2nd Chances Lead To Super Bowls
As the two contenders take the field this Sunday for the opportunity to become Super Bowl Champions, I decided to take the time to look at the bumpy roads that have brought them all here. Kansas City has four players that were kicked off of their college football teams and thought they’d never see an NFL field. They added a running back halfway through the season who sat out for an entire year and was traded to a different team. Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Frank Clark, Le'Veon Bell, and Tyrann Mathieu were all at one-point team-less. All of these players have one thing in common: thriving off of a second chance. Some may say it's a coincidence, some may say it's destiny that these players all ended up together. However you spin it, they all lived to learn a lesson and realize how much they appreciate playing the game of football. Travis Kelce worked as a hospital telemarketer during his time off of the Cincinnati Wildcats. His brother Jason Kelce had to play a huge role in encouraging his coaches to take back his brother. He won the starting position at tight end for one year of college football putting up the numbers of 45 catches, 772 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Teams questioned who he even was when entering the NFL Combine. In the 2013 draft, he fell to the sixty-third pick even after having a phenomenal senior year. The team to take the chance on him: the Kansas City Chiefs. Tyreek Hill sought a Dll team after being removed from Oklahoma State for a domestic abuse charge with a woman he ended up marrying. To give you a perspective on where he ended up, West Alabama has two teams that are Dl, the men and women Rodeo Team. At West Alabama, he was labeled as undersized and an issue for teams due to his off the field issues. Hill fell to the fifth round where once again, the Kansas City Chiefs found a diamond in the rough. Tyrann Mathieu was once a Heisman candidate for LSU before being removed from the team for substance abuse issues. His first three seasons in the NFL were spent ending the year on the IR. Another undersized and issue ridden player who ended up on the Kansas City Chiefs. Frank Clark had two arrests at Michigan that removed him from the team before being drafted by Seattle during their prime legion of boom years. In those years he ended up making back to back Super Bowl appearances before also ending up on the Chiefs.
The team on the other side of the ball isn’t too different from the Chiefs. The Buccaneers players also know a thing or two about second chances. Antonio Brown has had about as many chances as cats have lives. The player who has played for four teams in three years, was accused of rape twice, battled through having a frostbitten foot, was fined hundreds of thousands of dollars, and still somehow made it to the west wing on Tom Brady’s house to finish the goals they had set together. How about the forty-three-year-old quarterback who left the team that had given him nine super bowl appearances. A chance to prove he can win a Super Bowl on a second team; and most importantly, doing it without Bill Belichick. Who else would he do it with besides his best friend Rob Gronkowski, who took two years off from playing football. In those two years, Gronk lost over thirty pounds and at one point was a WWE Wrestler. After having 12 catches, 140 yards, and 0 touchdowns in his first five games, Gronk finished his regular season with 45 catches, 663 yards, and 7 touchdowns. On the defensive side, Jason Pierre-Paul was told he would never play in another football game after blowing fingers off of his hand from a firework accident. He’s about to make his second Super Bowl appearance in a year where he has shocked the football world with 9.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Yes, that is correct, two interceptions while working with a hand that has two functional fingers. Ndamukong Suh was once suspended for causing grueling injuries on players. He made it to one Super Bowl in his career where he lost to the man who now starts as a quarterback for his team. Devin White was arrested twice in a two-month span before he even got to college. He almost missed the opportunity to play college football in general and has now made it to the Super Bowl in his second year; leading his defense in sacks with 11.5. Lastly, we show love to the running back who was thought of as one of the biggest busts before this year. Leonard Fournette’s off the field issues became on the field issues quickly as he engaged in fights with teams such as the Buffalo Bills. A man who once made it to the AFC Championship but fell short will now be playing alongside one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, the same quarterback who beat him in that AFC Championship game.
In a sense, I look at the Bucs as the Island of Misfit Toys. A bunch of players who were told they were too old, broken, and worn to play in the NFL still. Yet, they managed to make it to a Super Bowl to play another team who was told something similar.
Not only have these players flourished on their own teams, but they have flourished throughout the entire NFL. Travis Kelce has become the best tight end in the entire league and possibly of all time. Tyreek Hill is arguably a top-five wide receiver in the NFL and leads the league in touchdowns scored and second in receiving yards. Devin White has emerged as a top ten linebacker. Tyrann Mathieu is a top-five safety who had a career-best six interceptions this year. Tom Brady added forty touchdown passes this year which is the second-best of his entire career. Frank Clark is a top ten pass rusher, and even Le’Veon Bell added versatility to a Chiefs’ offense who struggled in the running game after letting go of Kareem Hunt. From all this information gathered, I came up with three reasons why these players thrived under the heat of having a second chance:
Firstly, leadership from both quarterbacks and head coaches. All four of these guys haven’t had easy careers or lives themselves, but they both know how to lead a team. They’ve dealt with injuries, tough losses, and even losses off the field- such as Andy Reid's, whose son passed away in 2012 from an accidental drug overdose. The experience of Andy Reid and Bruce Arians in the NFL has led them to help players mature and become better men. Mahomes and Brady are both vocal leaders on and off the field and show nothing but respect for his teammates. The two of them will both go down as some of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. All four of these men have one thing in common: they were willing to give their teammates and players the second chance.
Next, maybe misery doesn’t hate company after all. Maybe feeling misery together and knowing the feeling of being on the bottom is exactly what led these players to take their teams to the top. Maybe misery leads to a road of adversity that ends in the perseverance of wanting to be the best man you can be- both on and off the field. These players turned misery into miracles on the field. The real misery of football is not being able to play, the miracle is being at that point and still finding a way to overcome that and make it to a Super Bowl in your career.
Lastly, second chances don’t come around often, so when they do, make the most of them. There is a lot to prove for both of these teams when it comes to having their second chances. In a game of ‘who wants it more’, it only shows that the teams on both sides of this ball will be playing their hearts out to prove one point: they deserve to be Super Bowl Champions. In a battle of two deserving teams, in a game of chances, old versus young, who will make the most of their second chance?