Saints punter's gutty performance earns respect, donations from Vikings fans

Thomas Morstead donate money he receives from Vikings fans to a local Minnesota charity. Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

METAIRIE, La. -- Thomas Morstead's gutty performance was unfortunately lost in the shuffle after the New Orleans Saints' devastating last-second playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

But it didn't go unnoticed by the Vikings fans, of all people.

Morstead said his “What You Give Will Grow” foundation received hundreds of donations from Vikings fans after the game. (UPDATED: The donations had climbed over $40,000 as of Wednesday afternoon after Morstead vowed to fly to Minnesota himself if the number climbed over $100,000 to deliver the proceeds to the Minnesota Child Life Program.)

The Vikings fans apparently appreciated the way Morstead played through the torn cartilage in his ribs that he suffered in the first quarter and the way he came back onto the field at the end of the game to line up as part of the defense when Case Keenum kneeled for the final two-point conversion try.

“It's very cool,” said Morstead, who joked, “I wish they were all bitter today because we had won. But it's nice to see people doing nice things.”

Morstead said his executive director texted him on Sunday night and told him they must be getting a lot of donations because of the exposure of the game. Then the director texted later, “Holy crap, these are all from Minnesota addresses.”

Apparently fans started to spread the idea on message boards after the game. It reminded Morstead of what happened with Buffalo Bills fans after Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton helped them clinch a playoff berth in Week 17 by coming back to beat the Baltimore Ravens -- “on a slightly smaller scale.”

Morstead said he will donate the money he receives from Vikings fans to the Minnesota Child Life Program in order to make sure it “stays up there in their community.”

Morstead suffered the rib injury while making a tackle on the opening series of Sunday's game. But he continued to play through the pain -- feeling a little better after a pain-relieving shot kicked in. He nailed punts of 56 and 54 yards after the injury.

“It was pretty simple in my mind: ‘This is either gonna be a really good or a really bad punt. Either way it's gonna hurt like hell.' So I might as well try to make it as good as I could,” said Morstead, who originally thought he had broken ribs.

“My ego was shot a little bit when they said my ribs weren't broken, which would have sounded cooler,” Morstead said. “But the doc was like, ‘Hey, don't worry. It hurts just as bad.'”

As for how Morstead wound up on the field lined up as a defensive tackle on that final play, he said it was kind of random.

Morstead said he lingered on the field longer than most players -- soaking in the atmosphere of the Vikings' celebration because he has found in the past that it “kind of helps you get a little closure.” Then when he hit the locker room, he heard fullback John Kuhn saying that they needed 11 players back out on the field to line up for the formality of the two-point conversion.

“So I just turned around. I didn't expect I was going to be the first guy leading the troops out there. We were just trying to get the game over and be done with it,” Morstead said. “Once we got out there, Case Keenum said, ‘Hey we're gonna take a knee.' I said, ‘You better,' because I was already hurting.”