Wednesday, January 28, 2004

The mighty Kinchen

Now that we're smack-dab in the middle of Super Bowl Week, the game (and surrounding hoopla) is beginning to draw my attention.

So far, a lot of the human-interest hype has centered - rightfully so - on Panthers QB Jake Delhomme. Jake is the Kurt Warner of 2003, having come from nowhere to lead his team to the Super Bowl. And, as a bonus, Jake's from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana and played college ball for the Ragin' Cajuns of USL. I can already hear the Zydeco music and see the big pot of crawfish the Super Bowl producers will no doubt use to "color the package."

I really hope, however, that the Super Bowl producers took the time to drive an hour east to Baton Rouge to uncover a great Super Bowl story of a different sort; that of Patriots long-snapper Brian Kinchen.

A feature story on the long-snapper? Hold on a second, Sparky. There's a great story here.

I'll admit I was completely unaware of this story until I read a piece this week in The Advocate (The Baton Rouge daily, not the national gay newspaper).

Here's how the story goes:

Brian Kinchen, a standout for LSU back in the 1980s, is part of a lengendary Louisiana football family. His dad, Gus, played on LSU's first national championship team in 1958, and Brian and his little brother Todd grew up in Baton Rouge dreaming of being Tigers someday. Brian played tight end for the Tigers in the mid-1980s and Todd played wide receiver in the early-1990s.

Both brothers went on to play in the NFL, with Todd spending 8 years in the league and making it to the Super Bowl with - unfortunately - the Atlanta Falcons.

Brian spent 13 years in the NFL, retiring after the 2000 season. That season was spent, ironically, with the Carolina Panthers.

Brian returned to Baton Rouge, played some celebrity golf events, and began coaching the middle-school football team at Parkview Baptist School. Last fall he began teaching Bible class to 7th-graders at Parkview.

Then, in mid-December, he got a call from the New England Patriots. Seems the Pats had lost both of their long snappers, and New England coach Bill Belichick - for whom Kinchen long-snapped years ago in Cleveland - suggested the team dial Brian up.

Fortunately, the 38-year-old Kinchen is a workout nut and was still in reasonable physical condition after being out of the game for three years. Still, the story goes, he struggled with the decision whether to leave his family and students to try out as the new Patriots long-snapper.

He talked it over with his class, and the kids responded - in effect - "Are you fucking kidding?? Jesus, you have to do this!!" [note: it is highly unlikely that the 7th-grade Bible class at Parkview would use such language].

So he went up to Foxboro, landed the gig, snapped without error during the playoffs and now finds himself in the Super Bowl Sunday. And it's not like he's a bench jockey. He's the long-snapper, meaning he's in the game for every New England punt, field goal and extra point, playing a key role in that whole "snap, hold, kick" thing.

Six weeks ago, Kinchen was teaching the little kids about Jesus, and now he's in the Super Bowl. Yes, it sounds like a Dennis Quaid movie ("The Rookie", to be exact). But it's still a hell of a story. I hope CBS gets around to telling it.

As for my game prediction, I have to go with New England. Any team with 4 former Tigers (Rohan Davey, Kevin Faulk and Jarvis Green in addition to Kinchen), has to be the favorite.

In fairness to my UGA friends, I will note that the SEC runner-up has the most (5) former players in the Super Bowl this year. Patrick Pass & Richard Seymour on the Patriots and John Kasey, Jermaine Wiggins & Will Witherspoon for the Panthers.

USC, it should be noted, has only 3 players in the Super Bowl. The Associated Press is expected to name the Trojans the "Champions of putting former players in Super Bowl XXXVIII" on Saturday.

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