View Full Version : Suisham's Long Journey To The Super Bowl

02-03-2011, 04:58 PM
.... from the Courier Press of Shaun's hometown "Wallaceburg" .... named after William Wallace AKA Braveheart.

Suisham's long journey to the Super Bowl
By David Gough

When Shaun Suisham lines up for the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, it will be presumably the career highlight for the Wallaceburg native.

While getting to the Super Bowl will be the result of hard work, discipline and desire, Suisham's journey of getting to take part in one the greatest sporting events is an unlikely story.

To better understand how and why Suisham ended up where he is, many of the answers lie back in his hometown.


Going back to 1999, when Suisham was preparing for his final year of high school, football stardom was not on his radar.

A number of 50 yard-plus field-goals changed that.

In 1998, Suisham did not even play football. The season, Suisham's Grade 12 year, was wiped out by a teacher's work-to-rule situation.

Suisham's focus was on hockey and soccer.

A strong soccer player, Suisham played defence and used his strong leg to get the Tartans out of trouble. He also played on the Wallaceburg Merchants senior men's team.

In hockey, Suisham cracked the Wallaceburg Lakers Junior C roster as a defenceman in September 1999. The Lakers, who were coming off their only Great Lakes Junior 'C' Hockey League championship, were loaded and were preparing for another run to the finals. As a rookie, Suisham was focused on making his mark with his hometown junior hockey team.

Suisham played football with the Tartans in 1999 after the league took a hiatus the year before.

With a strong leg, Suisham was the team's punter and kicker, but he was also a hard-hitting linebacker/safety and played wide receiver on offence.

The legend of Shaun Suisham started to grow during the playoffs.

He booted four field goals -- including an impressive 57-yarder -- as the Tartans upset the Chatham CI Cougars 27-12 in their Kent senior semi-final. In all, Suisham booted four field goals on the day -- the others being from 45, 36 and 25 yards.

In the final versus the Ursuline Lancers, the legend blew up. On a cold blustery day, Suisham knocked home a 58-yarder just before halftime. That field goal, plus a 27-yarder, was enough for a 6-5 win and Wallaceburg's first league championship since 1968.

Teammates and fans still recall the 58-yard field goal. Calling the game on local cable television, current Chatham-Kent Golden Hawks coach Jeff Green notes that the kick made it at least five yards past the crossbar.

Five days after he led the Tartans to the championship, Suisham was ejected from a game against Belle River Canadiens for being part of a multi-player brawl during a hockey game.

"He was a tough kid. He fought anything in sight," recalls Suisham's junior hockey coach Mark Davis. "He had a heart of gold."

By then, Suisham's exploits were attracting attention from U.S. football programs. A tape of Suisham's games was made and sent to a number of colleges.

Hello college football, goodbye Wallaceburg Lakers.

In December, Suisham signed with Bowling Green State University based in Ohio.

As a student at WDSS, athletic director Don Martin said Suisham was quiet and co-operative.

On the field it was a different story however, it was much different, Martin said.

"(He was) very feisty and competitive. He played within the rules but played at a high level. His compete-factor was very high."

Martin first noticed Suisham when he played soccer for the Tartans.

"The ball exploded off his foot," Martin said.

Martin is not surprised by Suisham's success.

"He has a very strong sense of calm when he performs."


Suisham's college career at Bowling Green was like a roller coaster. It started slowly the first couple years, before taking off the last three. Overall, it was quite a ride for Suisham.

A lingering injury – a partially torn right quadriceps — kept Suisham on the sidelines his first year as he red-shirted.

His freshman campaign in 2001 was uneven, as Bowling Green coach Urban Meyer, who would later lead the Florida Gators to a national championship, did not put much trust in Suisham. He made three of his eight field goal attempts.

However, Suisham had strong sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

Suisham set Mid-American conference single season record of 69 extra points and 226 for his career.

The career total is also a NCAA record, which has since been broken.

Suisham had a total of 358 career points, which is the most in school history and fourth on the conference's all-time list. He holds school records for most field goals with 45.

Another record Suisham holds is the MAC record for consecutive PATs in a season as he was a perfect 69 for 69. He was perfect on his last 94 PATs.

Suisham's parents attended every game, home and away, during his college football career.

"My parents and girlfriend have travelled across the U.S. to see me play. At the end of the game to see them it's a comforting feeling."

Suisham's mom, Wendy, said she and her husband Rick have always tried to go to their children's sporting events.

"It is so important to him. I just wanted to always be there when he came out of the dressing room," said Wendy Suisham.

