Most young boys dream of making the game-winning play for their favorite team, but few ever realize that opportunity. The go-ahead touchdown catch, the full count strikeout: These are all plays those boys have run through and imagined countless times. And every time, it goes just the way they script it.
For sophomore Iowa kicker Daniel Murray, those backyard dreams came to life on Saturday night, but the series of events that led Murray to that situation wasn't exactly how he'd imagined it.
Murray, an Iowa City native and longtime Hawkeyes fan, was offered a full soccer scholarship to Kentucky but turned it down to walk on at the University of Iowa to chase his boyhood passions.
As a freshman Murray split the kicking duties and finished the season 7-10 on field goal attempts. Coming into this season, the job was his to lose.
By the fifth game, Murray had been demoted to "kickoff specialist," losing his job to freshman kicker Trent Mossbrucker. The change wasn't sudden, but in the fourth game of the season, when Murray missed a costly 35-yard field goal in a 21-20 loss to Pittsburgh, the writing was on the wall.
That last kick had to have been on his mind as he got the nod to attempt the game-winning kick against No. 3 Penn State. There was also some surprise from Murray that the coaches called his number.
"I was a little shocked. I've been waiting for them to put me out there," Murray said on the decision for him to go into the game.
"We made the decision right there at the end," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We leaned more towards experience than anything else. It was a tough situation, and it was a little bit tricky out there, and we just leaned towards experience."
The "tricky" Ferentz was speaking about was the weather. It wasn't a night tailor-made to kick a game-winning kick. It was cold and the wind swirled, but perhaps this was simply part of the scenario for Murray. Add a national television audience and a top-three ranked opponent and it wouldn't get any better, or worse, depending on through whose eyes you looked.
Running back Shonn Greene took a knee and sought divine intervention. Defensive tackle Mitch King couldn't watch, instead opting to let the home crowd inform him of the outcome.
King later said, "I couldn't imagine what he was going through. I bet he was more nervous than I have ever been."
Murray confirmed that this has been his dream, saying, "I've always dreamed about it. I kept hoping and hoping I'd get my chance."
Saturday night the chance had finally arrived, with one second remaining.
The holder, Ryan Donahue, described those last few moments.
"I sat in my stance, looked down, and thought: 'I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life. Don't mess it up.'"
Donahue, trying to bring calmness to the situation, reminded Murray it was just one kick, like he'd done many times in practice. But Murray had waited a lifetime for this moment and there was nothing that could be done to change the outcome he'd acted out many times, not even a timeout from the Nittany Lions.
"He had ice in his veins," Donahue said.
And with one stroke of the leg, the entire landscape of college football was changed, yet again, and one young man's dreams became a reality.