Sports Lists

The Most Unexpectedly Awesome Moments in Sports

Sean EvansContributor IIIMarch 14, 2014

The Most Unexpectedly Awesome Moments in Sports

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    Tim Cook/Associated Press

    For a sports moment to be "unexpectedly awesome," it has to be equal parts surprising and epic, like when a pitcher who looks like a substitute math teacher hits a mammoth home run or when a fat guy catches a touchdown pass. 

    While buzzer beaters and Hail Mary bombs are awesome, we—as sports fans—are not entirely shocked when they happen. 

    Similarly, we've seen so many insane dunks from LeBron James and circus goals from Alex Ovechkin that we're practically numb to the SportsCenter "Top 10." 

    In the Twitter age, we need to see players do utterly ridiculous feats at the craziest of times, which is why I've put together a list of surprisingly awesome sports moments.

    I hope you like your endings with a twist.

"Look at the Big Guy with the Move"

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    Date: Dec. 2010

    In 2010, New England Patriots guard Dan Connolly returns a kickoff 71 yards, the longest kick return by an offensive lineman in NFL history.

    Connolly, who weighs 313 pounds, fields the bouncing kick like a young Derek Jeter, finds a seam and explodes down the field.

    Unfortunately, though, he's wrestled down inside the 5-yard line.

    If he'd taken it to the house for six, Connolly would vaunt—without qualification—the greatest fat guy moment in the history of sports.

Paul Robinson's Flying Header Goal

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    Date: Sep. 2003

    In the closing seconds of a second round game in the Carling Cup, Leeds goalkeeper Paul Robinson nails a flying header goal to tie the game.

    Yes, goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

    Like Brian Wilson hitting a go-ahead homer for the Los Angeles Dodgers and closing out the game on the mound, Robinson saves a spot-kick to keep Leeds level at 3-3.

    Eventually, Robinson's team would win 4-3 in a shootout.

The Presbyterian Bounce Pass

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    Date: Sep. 2010

    While they'd eventually lose the game by 40 points, Presbyterian College (SC) stuns Wake Forest in 2010 with one of the greatest, most unexpectedly awesome trick plays in college football history.

    Blue Hose quarterback Brandon Miley throws a "bounce pass" to wide receiver Derrick Overholt, which—to the untrained eye—looks like your garden variety incomplete pass.

    However, the play is actually a brilliantly choreographed lateral, allowing Overholt to throw the ball downfield to a wide open Michael Ruff.

    Shout out to the referees for not blowing a premature whistle and let's give a golf clap to quarterback Brandon Miley for his Chris Paul-like accuracy.

Marek Malik Goes Between His Legs for the Goal

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    Date: Nov. 2005

    Marek Malik hadn't scored a goal all season. So, no one was expecting much from the New York Rangers defenseman during a shootout in 2005.

    Proving that professional hockey players are just too good at hockey, Malik goes between his legs for the game winner.

    The ease with which this guy drills a circus shot is astounding. If The Most Interesting Man in the World played hockey, he'd steal a page from the Marek Malik Guide to On-Ice Stunting.

Florida Gulf Coast's 2013 NCAA Tournament Run

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    Date: March 2013

    Everyone loves a Cinderella story, but those narratives are 100x more unexpectedly awesome when the underdog specializes in rim-rattling dunks and soaring alley-oops.

    During their run to the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Florida Gulf Coast University treated the paint like a launching pad and the rim like a punching bag.

    While there are underdog teams that have made it further than the Eagles, few teams have burst onto the scene with as much awesome as these guys.

“Curry Scores on the Lateral”

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    Date: Oct. 2007

    Typically, when a football team's chances of winning are reduced to a desperate lateral play, the game comes to a sad and pathetic end.

    It's usually a lateral or two, followed by an offensive lineman diving on a loose ball as the hometown crowd files out of the stadium.

    But, in an NCAA D-III game against Millsaps College (Miss.), Trinity University (Tex.) completes the most unexpectedly awesome last-second play you'll ever see.

    Featuring 15 laterals in total, the play goes 68 yards for the score in just under a minute.

    Part circus act, part metaphor for life, the "Mississippi Miracle" is a gridiron version of the "Hang in there!" motivational poster.

Michael Ryder's Glove Save

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    Date: Apr. 2011

    Like a field goal kicker delivering a jarring hit to a quarterback's blind side on a blitz, Boston Bruins forward Michael Ryder defies his job description and—with his goalie away from the playmakes an incredible glove save.

    The unexpectedly awesome play proves crucial, helping Boston defeat Montreal 2-1 in Game 5 of the 2011 Conference Quarterfinals.

    Boston would win the series in seven games and—ultimately—the 2011 Stanley Cup, which makes this play that much more incredible.

The Iron Bowl Miracle

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    Date: Nov. 2013

    Auburn's entire 2013 season could be described as "unexpectedly awesome," but the team's most epic and shocking moment came in the final second of the Iron Bowl.

    With the score tied 28-28, No. 1 ranked Alabama lines up for a game-winning field goal from 57 yards out.

    Meanwhile, Auburn's Chris Davis stands alone near the goalpost, poised to return the kick if it falls short.

    Davis fields the botched field goal attempt and cuts through defenders on his way to the goal line.

    Auburn wins the game with an unexpectedly awesome, totally ridiculous ending.

    If you didn't hurricane kick a beer off of the coffee table during this ending, then you need to be checked out by a doctor.

Spud Webb Wins the Slam Dunk Contest

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    Date: Feb. 1986

    At 5'7", Spud Webb is a full foot shorter than the average NBA player in 1986, but that doesn't stop him from putting on one heck of a show in the dunk contest.

    Up against reigning dunk champion and teammate Dominique Wilkins, Webb scores a perfect "50" in one of the preliminary rounds and closes the place down with a one-handed dunk off of the glass.

    Yes, the new slam dunk champion needs the help of cushioned soles to satisfy the height requirement on most amusement park roller coasters. 

"The Helmet Catch"

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    Date: Feb. 2008

    After escaping the clutches of three New England Patriots defenders, Eli Manning throws a fluttering ball down the field in the closing minutes of Super Bowl XLII.

    Rather miraculously, the ball finds a stable home between the hand and helmet of New York Giants receiver David Tyree.

    The play keeps the eventual game-winning drive going for the New York Giants, who would ultimately upset the would-be perfect New England Patriots.

    It's the last catch Tyree would make as an NFL player, but it's one of the most significant receptions in league history.

Jason "J-Mac" McElwain Hits Six 3-Pointers

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    Date: Feb. 2006

    Jason McElwain, an autistic student-assistant who works with the Greece Athena High basketball team, hasn't seen a second of game action all season. 

    But that all changes when McElwain's coach Jim Johnson makes an agreement with Spencerport to let J-Mac play a few minutes in an upcoming game.

    On game night, McElwain misses his first shot, but his cold streak is short-lived.

    J-Mac encores by sinking six 3-pointers en route to a 20-point performance.

    As one of the most unexpectedly awesome news stories in the last decade, McElwain goes on to win an ESPY for the Best Sports Moment of 2006.

Boise State's Bag of Tricks

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    Date: Jan. 2012

    Boise State entered the 2007 Fiesta Bowl as a major underdog. So, by merely winning the game, Boise State's performance was unexpectedly awesome.

    But it's how Boise State won (spoiler alert: razzle and dazzle) that made this game one of the most incredible contests in the history of college football.

    Boise State forced overtime with a hook-and-ladder play late in the fourth quarter, and employed a wide receiver pass andStatue of Liberty play to ice the game in overtime.

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