"There were times when we thought it was so expensive, but were there times where we thought about not going? No, not for a second."

Overall Wendy Suisham is proud of her son.

"I am proud of him. I would be just as proud of him if he didn't have a record. It is wonderful. I feel very grateful that he had the opportunity and that when he got there he did so well."

Going into his freshman season four years ago, school and career records was not on Suisham's mind.

"Coming into college my first goal was to start the first game and take it from one game to the next," he told the Courier Press back in 2005.

Suisham's high school coach, Rob MacLachlan, said Suisham, who is also his nephew, made the most out of his opportunity.

"Nobody thought that (the records) would happen. A lot of it is getting an opportunity," said MacLachlan, who helped Suisham get the scholarship to Bowling Green, said the highlight of the four years at college was seeing Suisham mature.

"He was always a team guy. As a coach myself, I like to see a guy think of the team other than personal record."

Heading into his senior year, Suisham was aware he was in striking distance of the school field goal record. He was not aware he was close to the NCAA record.

"It's a great story. Sometimes you just have to be given an opportunity," said MacLachlan.

"When given the opportunity I think he did very well and I don't think he is done yet."

Suisham earned his degree in exercise science during his time at Bowling Green.

Bowling Green finished with a four-year record of 37-12 during Suisham's four years playing with the Falcons.


Suisham was drafted in the CFL draft by the now-defunct Ottawa Renegades while he was a junior at Bowling Green. His CFL rights were later traded to the Edmonton Eskimos.

An undrafted free agent, Suisham went to the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp in 2005 and lasted until just before the last exhibition game.

The experience was a good one for Suisham, as he got exposure in the league and was later signed by the Dallas Cowboys.

Suisham joined the Dallas Cowboys practice squad and signed with the team on Oct. 24, 2005. After two weeks on the team, in which he went two for two on field goals, he was released so the Cowboys could sign Billy Cundiff. Cundiff struggled, so Dallas re-signed Suisham for the last game of the regular season.

During the 2006 off-season, Suisham was re-signed by the Dallas Cowboys and played in five games.

The Cowboys released Suisham in October 2006.

Suisham was signed on Nov. 22, 2006 to the Washington Redskins' practice squad. The Redskins promoted him to the active roster on Dec. 2, 2006. He missed his first attempt from 50 yards but went on to make eight consecutive field goals to finish out the year.

Suisham was the Redskins' regular kicker through the 2007, 2008 and through most of 2009.

On Dec. 6, 2009, Suisham missed a 23-yard field goal that likely would have sealed an upset win against the undefeated New Orleans Saints. The Redskins went on to lose the game in overtime, 33-30. The Redskins released Suisham two days later.

A few days later the Cowboys signed Suisham. Suisham was two out of three in the regular season. On Jan. 17, 2010, he played in the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, his fourth game after replacing Nick Folk. He missed twice, including kicks from 48 and 49 yards, making one field goal from 33 yards.

Suisham was not tendered a contract by Dallas after the season, becoming a free agent.

He spent some time in the summer with the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams and reportedly had a number of tryouts, but was still without a job until November when the Pittsburgh Steelers had him in for a workout. After spending most of this season on the sidelines, Suisham was a Steeler.

Leading up to the Super Bowl, Suisham was 16-18 on his field goal attempts in the regular season and playoffs with the Steelers.


Suisham was held three football camps for youth in Wallaceburg.

The camps, which teach football skills and fundamentals, are held at Wallaceburg District Secondary School.

The camp is starting to become a large event, not only for Wallaceburg, but also for Southwestern Ontario. Kids came from one or two hours away to take part in the free camp.

"I am really excited about the positive light Wallaceburg is in for the camp," Suisham said, after his camp in 2009.

"I am hoping through (the camps) more kids will have that interest with football. I hope football does even an eighth of what it did for me," Suisham said.

Each time the clinics have run at WDSS, the school has benefited from it, WDSS program director Don Martin said.

Current players, Suisham's family and his wife Erin's family help out at the camp.

When Suisham saw the Redskins discard some equipment, he loaded it in his pick-up truck and brought it to Wallaceburg, Martin said.

Along with the camps, Suisham has also been a big booster of the school's athletic programs.

He was a driving force in getting and raising money for improvements for the Tartans' football field.

Suisham literally went door-to-door to raise the $30,000 needed for scoreclock.

"Shaun told me that he was going to put that clock in. I said I don't think so, but thanks a lot," Martin recalled. Within a week Suisham had raised the money needed to put the clock in place.

"He taught me a little lesson about positive thinking and I think that's what propels him forward all the time. He just keeps moving forward."