Meet Your Neighbor / Jun/Jly 2012
Meet Rich Seubert
In this installment of our “Meet Your Neighbor” series, SLO LIFE Magazine sits down for a conversation with Rich Seubert. He grew up in rural Wisconsin, where he excelled at football and basketball. After being told that he was too small to play college football at a major university, he landed a spot at Western Illinois where he played on the offensive line. A chance meeting with NFL scouts led to a tryout with the New York Giants, where his stellar ten-year career prompted Giant’s General Manager to remark that he was “the team MVP.” Eighteen months ago, he was laying crushing blocks on Sundays, but a devastating knee injury brought it all to a premature end. Together with his wife, Jodi, they have two boys, Hunter and Isaac, aged seven and five, and a one-year-old daughter, Hailey. They moved to San Luis Obispo in December. Here is his story…
Where did you get your start, Rich?
I grew up in Wisconsin. I went to a small high school, about the size of Mission Prep, called Columbus Catholic High School in Marshfield. We had 42 kids in our graduating class. My wife and I went to the same high school and started dating about two weeks before we graduated. I went off to college at Western Illinois University. None of the Big 10 schools wanted me, I was too small. People are told that they can’t do things their whole lives, right? But, if you work hard enough and put your mind to something you can do about whatever you want. I played tight end my freshman year and moved to tackle my second year.
What happened next?
We had pro scouts coming to check out two of our star players, Edgerton Hartwell and William James. I hopped into the workouts when the scouts showed up. I ran a good 40-yard dash time and had a good bench press. The draft came around, and I was at my sister’s house in Peoria, Illinois, and I kind of figured that my name wasn’t going to be called, but I wasn’t going to let it bother me. I had heard some teams might be interested in trying me out after the draft as a free agent.
So you went undrafted?
That’s right, but I was invited to a mini camp [tryouts] with the Giants. It was the week before finals my senior year. They fly you out. You don’t know anybody. You don’t know any of the coaches. You feel like a freshman at college again; it feels like the first day of school. It’s pretty nerve-wracking. You walk into that locker room, and you’ve got Michael Strahan sitting over there and Tiki Barber over here, Kerry Collins, the quarterback at the time, Jason Seahorn. And, I didn’t know any of them. The Giants were in the Super Bowl the year before so you kind of knew the players from watching that game when they lost to Baltimore. You’re intimidated by the atmosphere, but you realize that you are there for a job, too.
What do you remember about your first play in the league?
It was a preseason game against Baltimore. The first play called was a toss, and I was in charge of blocking Ray Lewis [All-Pro linebacker]. And, I was like, “How am I going to get to him?” [laughter] I ran as fast as I could, and I dove for his knees. He might have yelled at me for cutting him [blocking below the waist] in preseason, but I was trying to make the team. I think I got a piece of him. I’m not going to say I made the block, but I don’t think he made the tackle. It was fun.
How did you learn that you had made the team?
The last morning was cut day, and they said they were going to start making phone calls to our hotel rooms. It was me and my roommate, who was another offensive guard. One of us was going to go. They can only keep so many. The phone rang, and neither one of us wanted to pick it up. I picked it up, and they asked for him, and he goes in, and I don’t see him the rest of the day. We went back into the weight room, and everyoneis lifting and congratulating each other on making the team, and the strength coach says, “There’s still going to be one more cut.” And you start looking around again and doing the math and trying to figure out if you’re the one to go. I made the team that year and played special teams and back up lineman. My second year I started every game at guard.
Speaking of special teams, weren’t you involved in a rather infamous play against the 49ers?
It was the playoffs. We had an opportunity to win it with about ten seconds on the clock. I was playing tight end on the field goal team, and there was a botched snap, so I headed out for a pass. The ball was thrown to me, and I got tackled before the ball got to me. It should have been called pass interference. They came back later, and said they made a mistake. It was clearly pass interference. They replayed it again this year when the Giants were in the playoffs. That play was my claim to fame. I was at the five-yard line, and I had the guy beat by about fifteen yards. The holder threw a lollipop pass - a rainbow - if he would have led me, it would have been an easy touchdown, if I caught it. I had to stop and wait for it, so the defender ran into me and pulled me down [you can watch the play by clicking here].
