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14 years after fake punt to seal Sugar Bowl, Phil Brady is still in the game

by Joe Brocato, WV Metro News
The story originally appeared on WVMetroNews.com on June 3, 2020. Reprinted by permission. Link includes interview recording.

In the 2006 Sugar Bowl, Steve Slaton rushed for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns. Darius Reynaud found the end zone twice and West Virginia’s offensive line paved the way for 502 yards of total offense as the Mountaineers defeated Georgia 38-35. It was the Mountaineers’ first of three BCS wins in a seven-year stretch.

But it wasn’t over until Phil Brady delivered the dagger. Facing fourth-and-six with under two minutes to go, the Mountaineers called on Brady to execute a fake punt. It was a play that had been practiced throughout the second half of the season but was one that Brady couldn’t imagine actually getting a chance to use.

“I never thought we were going to run it. I thought it was something we would just have in our back pocket. Speaking as a coach now, you like to have options,” Brady said.

“I looked over (to the sideline) too late. If it weren’t for Marc Magro yelling, ‘Hammer, Hammer!’ I would have punted the football. If you look at the clip on YouTube, you can see I put my hands up near my ear holes and I take a few steps forward and probably gave it away to some people. I was listening for what Magro was yelling. Luckily, I heard him.”

Brady scampered ten yards to the Georgia 38-yard line for the first down, effectively ending the game.

“The first thing I remember is getting picked up off the ground by Mortty Ivy. He picked me up by my chest plate and started pounding me on the head.

“I started running off the field feeling excruciating neck pain because of the way I was tackled. It was a little bit awkward. I didn’t know whether to slide like a quarterback or dive head first. So the odd tackle you saw was a combination of those things. I don’t have any memory of thoughts before the tackle and after hearing Magro. That ten-second window is completely blank.”

The Mountaineers ran out the clock to defeat Georgia and cap one of the most successful seasons in program history with an 11-1 record and Big East and Sugar Bowl championships.

“I have thought about what it would have been like had I fumbled. I had dreams about that. Luckily, that didn’t come to pass.

“We had to have a perfect snap. We had to have good blocking up front. It wasn’t an effort of a single man. That’s the way I have always been. Everybody deserves credit, the whole team deserves credit for that. Everybody has a role and I just happened to play mine at that particular moment.”

Brady capped his collegiate career with that run and says his speed could have been somewhat underestimated.

“We are moving into folklore territory. 4.6 is closer, but I will take 4.4 too. I think Pat (White) and Steve (Slaton) would have something to say if you told them I had a 4.4.”

Brady formed a solid kicking combination on that 2005 team with future NFL All-Pro selection Pat McAfee. He says that the Mountaineer special teams units were always considered integral parts of the Rich Rodriguez-led teams.

“I never had that kicker stigma. None of us did. That’s a credit not only to Coach (Rich Rodriguez) but all the guys in the locker room.

“To be honest, now that I think about it, a lot of it has to do with Mike Barwis, who was our strength and conditioning coach, and the way he made no exception with any position group. If you are on the team, you are going to do this work. Guys in the locker room noticed we were working just like they were. They were lifting more weights than I was because I am not that big of a guy.”

Still in the game in Virginia

After his WVU playing career concluded, Brady returned to his native Virginia. He has been a teacher and football coach at two high schools in the Fairfax area.

“I was at my alma mater, Robinson High School for eleven years and decided I wanted to make a switch over to Chantilly High School.

“Then I got into the health and physical therapy world, which allowed me to align more with my desire to be a coach and be with those people during the regular school day. Just recently, I was rehired at my alma mater to teach physical education there.”

Brady has coached special teams units as well as linebackers, running backs and wide receivers.

“I sent a kid to Shepherd (Jacob Haynie) a couple years ago and a kid from this past year is going up to Columbia on scholarship. So we have had some success getting this kids up to the next level.”

Brady says an annual rite of fall is when new kids on the team stumble upon video of the famous fake punt from his WVU days.

“They typically find out around Halloween. It takes about a month and a half, two months to discover that I have a famous clip on YouTube.”

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