It was seen around the world: Garrett Hartley, during overtime in the NFC championship that would determine the Super Bowl contestants, kicked a field goal 40 yards, sending the New Orleans Saints (instead of the Minnesota Vikings) to the Super Bowl – and sending their fans into an unparalleled frenzy of joy. Hartley quickly became a household name after that, a 23-year-old hero who would never be anonymous again.

He realized this while waiting in line for lunch one day with a buddy at La Madeleine. He noticed people reading the paper – he was on the front page. “Before I knew it, I received a standing ovation,” he remembers. Another time, a customer at Academy Sports approached him. She was an elderly lady, asking for a photograph. “She handed me her Chihuahua and began digging in her purse. About 10 minutes later she said she left her camera at home and asked me if I would follow her,” he says, amused by the incident. “It’s humbling when people come up and ask for a signature or picture.”

The overtime kick against the Vikings, along with Hartley’s overnight fame, perhaps signified to the universe that the Saints were no longer the lovable underdogs; they’d evolved into hardworking, resilient and talented players who were ready to win the championship.
During the Super Bowl, Hartley made a successful onside kick, a key move that helped the Saints secure the crowning victory over the Indianapolis Colts on that glorious day in Miami.

Nearly three years later, Hartley, like Saints fans everywhere, reflects on that particular season – and in fact, on his career so far – with awe. “I’ve made memories that will last a lifetime,” he muses.

A Texas native, Hartley attended Carroll High School in Southlake, went on to play football for Oklahoma and signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos in 2008. Just a few months later, however, he became a Saint, and the rest is history.

Since moving to New Orleans, he’s developed a particular fondness for the French Quarter. His favorite musician is Trombone Shorty, and he can’t decide which restaurant he likes the best because “the food here is over the top.”

Louisiana is a good fit for the now-26-year-old, who says he is a “spur-of-the-moment” type of guy. Outside of football, his passion is hunting. He is a pro staffer for Bowhunting Addiction TV and the co-owner of X Tag, a company that makes tactical archery equipment.

Hartley, like the team itself, has dealt with hardship. Last year, in a preseason game, he suffered a season-ending hip injury that left him on the sidelines struggling to recover. “It was a reality check,” he says. “As blessed as I’ve been, it could have been taken away from me in a moment’s notice. It rattled me not knowing if I would ever be able to kick, let alone at the level needed to be in the league.” After three months of rehabilitation, six days a weeks, three times a day, Hartley was finally able to start kicking again. “Having my family and friends’ support, along with my physical therapist, was vital for my return,” he says.

This season, Hartley hopes to make it to the Pro Bowl and continue to improve his game. “My goals,” he says, “are simple: Help my team win and improve week in and week out.” He says he will continue to enjoy the moments with his friends playing the sport that he loves. n