View Full Version : Bump for a good read

08-01-2008, 07:16 PM
How many AU/UA players won the super bowl this year? And Osi went to Auburn High School? Simply amazing and a great tribute to LB and his staff.

The Fighting Larry Blakeneys
Saturday, February 02, 2008
For The Birmingham News

CHANDLER, Ariz. --

He had run away from everyone, the joy propelling Lawrence Tynes straight off the field as far and fast as the football that felt like a rock in ice-cold Green Bay went through the uprights.

He had just kicked the Giants into the Super Bowl with a 47-yarder that would erase the sting of a pair of misses and set up the whirlwind next two weeks of his life that included the glee of appearing on David Letterman and the solemn reminder that the questions about his brother Mark and his jail sentence for marijuana distribution would soon come.

So Tynes sprinted off the field, later earning ribbing from his holder Jeff Feagles, and into the locker room.

There, a few minutes later, Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora found the kicker he always looked at as a regular player, all the way back to their days together at Troy University.

Umenyiora grabbed him.

Hugged him.

Amid a most improbable celebration for an underdog Giants team that no one expected to win the NFC title, the two men shared an even more unlikely connection.

They held the embrace long and hard, looking at each other and laughing about the prospect of a pair of players from Troy making it to the Super Bowl together.

"That was amazing, man," Umenyiora said with a big grin later. "That was amazing."

Right around the same time the teammates hugged, Troy coach Larry Blakeney spoke at a high school coaching seminar. He tried desperately to keep his mind on his words, but often failed.

A few moments before he took the stage, an assistant coach had whispered a message: Lawrence just missed another kick at the end of regulation in the NFC title game.

The heartbroken Blakeney finally confessed his concern, telling the coaches of his distraction, telling them how the kids you coach stick with you so much and he was worried one of his was feeling some pain right now.

"Coach," one of the folks in the audience piped up, "I think you should know he just won the game."

And in that moment, so many years removed from coaching Tynes and so many miles away, the old coach pumped a fist.

"Yeah!" he said.

His guys were going to the Super Bowl.

And they weren't about to forget him when they did.

"That's what he taught us to do at Troy - fight," Umenyiora said of Blakeney. "The Fighting Larry Blakeneys - that's what they used to call us."

Stars on different paths:

Stars on different paths:

Tynes and Umenyiora have been two of the stars of the Super Bowl buzz, each reaching the spotlight for a different reason.

Umenyiora, 26, has been a rising star in New York for a while, taken under Michael Strahan's wing, emerging as the team leader in sacks with 13 this year.

"He's my partner now," Strahan said.

He created a Super Bowl stir by accusing Matt Light - his Patriots counterpart on the other side of the line - of dirty play, initially refusing to back off the talk by wondering "what's it going to make him do - play dirtier?"

Umenyiora laughed when told Blakeney had issued a message not to stir the pot, nodding as he said: "That's my friend."

Either way, the lineman will play a key role in the Super Bowl, vowing to get to Pats quarterback Tom Brady because if there's no pressure, "we will absolutely lose," he said.

None of it would have happened without Blakeney and recruiting coach Tracy Rocker, who happened to be in the neighborhood of Umenyiora's Auburn High School one day.

Umenyiora was serving an in-school suspension for tardiness and the coach/teacher decided to give Rocker a call.

"For me to be here, there has to be a God," said Umenyiora, who grew up in London and Nigeria and hadn't seen a football game until he was 15, "because there's just no way."

He is the new folk hero, a poster boy for redemption after making that kick following a pair of misses which led Letterman to joke about his thoughts upon seeing the kicker go in again: "Please don't send him in again - for the love of God!"

That was the thought of most Giants fans who had all but covered their eyes when watching the kick.

But not Umenyiora.

He remembered how tough Tynes was back at Troy, how he was more like a regular football player than an isolated kicker. He had seen that steely confidence on the field and in the back of the bus, where Tynes would often ride with him.

"I knew he was gonna make it because I know him," Umenyiora said.

Now the rest of the country knows the 29-year-old Tynes, too, from the smiling quips about not watching too much TV because "I've got two babies" to his brother Mark's prison sentence that he has addressed and tried to move on from. Mark, an older brother, is serving 27 years in prison in Forrest City, Ark.

Lawrence Tynes, who played soccer with his brother in his native Scotland and in Milton, Fla., while growing up, knows he could have the fate of the Super Bowl weighing on his kicking foot, and he's fine with that. He knows Giants coach Tom Coughlin wouldn't even have sent him out for the 47-yarder if he were "hiding behind the defensive line" as he joked he was after the misses. And he smartly decided not to listen to the coach screaming in his ears after the previous miss.

"I think you have to have the (baseball) closer mentality," he said.

He's had that mentality since he's been a pro, from the time he struggled to reach the NFL, through the time he got cut by Kansas City after missing one.

To find any doubt in Tynes' mind you have to go back to that first year at Troy.

"Maybe as a new guy in college," Tynes said of the last time he questioned himself. "They all want to see how you react to a miss."

Said Blakeney of the walk-on who earned a scholarship: "If he had any anxiety, I never saw it."

Now Blakeney and all the folks back at Troy will see Tynes and Umenyiora in the Super Bowl because the pair did what they say their former coach taught them to do.

"Keep fighting," Umenyiora said when asked to send a message to Blakeney.

And the coach has a message for his former players: "I'm proud of both of them."

08-01-2008, 07:59 PM
Link didn't work. Fixed.