Bill's Super Bowl Essay

Below, find Bill's essay as it appeared in the official Super Bowl program.
Super Bowl Essay
By Bill O'Reilly

In the fall of 1967, I made the Marist College football team, one of only a handful of freshman to do so. The experience was excruciating; sweltering practices in the middle of a Poughkeepsie, New York August, agonizing one-on-one hitting drills, and every bone in my body in pain.

But the ordeal turned out to be a defining moment of my life because it taught me that the most challenging and worthwhile things can only be accomplished with great sacrifice and discipline. That lesson can be the difference between success and failure for any American.

As a teenager growing up on Long Island, I played ice hockey and sandlot football, which was far more brutal than the relatively civilized schoolboy league. I was a pocket passer who could zip the ball downfield about 60 yards. Unfortunately, my movement resembled the gait Boris Karloff demonstrated in his classic film role as "The Mummy." For those of you under age 40, I was slow.

My idol was Joe Namath who practiced with The New York Jets at Hofstra University, about a mile from my house in Levittown. I biked over to see Namath every chance I got. The guy could throw the ball 75 yards with his eyes closed, which they often were after whatever he did all night long. I loved everything about Namath; his confidence, his sense of humor, and his ability to lead. I wore his number, 12, and even bought white football shoes, which caused great consternation among some of my Marist College Viking teammates.

The essence of playing organized football is competition. The best team usually wins, the best players always command attention. The playing field is an unforgiving place especially with video cameras recording the action. There is nowhere to hide when you screw up but when you do something great--the reward is immediate.

After graduating from Chaminade High School, I went on to Marist where, as a freshman, I played a little quarterback but did all the place kicking and punting. My nickname was "Go-Go," after the New York Giants kicker Peter Gogolak.

Things went fairly well until a night game against Iona College. The Gaels were tough and I was punting continuously. Then it happened: I took my eye off the ball and kicked the damn thing straight up in the air. The crowd hushed, it took forever for the pigskin to come down. I was lucky it didn't hit me in the head. That punt is forever remembered at Marist. I still hear about it nearly 35 years after the fact. Never mind that I won the national punting title for my division as a senior. Never mind that I split the uprights scores of times. In the hearts and minds of my college peers, I am the man who punted a football backwards. And I did.

But I overcame it. That punt made me ever more determined to be a good player. I worked out harder and forced myself to improve every facet of my game. I absorbed the criticism and prevailed. And there is no question in my mind that my willingness to overcome a setback helped me achieve the success I have today on another unforgiving playing field: the arena of broadcasting.

In January of 1969, Joe and the Jets reached the Super Bowl. I knew they'd beat Baltimore because Namath guaranteed it. I had confidence in Matt Snell and Don Maynard and George Sauer, Jr. But most of all I knew Joe would not allow his boast to go unfulfilled.

There is such a thing as destiny in life. Every one of us carves out our own. Many people walk away from challenges and choose to live life cautiously. Others believe their talents are best used behind the scenes, they quietly fulfill their destiny.

But for those of us who walk onto the football field as competitors, destiny becomes very public. Each game is a test of will and skill. In the end--with all apologies to Vince Lombardi--it really doesn't matter whether you win or lose. What matters is putting yourself to the test, competing honestly and working in tandem with your teammates.

The football experience doesn't always turn out well. But football brought me a much higher sense of what I could achieve with determination and hard work. I guess you could say the end zone was the beginning of the no-spin zone.

For the Record: Check out the documents below--a photograph of Bill in action from his yearbook, as well as a document showing his punting record.