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Athletics: Lohmiller splits the uprights with these hard-hitting questions

Former Pequot Lakes head football coach Chip Lohmiller surveys the field during the Patriots Class 3A state semifinal game in 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch 1 / 2
Minnesotan Chip Lohmiller knows the pressure of being in a Super Bowl. The former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher played for the NFL Washington Redskins. Submitted photo 2 / 2

Chip Lohmiller knows the pressure of being in a Super Bowl. He also knows the joys of winning one.

The former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher, Washington Redskin, Pequot Lakes Patriots' head football coach and current Crosslake Fire Chief has been in some high-pressure, high-stress situations. The pride of Woodbury and No. 55 selection in the 1988 draft talks about pressure, the Super Bowl and McDonald's.

Question: How much different is the Super Bowl now from when you played? Everything surrounding the game seems so much bigger than it used to be.

Chip Lohmiller: The Super Bowl has grown so much in the past 10-15 years. You look back at Super Bowl XXVI that I played in Minneapolis in 1992 and look how big it was last year when Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl. It is as much of a show and entertainment as it is a game. So many activities to experience as a fan.

Q: You scored the first points of Super Bowl XXVI. It was at the Metrodome; how nerve-wracking was that game compared to some of the other big games you kicked in?

CL: I did score the first points in Super Bowl XXVI, however, I did have a chance in the first quarter to score, but we had a bad snap and never had the opportunity to kick the ball. There were odds in Vegas that I would get the first points of the game, but after that botched snap, I am sure some people were not too happy. I did get another chance in the second quarter.

Yes, the game was very nerve-wracking. Being from Minnesota and all of the media hype building up to the game during the week was very stressful. It seemed like I was the tour guide for the media and our players. The people of Minnesota did a great job hosting both Super Bowls. Once it came to game time I was pretty focused and the nerves had calmed down a bit. Being from Minnesota and playing college in the Metrodome gave me plenty of positive thoughts. When I was in college, I spent many days practicing in the Dome so I was very comfortable in the environment. Don't get me wrong, I was still very nervous. Here I was in my home state playing in the Super Bowl.

Q: The other kicker in that game, Scott Norwood, had one of the more famous misses in Super Bowl history when he missed against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXV. How did that moment make you feel and did you ever have a moment like that in your career?

CL: It is tough, you look back at that kick and many others, Gary Anderson with the Vikings, Blair Walsh... It happens. My rookie year I missed an extra point and a 36-yard, game-winning field goal against our conference rivals the New York Giants. It was tough. I had to believe in myself and go back to what got me to where I was and have positive thoughts to get through it. I went on and had some of my best years after that miss in 1988.

Q: You're the fire chief for the Crosslake Fire Department. Is there any comparison as far as adrenaline, nerves between fighting a fire or kicking in the Super Bowl?

CL: When the pager goes off the adrenaline sure does get pumping, but it doesn't compare to the nerves when your team is trailing and you know they will try to drive and get you in position to kick a game-winning field goal—possibly against the wind. As a fire chief, you have a lot of responsibilities to the community and also to your firefighters. You have to make sure you protect and save lives, but also make sure you take care of your own.

Q: In 1993 you and Pete Stoyanovich of the Miami Dolphins did a McDonald's commercial similar to what Larry Bird and Michael Jordan did. How many of those kicks did you actually try and make? Did you get free McDonald's for that commercial and do you still get royalties?

CL: The McDonald's commercial, that was a lot of fun. Pete and I were friends in college and when they reached out to have us be a part of that commercial we were very excited. We played Miami in the preseason and I stayed down after the game to shoot the commercial in the Orange Bowl. The commercial took all day to shoot. We tried many different strange kicks and also threw the ball as though we kicked it. It is a classic. No royalties or free McDonald's.

Q: As the head football coach of the Pequot Lakes Patriots, you coached them to their first two state tournament appearances, including a state semifinal appearance two years ago. Tell me about those years?

CL: I had the opportunity to coach many amazing kids at Pequot Lakes between 2001-17. Coaching those kids and seeing them grow into young adults and helping them accomplish the goals they set out in training camp was very rewarding. Making it to state in 2009 with that group was very special to the school, community, and the players. In 2017, we had a group of very talented players that reminded me of my Super Bowl team. A respectful, talented group that worked so very hard and got us to the semifinals at state. Those memories will always be strong and the kids will remember that for the rest of their lives.

Q: You were a perfect 4-4 on extra points and 3-3 on field goals during the Washington Redskins Super Bowl win over the Bills. How much did that game change your career, life?

CL: We had an amazing team in 1991-1992. We had a great coaching staff and a great group of players that got along and believed in one another. We made history and that is what I reflect back on. I had the opportunity to play with some great friends and win a Super Bowl Championship and get a ring that is so desired in the NFL.

Q: Taking your name out of the equation, is Adam Vinatieri the best kicker in NFL history? And should he be a first ballot Hall of Famer if he ever retires?

CL: Well, I know that Adam will be playing again this year with the Colts. I believe he is 46 years old. He has had an amazing career and has made so many huge kicks in the Super Bowls and playoffs. Yes, I think he should be a first ballot and join Ray Guy, Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen.

Q: Looking at your career stats in the NFL, one thing that really surprised me were the six punts for a 34.7 yards-per-punt average. Who has an easier job—the punter or the kicker?

CL: I may get some heat from this, but I think punters have the easier job. Not as much stress with the game on the line. But you look at today's game, both the punters and kickers are great athletes. Many more fake punts and field goals. The one game I punted in was against the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas. Our punter pulled his hamstring in warmups. At least I didn't have time to stress about it. I just did the best I could.

Q: While in college, you were named All-Big Ten Conference first team and second team and finished as the University of Minnesota's all-time leading scorer with 268 points. Which do you remember more fondly? Your career at the University of Minnesota or your career in the NFL?

CL: I had some great teammates at the University of Minnesota—Rickey Foggie, Darrell Thompson. We had a great coach in Lou Holtz that turned the program around and then with coach John Gutekunst. I have a lot of memories there. The game-winning field goal against Michigan tops my memory of college, but I have a few other great memories. Beating Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium my freshman year with a field goal and also my 62-yard field goal against Iowa.

But obviously winning the Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins tops them all. Other notable games in the NFL that rank up there pretty high would be my five field goals against the Vikings at the Dome and my Monday Night game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Q: Player safety. Is the sport of football safer now than it was when you were playing? And what steps could be made to make it safer?

CL: I believe the game is much safer now than when I played. The concussion protocol is a huge step. Back when I played I had few concussions and it was no big deal when it happened. They just directed you back to the playing field and you continued playing. The equipment is better and having the rules put in place will help the game stay strong but safe.

Jeremy Millsop

My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.

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