Kinchen came out of retirement to make Super Bowl snap
Brian Kinchen has been a great athlete his entire life. He was a football standout who played at powerful Louisiana State University and lasted 14 seasons in the NFL. He’s been a quick study at golf, becoming one of the best players on the celebrity tour.
But Kinchen, now 38, needs a break every now and then. It’s when he comes back from one of those breaks that he really shines.
Out of football since the 2000 season, Kinchen was called back to duty by the New England Patriots last December. With their starting long snapper injured and a replacement failing to perform, head coach Bill Belichek and personnel man Scott Pioli remembered Kinchen from their days with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
“They brought three other guys into the same tryout, but I talked to Scott and he told me it was my job to lose,” Kinchen said. “They just had confidence I could get the job done.”
Kinchen joined the Patriots for the last two regular season games. Four weeks and two playoff wins later, he found himself on America’s biggest sports stage: the Super Bowl.
Kinchen struggled through the week’s practices, launching three snaps over the holder’s head. His slump continued during the game, with two snaps rolling along the ground, and the pressure began to weigh on him.
“(Long-snapping) is one of the most difficult things to do in football, but once you acquire the talent it’s like making a two-foot putt,” Kinchen said. “But when you’re in the Super Bowl, it feels like a two-foot putt to win the Masters.”
The Patriots, however, managed to grab a 29-22 lead over the Carolina Panthers with less than three minutes left. It looked as if Kinchen would get his first Super Bowl ring despite having contributed little in the biggest game of his life.
But suddenly the Panthers, the team that let him go after the 2000 season, tied the game with a long drive. The Patriots got the ball back with a minute left in regulation, and quarterback Tom Brady led a drive to within field goal range with only nine seconds remaining.
Kinchen took the field and crouched over the ball. He snapped a perfect spiral back to holder Ken Walter before being buried under the Panthers’ rush, Adam Vinatieri put the kick right down the middle and the Patriots were world champions.
For all his struggles in the buildup to that final play, Kinchen couldn’t help but feel things worked out for the best.
“It would have been easier if we had held on to that lead, but the way it happened really felt perfect,” he said. “It finally made me feel like I was really a part of the team.”
Being a long snapper isn’t the most glamorous job in the NFL; in fact, it may be the least appreciated job on the field. But Kinchen couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in the lack of acknowledgement that came with his clutch performance.
“I was watching a replay of the game the next week, and the announcers were talking about the perfect hold and the perfect kick,” Kinchen said. “I’m not expecting to become a star as a long-snapper, but it would have been nice to hear something about a perfect snap.”
Kinchen decided soon after the Super Bowl that his playing days were over. There was no guarantee the Patriots would want to bring him back, and he couldn’t bear the thought of going through tryouts for other teams.
“Why tarnish a perfect ending?” he said. “My time has come and gone, and that’s the way it should be. Us old guys have to make way for the younger players.”
Kinchen now spends his time with his wife and four children, but he’s a staple on the celebrity golf circuit. He will occasionally bring one of his kids along to a tournament, but mostly he enjoys the chance to compete with other athletes.
“It give me motivation to keep playing,” he said. “When you retire, you miss being part of something, part of a team. We’re like a little family on the tour.”
His stint with the Patriots kept him off the golf course, but once again a long break led to success. After not playing for nearly a full year, Kinchen won the first event of the Celebrity Players Tour, the Stan Humphries Celebrity Classic in San Diego on May 2, by edging out Dan Quinn by one shot. He was in second place during the final round of last week’s John Elway Celebrity Classic in Denver before falling back to finish 10th.
Kinchen is looking to top his best finish in Tahoe, fourth place in both 1997 and 2001.