CHRIS HOPE Titans S
STEELERS AT RAVENS: Dec. 28, 2003
AS A SECOND-YEAR STEELER, Hope was excited to go against "my old rival Ed Reed," the Baltimore safety and noted ball hawk. "I was setting him up all game [on punts]," recalls Hope, who'd played Reed's Miami Hurricanes while at Florida State. "I let him beat me inside so he'd think he was going to block one." In the third quarter, with the Steelers trailing 7--0, Pittsburgh lined up to punt from its 19-yard line. "He undercut me, and I wheeled behind him," says Hope, who then caught a short pass from punter Josh Miller and took it 81 yards. "Everything opened up. I got a few blocks, and I made a move on the punt returner. I was an All-America running back at Rock Hill [S.C.] High. People said it looked like the old days."
THE TOUCHDOWN BALL, though, went to Miller, a journeyman. "A great acting job is required," says Miller, deadpanning. "You hold the ball as if you'll punt, then, last second, you put it up. I'm 1 for 1." Miller is also with the Titans but may soon be cut. "The ball is packed to go wherever I may be next. It's labeled, painted and boxed. High security."
SHAUN O'HARA Giants C
BROWNS VS. LIONS: Sept. 23, 2001
WITH THE BROWNS on the Lions' two-yard line and up 7--0 in the second quarter, O'Hara lined up as the tight end. "It was my second week playing [that position]," he says, "and the first week that we had any pass plays in. [Quarterback] Tim Couch told me, 'If we call this in the game, I'm going to try to throw it to you.' But in practice he threw it way over my head, so I never thought this would happen." O'Hara was Couch's third option, but he immediately went deep into the promised land. "I was running along the back of the end zone," he recalls. "and he hit me in the corner." After he caught it, "I was flying high, so excited, I didn't even spike the ball. Everybody started jumping on me, and I forgot to breathe—I almost hyperventilated. My parents were at the game. I gave the ball to my dad."
The 6'3" 303-pounder from Hillsborough, N.J., had never scored a touchdown in high school or college, at Rutgers. "I got a lot of chop-busting from the guys," O'Hara recalls. "They were saying things like, 'Glad you didn't eat the ball.'"
BRIAN URLACHER Bears LB
BEARS AT REDSKINS: Dec. 23, 2001
"The play was called Ninja," recalls the five-time Pro Bowler. In the fourth quarter, with Chicago down 13--10, Urlacher lined up left on what appeared to be a 45-yard field goal try, then went in motion. "The pass [from placeholder Brad Maynard] was perfect," says Urlacher (left, on that play). "I was open. All I had to do was catch it at about the eight-yard line and go in." Urlacher says the Bears concocted the trickery especially for the Redskins. "We saw on tape that they were susceptible to something like that. It worked every time in practice."
FOR URLACHER, who was then in his second NFL season, the end zone was not entirely unfamiliar ground. At New Mexico, he moonlighted at wide receiver in addition to his defensive duties, and of his seven career receptions, six were for touchdowns. Still, he doesn't expect to score again in the pros. "It won't happen," he says. "We have too many other players on the team who can do those types of things."
Tale of My Tattoo
A Giants running back goes behind his masks
GROWING UP in Napoleanville, La., the Giants' Brandon Jacobs, 25, got early exposure to Mardi Gras—he went to his first when he was two or three. In 2004 he paid homage, getting tattoos of the festival's traditional laugh-now, cry-later masks, one on each pectoral. "It hurt like hell," says the 6'4" 254-pounder.
The masks are popular as body art—"In Louisiana one out of three men has those masks as tattoos," Jacobs asserts—although Jacobs's twist is having them as skulls. "I wanted to be a little different, get the bone look," he says. "It's tougher looking." As proud as he is of his inkings (he also has the word swamp on one forearm, boy on the other), Jacobs has seen better. "My friend got one on each side of his stomach, the regular laugh-now, cry-later masks, with Afros. That's beautiful."
JOSEPH LABOLITO/WIREIMAGE.COM (HOPE)
EVAN PINKUS/WIREIMAGE.COM (O'HARA)
TOM DAHLIN (URLACHER)
GARY CAMERON/REUTERS (URLACHER ACTION)