kicking duties for Buffalo in 1992, the Bills continued their magical run and extended their Super Bowl streak to four years.
To the dismay of the Bills Mafia, Buffalo never won any of those four Super Bowl appearances from 1990 to 1993.
Arguably, the most painful Super Bowl moment for Bills fans everywhere was Scott Norwood’s botched game-winning 47-yard field-goal attempt against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991.
Norwood missed it badly. The kick sailed wide right as time expired. He and his teammates watched dejectedly as Bill Parcells and his Giants celebrated on the Tampa Stadium turf.
The final score was Giants 20, Bills 19.
Kim Norwood watched in disbelief from the stands with her father-in-law Del, her sister-in-law Sandra, and Scott’s uncle and aunt in Tampa, FL.
As soon as the final whistle blew, Kim raced down the stands and made her way outside of the Bills’ disgruntled locker room. Like any good wife, she wanted to console her husband during his lowest moments.
While Kim was waiting for Scott outside the locker room, Bills head coach Marv Levy sat between Norwood and wide receiver Tasker on a wooden bench.
Levy thought the chances of making a kick from that distance—in a Super Bowl game, no less—was less than 50 percent. When he tried to comfort Norwood, he just couldn’t get the words out.
“I didn’t know what to say to him,” Levy told Sports Illustrated some 12 years later. “He had been such a great kicker for us over the years, and won a few games for us with his leg, but you don’t think about things like that at a time like that.”
Levy wasn’t the only one who tried to lift the burden off Norwood’s shoulders. Many of his Bills teammates approached him after the game and told him the crushing defeat was on them, not him.
For instance, linebacker Darryl Talley and defensive back Nate Odomes told Norwood that he never would have been in the spotlight in the game’s waning moments had they not missed a crucial tackle on 3rd and long in the third quarter, per Greenfeld.
For his part, wide receiver Andre Reed told Norwood that he never would have had to line up for a potential game-winning kick had he not dropped several passes from Kelly in the second quarter. Many of Norwood’s other Bills teammates followed suit.
Scott Norwood was the epitome of grace in defeat in the immediate aftermath of the lowest point of his NFL career.
Norwood discussed his missed field-goal attempt with the media for 30 minutes in the postgame interviews. He answered all of the questions members of the press asked him.
12 years after Norwood’s ill-fated kick, he was still more upset about how he had impacted the Bills rather than sorry for himself.
“The biggest thing about that kick was not how it impacted me, but how it let the team down,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2004. “But I had prepared as well as I could. I had done the best I could. I could look at myself in the mirror.”
Norwood also felt like another NFL team would have knocked on his door had he not missed the 47-yarder against the Giants in Super Bowl XXV.
Alas, that never happened after the Bills released him after the 1991 NFL season. Buffalo signed former Tampa Bay placekicker Steve Christie instead.
Scott Norwood never played another down in the National Football League. He retired after converting 133 of 184 field-goal attempts and 271 of 278 extra-point attempts during his NFL career from 1985 to 1991.
According to Greenfeld, Norwood spent his offseasons in his hometown of Alexandria, VA during his seven-season NFL career.
Scott Norwood, his wife Kim, and their three adult children Carly, Connor, and Corey currently reside in the Centreville, VA area.
Norwood sold insurance, mortgages, annuities, and trusts during his retirement years. He told Greenfeld in 2004 that many of his clients recognized him as the kicker who missed that crucial 47-yarder against the Giants in Super Bowl XXV.
Those people would strike up a conversation with him and try to discuss that moment. However, Steve tried to steer the conversation toward other subjects.
In the years after that fateful game against the Giants, Norwood has tried his best to put that moment behind him.
Scott’s sister Sandra admitted that though years have passed, it’s anything but easy, but he’s doing his best.
The memory stung so badly that Norwood declined to have Graham interview his wife and adult children in February 2016.
Norwood also did not visit Buffalo, NY for a long time even though his wife, Kim, is from the area.
“I know it was a deep, deep wound for a lot of years,” Bruce DeHaven, Norwood’s special teams coach with the Bills, told The Buffalo News in 2016.
Norwood’s poise with the national media after Super Bowl XXV made a profound impression on DeHaven. The latter even named his adopted son Tobin Scott in Norwood’s honor, per Graham.
DeHaven was also the individual who convinced Norwood to appear in the popular NFL Films and ESPN football documentary, 30 for 30: Four Falls of Buffalo.
Scott’s sister Sandra told him his painful moment was only about football—it’s a small part in the bigger scheme of things.
Norwood’s former Bills teammate, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Darryl Talley, confirmed that none of the Bills of their era hold a grudge against Scott.
“Nobody is mad at him,” Talley told Graham in February 2016. “I missed tackles. Andre dropped balls. Jim threw interceptions. Thurman fumbled. People missed blocks…If we didn’t have him, we might have had somebody who couldn’t kick, who stopped us from getting there in the first place.”
Scott told BuffaloBills.com in 2013 that the transition from football to the corporate world was challenging because many of his contemporaries had already climbed the corporate ladder by the time he hung up his cleats in late 1991.
Apparently, stress took its toll on Scott and his wife, Kim. His brother Steve told Greenfeld in 2004 that they had trouble conceiving from their marriage in 1989 until 1994.
To Scott and Kim’s astonishment, they had twins Carly and Connor in 1995. Their brother Corey followed suit one year later. All three kids followed in their father’s footsteps on the soccer pitch while they were growing up.
Norwood had a chance to appear in the 1998 movie, Buffalo ’66. He told Sports Illustrated in 2004 that the movie’s producers offered him a substantial amount of money, but he ultimately turned them down.
Vincent Gallo, who portrayed the main character, Billy, told Greenfeld that Norwood would have been hurt had he accepted it.
As of February 2016, Scott Norwood has been working in the landscaping industry. He did not delve into specifics during his interview with The Buffalo News.
One year prior to Norwood’s interview with Graham, the former Bills kicker was stunned when he found out that his two AFC Championship Game rings had become part of an auction.
He told The Buffalo News that an anonymous perpetrator had swindled him.
Scott Norwood is a member of the James Madison Athletics Hall of Fame.
Scott and his wife Kim, a grade school special education teacher, fly out to Buffalo, NY occasionally to visit family members and take part in charitable endeavors, per BuffaloBills.com.
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