The Long Snapper: A Second Chance, a Super Bowl, a Lesson for Lifeby Jeffrey Marx
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jeffrey Marx, The Long Snapper chronicles one of the most improbable and inspirational sports stories of our time. Marx, the New York Times bestselling author of Season of Life, tells of Brian Kinchen’s remarkable journey from Bible teacher to New England Patriot to Super Bowl champion in this/b>/b>/b>… See more details below
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jeffrey Marx, The Long Snapper chronicles one of the most improbable and inspirational sports stories of our time. Marx, the New York Times bestselling author of Season of Life, tells of Brian Kinchen’s remarkable journey from Bible teacher to New England Patriot to Super Bowl champion in this transcendent tale of football and faith.
Second chances rarely come in professional sports, especially for athletes out of the game for some time. But former NFL player Brian Kinchen defied those odds, as Marx shows. Having played pro football for 12 years (including with the Dolphins and Panthers), Kinchen hung up his cleats and turned to teaching. Yet more than two years after his final play in football, Kinchen received a call from the New England Patriots to become the team's long-snapper-a player who excels at snapping the ball for field goals and punts. What followed was a seven-week journey that would challenge him both physically and spiritually. From a miscue at his first tryout to his subsequent flubs at Patriots practice, Kinchen became increasingly uneasy about playing on football's biggest stage. And as New England's hopes of winning the sport's greatest prize became more realistic, "the mere thought of messing up in the Super Bowl, of maybe even becoming the unforgettable goat of the game, simply horrified him." But just as the pressure of failure becomes too crushing, Kinchen uses his Christian faith and the confidence others had in him to capture a missing piece from his football career. Marx is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, and it shows in his vivid recreation of events long after the fact. That, in tandem with his ability to connect with Kinchen on a very human level, allows him to show a side of professional athletes rarely seen on Sunday broadcasts. It's an inspiring read for anyone who has ever wanted one last shot at their utmost dreams. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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The Long Snapper
A Second Chance, a Super Bowl, a Lesson for Life
December 15, 2003.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
He never really liked the idea of keeping his cell phone on while teaching. He certainly would not tolerate such behavior from the seventh graders in his Bible class at Parkview Baptist Middle School, especially not now, while reviewing for the end-of-semester final exam that was only two days away. But Brian Kinchen had a wife and four young sons. He could not imagine being unreachable in an emergency. The phone was tucked away, on silent, in the front left pocket of his slacks, when he felt it vibrate at 9:20 that Monday morning. The little screen showed an unfamiliar out-of-state number.
"Hey, Brian, it's Scott Pioli."
An old friend from a previous existence.
Brian was an ex-jock. At the age of thirty-eight, after thirteen years of professional football and almost three years of searching for whatever might be next, he was new to teaching. He and Pioli were friends from their long-ago days together with the Cleveland BrownsBrian when he was a young player doing everything he could to keep his spot on the roster, Pioli when he was a young personnel assistant trying to move his way up in the front office. Pioli still worked in the NFL but now operated on a whole different level. As vice president of player personnel for the New En-gland Patriots, he was one of the most respected executives in the league, working closely with head coach Bill Belichick, who was on his way to becoming the NFL's winningest coach of the decade. Together they had orchestrated thefranchise's first Super Bowl victory after the 2001 season. And nowwith only two weeks left in the 2003 regular seasonthe Patriots were well positioned for another championship run.
Brian and Pioli had not spoken for nearly a year. Why this out-of-nowhere call at a time when his schedule has to be crazy? Brian wondered. Must be about that hat I asked him to have Belichick sign for that lady I met. After the obligatory small talk, Brian cut to the chase: "Hey, man, where's my hat? I never got the hat." Pioli had an entirely different agenda.
"Listen," he said. "You're not gonna believe this, Brian, but we need to get a look at you. Bill wants to get a look at you."
Brian was familiar enough with football-speak to know exactly what that meant. His old coachBelichick had been head coach in Cleveland when Brian and Pioli were therewanted to fly him into Boston for a tryout. Brian was absolutely stunned. He paced in front of his class.
"Our long snapper got hurt," Pioli said.
Most of the two dozen students were distracted from working on their review material, trying to figure out what in the world their teacher was dealing with on the phone.
"I'm thirty-eight years old," Brian said.
Pioli already knew that, of course, but Brian was only thinking out loud. "You realize how long it's been since I've played football? I mean, I still work out, just went to the gym before school this morning, but I'm probably down about twenty pounds from the end of my career."
Brian stood almost six-foot-three and now weighed less than 220, big for everyday life, but not for someone banging heads with defensive linemen in the NFL.
"Not a problem," Pioli said. "We just need you to snap. We don't need you to block. Don't need you to cover. Just snap. Just get the ball back there."
"Wouldn't be calling if I didn't mean it."
Brian was excited but also wary. Those painful memories he'd been trying to push awaythe indignity of rejection and the empty feeling of worthlessnesscame rushing back, once again washing all over him. What to do? What to tell his friend?
"I really don't know if I want to do this," Brian said. "I'll have to think about it. Can you give me a couple hours?"
"I'll call you back," Pioli said.
The teacher turned to his curious students and took in a deep breath. Gathering himself as best he could, Brian said, "You guys are not gonna believe who that was. This guy from the New En-gland Patriots, Scott Pioli, he wants me to fly up there and try to make the team. He wants me to play football again."
It is not often that a Bible class turns into a free-for-all. Students shouted and cheered, so many voices competing for attention that Brian could not immediately make out the particulars of what anyone was saying. All that registered was the overall excitement emanating even from those who did not have a clue about football. But then came a voice of clarity through the cacophony. It belonged to a boy in the back of the classroom: "The Patriots have the best record in the league. Everyone's picking them to win it all this year." That was an overstatement; not everyone was picking the Patriots. But New England was indeed projected to be one of the strong favorites heading into the playoffs. The Patriots had won twelve of fourteen gamesincluding their last ten in a rowand were tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the best record in the NFL. Brian had no idea about any of that. He had not been paying much attention to professional football. Turning his back on the game he loved was the only way he could deal with its having unceremoniously dumped him after all those years.
"What do y'all think?" Brian asked.
"Awesome," one of the girls shouted.
"You gotta go," one of the boys said.
Then came a chorus of concurrence.
"Yeah, go, Mr. Kinchen."
"You have to. You have to."The Long Snapper
A Second Chance, a Super Bowl, a Lesson for Life. Copyright © by Jeffrey Marx. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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