FORT PAYNE, Ala. — It's overtime in the AFC championship game, and the win comes down to No. 2 Evan McPherson for the second straight game. In the moments before the 22-year-old kicked it through the uprights, what were his parents thinking?
His mother Amber admits she was a little nervous.
“A lot nervous,” she said, “but I knew this team has worked so hard and wants this so bad. They’ve been underrated all year. To see Evan be able to help them do what they had to do was incredible.”
He made it, as he has every field goal this postseason. The McPherson clan, and Bengals fans everywhere, celebrated the win.
Cincinnati Enquirer editorial cartoonist Kevin Necessary captured what the moment meant, drawing Evan kicking the football from a pedestal that says, “To the People of Cincinnati.” Those who live in the Tri-State likely know that is the base of the iconic “Genius of Water” statue on Fountain Square. It represents the heart of the city.
“Oh, incredible. I mean, wow,” Amber said. “Cincinnati has been incredible just to welcome him, show love to him and support him. We can’t thank everybody enough.”
The McPhersons are feeling the long-distance love all the way in Fort Payne, Alabama — a town with a population of 15,000.
That’s where Evan grew up. That’s where he learned to kick the heck out of a ball. And that’s where Who Dey Nation has grown thanks to him.
LaDon McPherson sent photos of hometown signs supporting his son who made it to the NFL after years of hard work. His family says McPherson always had "internal drive," his mom remembering a day he asked her to take him to the field to kick.
“I just said, ‘Do we have to go today?’” Amber said. “And he said, ‘Well, if I don’t go today, somebody out there will, and then they’ll be a day ahead of me.’ So he’s always just had that.”
His parents say McPherson possesses those intangible qualities that can't necessarily be coached. Now, his team has it, and it’s helped take McPherson and his Bengals teammates to the big game.
LaDon said he has been talking with his son leading up to the Super Bowl, supporting him through a whirlwind run.
“It’s never about kicking, you know, I’m saying it’s more about the love and support that we have for him no matter what,” LaDon said. “I always tell him, pretty much before every game, ‘Just go do what you do, and have fun doing it.’”
In addition to the hard work, the McPhersons say their son's faith has been important in his journey and will continue to be important as he lands in L.A.
McPherson's family is flying to California from Cincinnati with the other Bengals families Thursday. They said they hope to get to the Queen City Wednesday to take in the buzz and excitement around town. Also part of McPherson’s cheering section is his fiancée, Gracie, and her family.