Twenty-six years ago today, Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl for the first, and up until now, only time. There was no “Bring it Home” campaign that January, the Vikings went 8-8 during the 1991 regular season and did not qualify for the playoffs. We did have a Minnesotan coming home however, Woodbury native Chip Lohmiller returned to the Twin Cities as the All Pro kicker for the NFC Champion Washington Redskins.
After a standout, 4-year career at the University of Minnesota, Lohmiller was selected in the 2nd round of the 1988 draft by Washington. He led the NFL in scoring with 149 points in 1991 and made all three field goal attempts and four extra points in Washington’s 37-24 victory over Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI.
Today, Lohmiller owns a home on Trout Lake in Crosslake, MN, where he’s the town’s Fire Chief and coaches the football team at Pequot Lakes High School. The 51-year-old former kicker and I chatted by phone recently.
DZ: What is a day like for you currently? What are you up to these days?
LOHMILLER: I am the Fire Chief at Crosslake. I have been in the fire service for twenty years now. I also own a fire training education company which provides training and EMS training throughout the state of Minnesota.
DZ: How did you get involved with firefighting? What was the call for you on that?
LOHMILLER: Growing up, a lot of boys want to be a firefighter or a professional athlete and I am hitting both of those in my lifespan. So, I just enjoy serving the community and I like the adrenaline of it. I just enjoy it.
DZ: You are coaching football at Pequot Lakes High School…
LOHMILLER: I have been coaching for seventeen years and head coach for fourteen years. We made it to the state semifinals this year. It’s a fun deal.
DZ: Was (the coaching opportunity) what got you to move up to that area or were you planning on moving up there any way?
LOHMILLER: I had a lake home up here while I was playing football. I lived in Woodbury and then I built a lake home up here and I moved up here full time when I retired.
DZ: I want to talk to you about Super Bowl XXVI. Other than the obvious, what stands out to you about the game all these years later?
LOHMILLER: Just being able to play at home and getting an opportunity to play in a Super Bowl. Not every player who plays in the NFL gets the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl. Then you talk about the Dan Marinos and the Jim Kellys who played many, many years and never won a Super Bowl ring. It’s great a feeling to know that I had the opportunity to play with a wonderful team, great organization and the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl and actually win.
DZ: Did you get a lot of requests for tickets?
LOHMILLER: Yeah (laughs). I had seventy-seven tickets I had to buy for the game. Since I was from Minnesota, most of the guys knew I needed them to help out with tickets in Minneapolis. Each player gets a certain amount of tickets…I was able to get to seventy-seven and it worked out well.
DZ: It kind of feels like, historically, your team got lost in the shuffle a little bit. It was right in between the San Francisco and Dallas dynasties…
LOHMILLER: You go back to that year, we were 17-2 I believe. We lost a game against Dallas…at home and we lost to Philadelphia that year, the last game of the season, when we started our second string – a lot of starters didn’t play. That team gets lost in the shuffle, like you say. I think we had one of the best offenses, we scored a lot of points and our defense was really, really good. A lot of shutouts. It was in between those big eras of those teams making runs every year. We only made the run that year, so we get kind of lost. We had great team camaraderie, a lot of great athletes. We played so together as a team. We didn’t have a million stars, but offensively, we had Mark Rypien, our quarterback, our receivers were The Posse, with Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders. Our running backs, we were just as strong; we had (Gerald) Riggs and (Ernest) Byner. Defensively we had Charles Mann, Darrell Green, Wilber Marshall. We had a good team. We went through the whole season so confident.
DZ: The Bills had only lost one Super Bowl at that time, and it was a close game. Were you guys taking them very seriously?
LOHMILLER: Oh yeah, oh yeah. And I think that it shows the respect we had for Coach (Joe) Gibbs. We arrived in Minneapolis, had a couple of days of the fun stuff to enjoy the Super Bowl. We had the media day on Tuesday…We did all these different functions on Monday and Tuesday, starting Wednesday – I don’t even remember Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday because we were so focused on the game and game planning and practice and meetings. I don’t even recall doing anything else but getting ready for the game. Whereas, Buffalo was high and mighty thinking they were good, talking to the papers, things like that. Doing extra-curricular activities at night. I was all over the papers. We were pretty focused on what our game plan was.
DZ: The year before (Super Bowl XXV), (Buffalo’s) Scott Norwood missed the (game winning) kick (Buffalo lost to NY Giants 20-19). Did you have any sympathies or fears that could happen to you?
