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Friday, March 12, 2010

Catching Up With... Jon Stinchcomb

On my list of people I most enjoy talking about football with, Matt Stinchcomb probably ranks pretty high. (Go HERE, HERE or HERE for some examples of why.)

(NOTE: Matt Stinchcomb also is one of three former Bulldogs on this year's college football hall of fame ballot.)

Oddly though, I had never talked to his brother, Jon, another Georgia grad now playing in the NFL. But then Jon went out and won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints, and it occurred to me I had to correct that massive oversight.

Of course, in the wake of a Super Bowl win, there's plenty on the docket for guys like Jon Stinchcomb, but he still managed to find a few minutes to talk about his team's big win, his love of New Orleans and his loyalty toward UGA with me. Here's the interview...

David Hale: Well, first off, congratulations on the Super Bowl win. I assume it's been pretty crazy for you since then. What was the whole experience of winning that game like?

Jon Stinchcomb:
For me, it's just been a lot of family time. It was probably one of the best months, if not the best month, of my life. We won the divisional playoff game against Arizona, the birth of our first child, our son Mason on that Tuesday, we win the NFC championship game, I make a Pro Bowl appearance, and then we win the Super Bowl. I don't know if it gets any better than that. I don't know how it could. It's been truly special.

So post-Super Bowl, the parade on that Tuesday was something that was so special just because I've never seen that many people fill a city and there was just such an outpouring of love. It was special because you felt like some kind of Roman conquerer returned from some foreign land and just welcomed with open arms and everybody loves you. It's been truly awesome.

DH: As someone who works in the media, I'm pretty easily jaded and cynical and I don't usually buy in to a lot of the feel-good stories that us media folks love to tell. But even I was really starting to buy in to the stories of how close the Saints and the city of New Orleans were as this Super Bowl run progressed. Was it just a good story or is that relationship really as meaningful as the media made it out to be?

Absolutely, it's something that's real. You can't go anywhere -- a gas station, a restaurant, a Walgreens -- it really doesn't matter, there's someone in there with a Saints hat on or a bumper sticker or a shirt. If they recognize you as a player, the first thing they tell you is, 'Thank you.' The 'congratulations' and 'how does it feel,' that comes secondary. It's always, 'Thank you' and that speaks to the relationship the Saints have with the city.

DH: I assume that's a gratitude that goes both ways.

Definitely. Just playing the home games in the playoffs and the difference that made for us and the advantage we had just having the fans support. And it wasn't isolated to just the playoffs. It's the overall support the city has given us throughout the year. It's played to our advantage, and I think you start from Katrina and work to where we are now, we've just worked hand in hand. The team has tried to give back to the city, which has been really spearheaded by Drew (Brees) and his effort, and then just the attachment that's been formed, the bond between the city and the team has only grown with the wins we've brought this city and I think the hope that we've brought this city.

DH: You were with the Saints through the really rough times of Katrina and the aftermath -- one of the few guys on the team still that persevered through all of it. Did the Super Bowl have a bit more meaning for you, just having that personal understanding of how far you'd come?

It just makes it that much sweeter having been here for some lean years, including a 3-13 where not only was the team relocated around the country for Katrina, but we weren't exactly sure the Saints were still going to be the New Orleans Saints. There were serious talks of San Antonio and maybe L.A. There was just a lot of turmoil -- not only with the organization, but with the city.

So after Katrina, you bring in a whole new staff, half the players are turned over, and there was a lot of questions that were left following that season. To come from that point that was not only a low for this organization but a low for this entire region, I don't think I'm overstating it when I say the city and the region looks to us and sees what we've come from as an organization, the down times, to the top of the league, and it offers hope for them. As we rebuilt our program, they're rebuilding their lives, and it was something that I think is organic and was generated because we were all kind of suffering at the same time.

DH: So your brother played in a Super Bowl when he was with the Raiders but didn't win. Does this give you permanent family bragging rights now?

You know, I think it's just so special to have that feather in both our caps to have been able to play in it. Does it give me bragging rights? Absolutely. Will I use them? Only when I have to.

DH: You're not the only Georgia guy on that Saints team. In fact, you probably spent a lot of time in practice going head to head with Charles Grant at the line of scrimmage. What's that been like?

