Even before the season started, I felt that it was going to be a special year for Garrett Hartley.
I joined a Fantasy Football league with some friends, and in the process of getting my draft board ready. I was paging through the Sports Illustrated fantasy preview, and noticed a new name near the top of the kickers list: Garrett Hartley.
It was here I learned that since taking over the kicking job in November 2008, Hartley had made all 13 of his field goal tries and was the third highest scorer in the league since his first game.
I circled him on my list. I had never heard of him. He was ranked second on the list, so he had to be good, right?
The draft started like every draft did this year. Adrian Peterson went first. Then Drew Brees, etc.
I kept track of drafted players by crossing them out in my SI magazine. After I made Percy Harvin my fourth round selection, I began to search for my next choice.
As I paged through the issue, I stumbled upon Garrett Hartley's name. Here is the next clutch kicker in the NFL, I thought to myself. The Saints are gonna score a lot of points right? Why not take the kicker?
"Because it is only the fifth round," I told myself.
But against my better judgment, I selected K Garrett Hartley of the New Orleans Saints with the sixth pick of the fifth round.
I was greeted with blank stares as I stated my selection. Everybody else had been reading off ESPN draft sheets. They began searching for the one called Garrett Gartley.
They found him on the last page.
Why had SI ranked Hartley so high, and ESPN ranked him so low?
Unbeknownst to me, only a few days earlier, Garrett Hartley had been suspended from the NFL for four weeks for using a banned substance. The story is that Hartley was driving from his home in Texas to Saints training camp in Louisiana.
In order to stay awake, Hartley took some No Doze pills. Turns out there is a banned substance in them, and he was suspended for four weeks.
Nobody at the draft knew about this, and I was asked if I wanted a mulligan on my draft choice.
I foolishly said no.
So for the rest of the season, I was ridiculed for selecting a drugged-up, back-up kicker with my fifth round pick.
And I stubbornly started him every week. On Yahoo Fantasy, you can see the percentage of teams a certain player is starting for.
Garrett Hartley had one percent. That was me.
I was so devoted to my dark horse, I even contemplated making a Garrett Hartley t-shirt to wear on Sundays.
From that point on, I knew that Garrett Hartley would cause me trouble.
As the NFL season wound down, my Minnesota Vikings found themselves playing the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game. As I drove to work on Tuesday listening to 1130 AM K-FAN, Vikings announcer Paul Allen was giving an early look at the games matchup.
He mentioned Garrett Hartley. He mentioned how Garrett Hartley was a back up kicker who had played in only five games this season, who had a season-long field goal of 38 yards, and how he had missed a clutch kick at the end of regulation in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Paul Allen said that Minnesota fans should not worry about Garrett Hartley.
I frantically called the radio station (I have them on speed dial for emergencies like this). I waited on hold for twenty minutes before somebody picked up.
I explained that I needed to talk to PA (Paul Allen). I told them about how Hartley made all thirteen of his field goals in 2008, how I had drafted him high with my fifth round pick, and how I knew that Garrett Hartley was going to cause me pain and anguish at least one more time this season.
"Sorry. We don't really talk about fantasy football on this show."
Don't say I didn't try to warn you, PA.
I watched the Saints/Vikings game, knowing that Garrett Hartley would ultimately cause the demise of my non-fantasy team.
The game went into overtime at 28-28.
The Saints won the coin toss.
Hartley set up for a 40-yard field goal.
And that was all she wrote.
Garrett Hartley went from being my dark horse fantasy football player to a household curse word overnight. He is now in an ever-growing company of Vikings slayers.
Now that Garrett Hartley has been exposed to the national spotlight, and will probably end up kicking a game-winning field goal for the Saints in Super Bowl XLVI, he will be regarded as one of the more clutch kickers in the NFL, and on many people's draft boards for fantasy football next season.
This just means that I will have to draft him higher.