With the Super Bowl in Minneapolis this year, former Redskins kicker and Minnesota native Chip Lohmiller reflected on Washington's own trip to Minneapolis 26 years ago and the homecoming that awaited him.
The anticipation kept building for kicker Chip Lohmiller.
As the Redskins' near-perfect 1991 season marched on, the closer Lohmiller's dream merged with his reality. Eventually, the two intersected. Washington made it to Minneapolis -- host of the Super Bowl that year -- and for a Woodbury, Minn., native and University of Minnesota product, the team's championship run provided the ideal homecoming paired with the thrill of winning on the biggest stage.
"Everything worked out perfectly," Lohmiller said. "It's crazy how it all kind of lined up for me."
Twenty-six years after the Redskins raised their third Lombardi Trophy inside the Metrodome, Minneapolis is hosting its second Super Bowl. The return of festivities has resurfaced some memories of that week for Lohmiller, whose primary recollections involved playing in front of so many of his friends and family members.
As the only Minnesotan on the team, Lohmiller said he reserved 77 tickets for Sunday's game, which required a lot of organization prior to the start of the practice week. As a way to make himself more at home, he also organized an ice fishing trip for a few teammates several miles north at Cedar Lake.
In well-below freezing temperatures, ESPN chronicled the trip in a video, as Lohmiller attempted to show Earnest Byner, Monte Coleman and Art Monk a slice of his traditional Minnesotan life. Byner laughed over the phone as soon as he remembered the short excursion, which provided him his first experience fishing in the bitter cold.
"It was fun though, man," Byner said. "It was relaxing, and it gave us a chance to get away and bond some more, because that was one of the things that we did really well with the Redskins."
The outing was mostly fruitless, although Byner remembers the group caught one fish.
"We had to take a picture in a way to make the fish look like it was big," he said. "It was maybe two and a half inches long."
Like Lohmiller, his memory is pretty hazy up through parts of the game itself, a product of head coach Joe Gibbs preparing the team to be ultra-focused on the Buffalo Bills.
"By Wednesday we were all focused on game planning and meetings and practice," Lohmiller said. "We didn't really participate in the events during the day."
"I went to bed at the same time that I wanted to go to bed, "Byner said. "I studied the same way. Everything the same as far as that preparation process was, even though we were in hotels. Everything was what I'd call routine for me."
Take a look back at photos from the Redskins victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI
The team practiced at the Vikings facility, where Lohmiller had kicked plenty of times before. His grandfather had worked for the Vikings and so growing up, Lohmiller was always around the organization. In the offseason, after being drafted by the Redskins, the Vikings allowed him to use their practice fields to kick "because they had some nice grass fields and I knew the management, knew the organization, they let me work out there in the summer whenever I wasn't in Washington."
Lohmiller had intimate knowledge of the Metrodome, too, where the Gophers played their home games.
"I knew my way around that stadium," he said. "Practiced there twice a week during college -- I had a lot of time in that building. It was great, you didn't have to worry about the elements, there was no wind. The only thing that was different was that surface was flat."
Lohmiller kicked four extra points and made three field goals, the final two of which came in the fourth quarter to effectively put the game out of reach.
"I remember the first botched field goal attempt and then I remember a field goal at the end of the game," Lohmiller said. "As the game went on and the score was pretty good, you start loosening up a little bit so I do remember the fourth quarter a little bit."
Lohmiller played three more seasons with the Redskins, bounced around to the Saints and Rams, and retired after the 1996 season. He returned to Minnesota and immediately entered the fire service, eventually becoming fire chief in the town of Crosslake, following the footsteps of his father.
"I just enjoy giving back to the community and I like the adrenaline," Lohmiller said. "It's just something I've always wanted to do."
When asked which job – kicking or firefighting -- comes with more pressure, he helped put things in perspective.
"The adrenaline and the stress are there," Lohmiller said. "Sometimes I'd rather kick a field goal."
Check out these photos of Washington appearing in past Super Bowls.
For the past 17 years, he's also been head coach of the Pequot Lakes High School football team, building a successful program for the last decade, doubling as the team's offensive coordinator and adapting game plans to help his players – smaller, but faster than most of the competition in the area – take advantage of their strengths.
"I don't have the big size, we just have a lot of speed and we're always going against bigger teams but we seem to come out with a win," he said. "You've got to make adjustments just like anything else and put in a gameplan that's going to work with the talent that you have. Put the kids in the best position to be successful and to enjoy what they're doing."
The team made the state semi-finals this year, which meant a trip to play inside U.S. Bank Stadium. Relying on his own experiences preparing for a big game in Minneapolis, Lohmiller put together a similar game week structure – practicing at the Vikings facility, having team meetings and film study the night before and having a morning pregame meal. "You learn so much about playing college and the NFL, the ins and outs and I think the guys appreciate that because there's a structure to what we're trying to do well," Lohmiller said.
He'll spend more time in Minneapolis this week, catching up with his teammates, such as Mark Rypien, from the 1991 season and taking a break from the firehouse. Which is to say this trip to the city will be less stressful and will likely make some of those hazy memories come back into focus.
"That 91 team, we just got along together," Lohmiller said. "We'd gel together, the team camaraderie, supporting one another, believing in one another, trust one another, and we all had the same goals to make it to that Super Bowl and win it."