Thomas Morstead and I were supposed to meet in person, days before Super Bowl LII.
He wished he could be in my hometown of Minneapolis to play in the game… and the New Orleans Saints were oh so close. They mounted an incredible comeback against the Minnesota Vikings but were heartbroken when Stefon Diggs hauled in and scored a 61-yard walk-off touchdown dubbed the “Minneapolis Miracle” and forever included among the greatest postseason plays ever.
But Morstead was in Minneapolis because of how he handled his disappointment, being the first Saints player to return to the field for the formality of the extra point. Viking fans were impressed by his character, and they poured donations to his nonprofit, What You Give Will Grow. Morstead was back in Minneapolis to hand a $221,143 check to the Children’s Hospital of Minnesota.
Ultimately, we weren’t able to connect for an in-person interview, and he called me the day before the game.
The interview was fine — helpful and insightful — but the conversation thereafter was memorable. He recently said the conversation spanned another 45 minutes. But I recall walking up to my bedroom and being there for three-plus hours. He ended the call, only because he said his iPhone was down to 1 percent, and he didn’t have a charger with him.
I will leave it to Thomas to share what we talked about for so long after the interview was officially over.
But as I reflected in the minutes, days and weeks after, I recognized how intentional he was about his character — and I wanted to dig into why.
There wasn’t a ton of stories about Thomas. But I researched his foundation, and I was impressed to discover that its name was inspired by a coach he deeply admired and its purpose was full of hope and love.
When time came to start the interviews, Thomas could not have been more prepared! He was a joy to talk to, work with and get to know.
Thomas will be the first to tell you he isn’t perfect. But he is passionate, he is kind, and he has childhood experiences that I know many kids today can relate to: Being bullied for his looks, feeling insecure, dealing with disappointment and striving for a future to honor himself and his family.
His is a true underdog’s tale, a zero-star recruit who secured his place in college with an academic scholarship then walked onto the football team. He worked hard to improve at his craft, and he entered the NFL as a fifth round pick in 2009 and was recognized as an All-Pro and Pro Bowl punter by 2012.
When the next season resumes, it will be Thomas’ 12th.
But his legacy will not be defined by his Super Bowl ring or his impressive career. No, Thomas’ legacy will surely be remembered for the countless lives he’s impacted through his daily interactions, his foundation, his businesses and — we say humbly — through this book.