I shared my entire career with Charles. We've been together since the early days in college. Over a decade has been battling against that big old bear. I'm sure it's only made me better. It's always good. With Georgia guys, you know what you can expect, the class of guy, and it's like a family. And any time you can work with family, it's a good thing.

DH: You guys played a tough game against Dallas toward the end of the season that actually turned out to be the first loss of the year for you guys. I'm curious as a guy tasked with stopping that D line, did you get to know much about Georgia's new defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham? What were your impressions of his defense with Dallas?

Dallas is such a talented team. You start with Demarcus Ware, an unsung hero, and Anthony Spencer on the other side. They're just really stacked with talent. But as soon as we made that hire, I'm asking some of our defensive coaches about him. It's such a network when you start talking about coaches and everybody seems to know everybody. And there's been nothing but great things said about him. So I'm excited about it, just the way they described his personality, his coaching style, I'm sure it's going to bring a lot of fire and life to the program.

DH: Do you get to watch a lot of Georgia during your season? Is it something you and guys like Charles and Travis Jones are focused on every Saturday?

Every Saturday for bragging rights. You'd be amazed. The guys in the locker room are pretty loyal to their college and the allegiance is strong. And any time you can get bragging rights on a teammate, it's a good thing.

DH: You were a part of those early Mark Richt teams, and you mentioned how long ago it seems like you and Charles started playing across from each other. Looking back now, are you surprised at the consistency Richt has had at Georgia? What's the difference between Richt then and now?

I think it all starts with respect, and he's such a good man and leads with the best of intentions. As a player, it makes it easier to play for a coach that you can respect. You're never going to agree 100 percent with all the calls and the decisions that are made, but if you can respect what the coach is doing and feel like he's honest and up front in everything that they do, you can play your heart out for him. And I think that's what Coach Richt has brought to the University of Georgia.

DH: I've talked with your brother a few times about how you two were never the prototypical offensive linemen, that your success was based so much on work and less on natural ability or body type. How much did the strength and conditioning work you did at Georgia help you in your career in the NFL?

I don't think I'm at this point in my career without that sturdy base of training and understanding the demands that this game takes and requires from your body. So the preparation I got at Georgia was exactly what you need to make the transition into the pros. I see a lot of guys that there's still something lacking that they have to develop and that's based primarily on the fact that they didn't have the training that we had at Georgia.

DH: OK, last question -- your old quarterback, David Greene, is now doing some broadcast work for UGA. Your brother is an analyst for the SEC now. So, is there a future in media for Jon Stinchcomb, too?

No there is not. I'm leaving that to the big bro. He can have all of that that he wants.


Anonymous said...

One of my all-time favorite Dawgs, bar none. I was priviledged enough to be on the sidelines at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Jon fell on David Greene's fumble in the end zone to bring us closer to that watershed win over Auburn that brought us the '02 SEC East crown and put us in the Dome. Afterwards, we got to talk to him, and he was so thrilled and yet so humble at the same time. What an awesome guy. And if you want to talk about a guy who embodied what "student athlete" is supposed to mean, you're talking about Jon Stinchcomb. I'm fairly sure he's the only future surgeon (was he headed towards neurosurgery? I forget) on the offensive line in the NFL.

Thanks, Hale, this was a great interview and it put a big smile on my face to remember a Damn Good Dawg this morning.

Universal Remonster said...

Jon is a hell of a DGD.

Keese said...

Not prototypical linemen? Matt and Jon have had linemen genes since the day they were born.

Really good questions though DH. Great read and great journalism

David Hale said...

Just meant that in the sense that they had to work to put on weight, etc. They're not naturally big 300-pounders. I've had discussions with Matt about how hard he had to work to keep his weight up, and Jon is really the same way. They're both great linemen, but it's through work more than natural body types.

Keese said...

Matt is really leaner now than in his playing days for sure. I was joking with him recently about it at a family wedding. He could make a NFL type slim quick commercial. Jon on the other hand..who knows. He was 175 lbs and could probably dunk a basketball when we were 10 years old. But yes, proud of both of 'em and have work very hard.