The Gallaudet football team's tip-drill interception on Saturday was one of the most remarkable football plays you'll ever see. It caused Coach Chuck Goldstein to utter "some choice words you can't print" and then sprint out on the field, grab one of the officials and holler, "Oh my gosh, did you see that? Did you see that?"
"High school, college, professional, I've never seen anything like it before," Goldstein told me on Thursday. "It was unbelievable."
The Bison wound up losing Saturday's back-and-forth game with Castleton State on a field goal with 11 seconds left. They didn't turn this particular interception, which happened in the third quarter, into any points. But coaches felt that the play -- in which linebacker Tom Pangia tipped the ball to Tony Tatum, who leaped and grabbed the ball as it was going out of bounds before tossing it back to Shelby Bean for the interception -- deserved a bit more attention.
So John Davis, the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator, pulled the above clip and sent it to sports information director Sam Atkinson, who forwarded it on to D3Football.com's Play of the Week contest. Somewhat unbelievably, the interception did not win, although the winning play was also fairly great.
Still, Tatum's wizardry began to spread.
By Tuesday afternoon, it made it to SI.com's Hot Clicks. By Tuesday night, it made it onto Versus's The Daily Line. By Wednesday afternoon, the video had more than 20,000 views, and was featured on Dr. Saturday.
Then Atkinson went out to work the men's soccer game Wednesday night, and when he came back, the clip was one of the rotating lead stories on the front of Yahoo.com. By Thursday morning, it had been viewed more than 280,000 times, making it without a doubt the most-watched play in Gallaudet football history.
"We just thought, ok, this definitely is worthy of nominating" as the DIII play of the week, Atkinson told me. "We're just amazed and grateful and thankful that it's gotten as big as it has. Who knows where it goes next?"
The key player in the drama was clearly Tatum, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore defensive back whom Goldstein describes as an "unbelievable athlete." Tatum doubles as the captain of the basketball team; he was the Bison's second leading scorer (11.5 a game) last season, and was also first in blocks, second in steals, second in assists and third in rebounds. He was injured in the football team's first game this year, sat out two weeks and then watched Castleton mostly throw away from him on Saturday.
"He's been waiting for them to throw to his side all game; he just wanted to make a big play," Goldstein told me. "I think his basketball instincts kicked in....We have some great highlights from past years, but this, by far, has gotten the most exposure"
What's next? Well, the Bison play at Husson in Maine on Saturday, which means a 12-hour bus ride through Thursday night with an early Friday arrival. The team has been working on a goal-line package in which Tatum lines up as a receiver, but with the time he's missed, it's uncertain whether that will debut. As for the tip drill?
"We practice that every day," Goldstein said, then waited a second and burst out laughing. "Obviously, it would have been an even better highlight if we could have turned it into some points or came out with the win, but Tony made an unbelievable play, and he deserves all the credit. You just don't see those things every day."