LOHMILLER: Did I think about that? I felt for Scott. I had been in the same situation, not in a Super Bowl. Every kicker goes through it where you miss a field goal to win the game and lose the game. I had one my rookie year where I went through the same scenario. I was the first pick in the draft for the Redskins and I missed a 36-yarder versus the New York Giants, which was big rivalry for the Redskins and I had to overcome that. It was one of the biggest misses I made. I went on and had a very successful career. You felt for the guy (Norwood). I know him pretty well. It’s tough, but you are not going to make every kick. It’s just not going to happen. You look at nowadays, there are guys making a lot of kicks, but then they’ll miss a 24-yarder. It’s just the way it is. I had a lot of confidence going into that game. I played all my college games there, I was very successful there. Had a great year, led the league in scoring with 149 points, outscored the Indianapolis Colts total team and led the league in scoring. I had a lot of confidence, made a lot of kicks and felt good about it going into the Dome.
DZ: You mentioned where you were drafted, in the second round, where you surprised to go that early?
LOHMILLER: I was projected to go pretty early, second or third (round)…I ended up being 55th overall. Going to a team that just came off a Super Bowl win in ’87, so there was a lot of pressure going in there as a rookie.
DZ: You had a really good career with Washington and then bounced between New Orleans and St. Louis. I read that you felt you could have played a little longer, but didn’t want to bounce from team to team.
LOHMILLER: In Washington, they brought in a new (head) coach and a new special teams coach (in 1994) and we didn’t really jell. They were also looking for a change and I was one of the higher paid kickers and I was a transition player meaning that they had to pay me a certain amount. They didn’t want that tag on me anymore. My relationship with Washington ended then. I went to New Orleans. I wasn’t really happy (laughs), didn’t enjoy going there. Then I went to St. Louis, had a really good year in St. Louis – best percentage – and then they brought in a new coach, (Dick) Vermiel and he wanted to go with a younger kicker. I did look around, travel and try out, but I just didn’t want to bounce around anymore. I had a good career, nine years, won a Super Bowl and just wanted to get on with my life after that. There were teams calling me for four, five, six years after I retired.
DZ: Did you ever seriously consider coming back?
LOHMILLER: There were a couple of times I thought about it. Before I signed with the Rams, I was going to sign with the Vikings or the Patriots, but the Rams were just a better fit for me. I was also going to try out for the Vikings, but then they signed Gary Anderson, which was a great fit for them and he did a great job for many years. So, I just decided to hang it up and move on with some other things that I wanted to do.
DZ: As a Vikings fan, I can’t help but think that you could have been the kicker in ’98…
LOHMILLER: So, ’97 is when they went through (several) kickers and I worked out for them and everything. They talked about signing me and, at the last second…Coach (Dennis) Green decided to go with Gary. That was their choice then and it worked out really well for Gary. I had known Gary since he was with Pittsburgh. He’s a great guy, great career. There’s another guy who had that kick and missed it. That was my opportunity there, I was hoping to get back with the Vikings, but it didn’t work out that way.
DZ: You mentioned missing that kick early in your career against the Giants. What is your teammates’ response when something like that happens?
LOHMILLER: They are supportive in a way, but it is a job and you are supposed to perform in the NFL; I think I missed an extra point in that game as well (the Giants defeated Washington 24-23). It was tough, some of the guys spoke up about it. I think Dexter Manley was one of them who opened his mouth and said, “Hey, we got this rookie kicker, he’s got to make those kicks, blah, blah, blah.” But then again, I had the coaching staff and everybody else believing in me. Yeah, I was a rookie, but I went on from there to be leading scorer, Pro Bowler and everything else. I was able to bounce back from that and have a good career.
DZ: Was it intimidating at all coming to a veteran team with a veteran coach?
LOHMILLER: Oh yeah. It was definitely (intimidating). These are the guys I was watching in high school and college. They were an older team at that time. You had The Hogs – Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, all those guys who had played since ’83. I am coming in there a young buck as their first pick in the draft, a kicker. I had to earn their respect, which I did right away. A great group of guys. I wasn’t normal kicker because of my size (6-3, 213 pounds), my athletic ability and how I got along with everybody. They just accepted me as an athlete after they got to know me. That’s why I got a lot of support, even after I missed that kick. Besides from a couple of people.
DZ: What other positions did you play in high school?
LOHMILLER: In high school I was a wide receiver, punter, safety. Did a lot of different things. A lot of teams would use me as a quarterback, because I threw a lot. I would throw to the wide receivers in practice and training camp.
DZ: Once you got to college, you were strictly a kicker.
LOHMILLER: Yep. Kicked and punted.
DZ: I also wanted to ask you about the McDonald’s commercial you did with Pete Stoyanovich. How did that come about?
LOHMILLER: The big thing that was going on was the Larry Bird/Michael Jordan basketball commercial for McDonalds, so they spun it off. Pete was an AFC kicker for the Dolphins, having a good career as well. They asked us to come down to the University of Miami stadium during training camp because we were playing each other in preseason. They asked if we could stay over two days to do the commercial. So, I got it approved through the team management. He and I spent all day with that commercial. It was pretty fun. Great commercial.
DZ: Also, to close it up, how did you get the nickname “Chip”?
LOHMILLER: My father’s name is John and my real name is John, so I was called “Chip” from the day I was born.