What was your favorite type of play?
If you play offensive line, run blocking is what you want to do. You don’t want to sit back in pass protection. You want to run the ball. It shows your toughness, it shows your strength. Our offensive line always took pride in running down the field and finishing plays. If the ball is on the ground, we’re going to get it back. I’m looking for someone that’s smaller than me - you don’t want to pick the big guy. The joke is that if there’s a safety or a linebacker, who are you going to take out? I’m taking out the safety. The running back can juke the linebacker, the safety is the better athlete so I’m going to take him out. But, there’s a lot of open space, they’re smaller, they’re shiftier, so they’re hard to get. And, it’s happened to me where Eli [Manning] throws a pick [interception] and all of the sudden, “Wham!” You’re getting ear-holed [hit from the blindside]. It’s like, “Come on, man. I wasn’t going to make the tackle.” But, it’s football and that’s what you like. It’s either hit or be hit. That’s why you play hard and never stop because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.
You sustained a pretty nasty injury early in your career - can you tell us what happened?
We were playing Philly in my third year and N.D. Kalu, their defensive end, basically stepped on the back of my leg, and it shattered. It wasn’t like he meant to do it. It just happened. Every play you have a chance of getting hurt, and he stepped on it just right. I was in the hospital for three weeks. Stuff went wrong. I had Compartment Syndrome, my leg swelled up so they cut me open on both sides of my leg to get the swelling down. Basically, if they don’t catch it, you lose your leg. I had eight surgeries. Our head trainer came in the day after the first surgery to put in the rod and plate and screws and he asked me, “Can you feel your foot?” And, I said, “Uh… I don’t know.” And, he said, “I’ve been touching it for the last five minutes.” I couldn’t feel my foot. So, I was put back into surgery. And you’re all looped-up on the pain medication so you don’t know what’s going on, and you wake up and there is a big bandage around your leg. And then they tell you what they did. They took me into surgery again a week later. But they couldn’t close the leg up because it was still too swollen. So, I wake up from my next surgery, and my upper leg is killing me and I asked them why that area was hurting me now. And they told me that they had to do a skin graft - basically taking skin from my thigh to close up the cuts, which had been too swollen to close. My wife went through a lot that year because she was my nurse, basically. It was a year-and-a-half before I made it back.
But, obviously, you made a comeback.
My first game back was against Kansas City at home. The first game I started was basically two years since I played last. The guy ahead of me got hurt, and I made my way back to the first team. I never felt so miserable in my entire life when I got done with that game. I was so sore. Tiki ran the ball for over 200 yards. If I had blocked a few more guys, he would have had 300. But, it was great to be back, and it made me want to work harder for the next year. Then 2007 rolled around and I started the full season. I was healthy, I felt good, and we won the Super Bowl that year.
That was one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. Tell us about that amazing final drive.
The last drive went fast. Eli always said he’d rather be down four than down three and going for a field goal, because when you are going for a field goal, the offensive coordinator tightens up and gets conservative with the play calling. When you need a touchdown, they open it up. We knew that we were going to get four downs every series, and we had to get a touchdown. We just had to find a way to get it done. The first set of downs we got to fourth-and-one on our own 30-yard-line. We had to go for it. There was not enough time on the clock to get the ball back if we punted. The call was for an “iso” [man on man blocking] up the middle, a hand-off to Brandon Jacobs. We made it, and from there, it was essentially a spread offense where we were pass blocking.
What about David Tyree’s famous “helmet catch” on that drive - what do you remember?
The play to Tyree everybody got beat, the play would never have happened if it weren’t for the O-line getting beat so bad [laughter]. The defense ran some play and tricked us. Eli was surrounded, and we all ran back to try to get a piece of somebody, and Eli just chucked it up. That’s all I remember, seeing him chuck it down the middle of the field, and I thought, “Uh oh, this doesn’t look good.” It was an incredible catch. I was happy for David, he’s a good guy. His mother passed away that year, and it was nice to see something good happen to him. It’s the little things, you never know what’s going to happen. It just went our way.
Where did your career go from there?
I played the full season after the Super Bowl. We were tops in the league in rushing, had home field advantage in the playoffs. We lost to Philadelphia at home in the playoffs. The year after that we didn’t make the playoffs. I blew my knee out the last game of the season. That was about a year-and-a-half ago. I was blocking a guy in pass protection, andI was anchored in and my foot got stuck in the turf, and I felt my knee pop. I thought I broke my leg again because I felt it in my rod from my previous injury. I thought it had somehow shot out of my knee. I didn’t know what was going on. I looked down, and my knee was pointing in the wrong direction over to the right. The pain was worse than when I broke my leg. This was right around Christmastime and Jodi was in Wisconsin for the holidays. I had to ride the train back from D.C. to New York for surgery a few days later. I knew it wasn’t good from what the doctor was telling me during the surgeries. But, every good thing comes to an end, and my kids were getting older and I really enjoy them and wanted to spend more time with my family. The Giants released me injured once the lockout ended, that was last August. I don’t have any bad feelings. I had promised the kids that we were going to go to the zoo the day I got the news, so we went to the zoo, and I made a few phone calls. It was a good day.
Tell us about Cal Poly star Ramses Barden who is trying to get some playing time with the Giants.
I was with Ramses for two years. He’s a good kid. He’s big. He’s tall. He wants to do it. He’s had a couple of injuries over the last couple of years that have kind of slowed him up. Hopefully, he can get over that injury stuff because I think he’s got the potential, I think he’s got the work ethic. He just needs to stay healthy. In the NFL, staying healthy is the hard part. I joked around with him saying that I’d take good care of his town while he was away.
Come on, Rich, be honest… were you watching Oprah when she named us the “Happiest City?”
[laughter] No, no… we actually had Oprah beat on that one. We started looking at places here two or three years ago when we decided we wanted to move out here when we were done - whenever that would be. I have a friend that lives out here, and we started coming out to visit him during the offseason once or twice a year for two weeks at a time during the last eight or nine years. We’d hang out and just enjoy it. The weather here is pretty much perfect for me. I don’t like it too hot, and I don’t like it too cold. So, this is it. And the people are nice. You don’t get honked at if you stay at a green light too long like you would in New York. It reminds me of the Midwest growing up in Wisconsin… but, the weather. You don’t get snow. So, we’re still learning the ropes. I’m still getting used to putting a sweatshirt on in the morning and taking it off by noon. We enjoy it, our family is having a good time here.
What’s life like for you now?
My life revolves around my kids. I’m running around picking them up then it’s off to t-ball, baseball, basketball, and we’re going to start karate here pretty soon. Whatever my kids want to do, I’ll find time to get it done. And they like doing everything. I’m coaching O-line at Mission Prep, I love football, it’s all I’ve ever done and I truly enjoy being around the guys. I’ve always had good coaches, so I hope I can help the kids out and help the team. One of the goals is to win a championship. We can do it at Mission. We’ve got the kids, and we’ve got the work ethic. We can get it done over there. I also put on a football camp back in Wisconsin every year. I enjoy it and try to get kids active in whatever they want to do. I don’t care if it’s football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer… just to get them active. As long as they’re doing something. Kids should have the opportunity to do everything. I don’t think they should specialize in one sport and just work on that because, let’s be honest, what’s the percentage of kids going on to play at the next level? I know everybody’s dreams are high, which they should be; my dreams were high as a kid, too, but I didn’t know I was going to play in the NFL, it just kind of happened. But, I loved playing. I loved playing basketball more than I loved playing football. But, look at where it got me. If I had just concentrated on basketball, who knows what I’d be doing now? So, my advice is to let them do what they want to do. You only live once, so you might as well enjoy it.