Giants kicker hated football as Scottish youth
INDIANAPOLIS—Lawrence Tynes hated football. Too much hitting, too much pain.
The native of Scotland preferred soccer when he was growing up in Florida, which was the latest stop for his military family. A lot of his friends spent their time tugging on helmets and lacing up shoulder pads, but he didn't want anything to do with it.
Given that background, it's quite surprising that he's a major figure in football's biggest game.
The New York Giants kicker will play in his second Super Bowl on Sunday against the New England Patriots, the team he helped to beat in the title game four years ago. It's a big stage for someone who wanted nothing to do with the game as a teenager.
"It's pretty weird how it worked out," Tynes said.
There's no disputing that he really stumbled onto his Super path.
The 33-year-old kicker was born in Greenock, Scotland, where his father -- a U.S. Navy officer -- met his mother. The family moved to Florida when he was 11, and he did his best to blend in at Milton High School.
Football? Uh-uh. Had to draw the line somewhere.
"I didn't like this game that I am playing on Sunday because it was tackling and physical," he said.
During his junior year, his physical education teacher -- and the football team's defensive coordinator -- asked him to see how far and straight he could kick a football. The team needed a kicker; Tynes was a good soccer player.
"I said, `Certainly,'" Tynes recalled. "So I went out to the baseball field, he throws his keys down in front of where I was going to kick and he said, `Kick the ball and pick my keys up,' just to keep my head down."
He kicked it long and straight. His friends urged him join the team. He made a life-changing decision.
"I am glad I did, because the only reason I did it was to hang out with my buddies in practice," he said.
Tynes became so good at it that he became the kicker at Troy University, where he was a teammate of Osi Umenyiora. The Kansas City Chiefs signed him as a free agent in 2001, starting a pro career that meandered for a few years.
He was released by the Chiefs before the 2001 season, then signed again after the season, only to be released a second time. He played for the Scottish Claymores in the NFL Europe league, then signed with Ottawa of the Canadian Football League for two seasons.
The Chiefs signed him again in 2004, and he played three seasons there before the Giants acquired him in a trade for a seventh-round draft pick on May 27, 2007.
Good deal for everybody.
Tynes immediately became part of Giants lore, kicking a 47-yard field goal in overtime of the NFC championship game at Lambeau Field that got New York into the Super Bowl. The Giants beat the Patriots for the title on Eli Manning's late touchdown pass.
Tynes got them back to the Super Bowl this season with another decisive kick, making a 31-yarder in overtime at San Francisco for the NFC championship.
He's enjoying his second title-game trip more than the first.
"I really am trying to because the last time, I told my wife, the last one was a blur," he said. "Let's really enjoy this one. I am 33 now and hope to play a lot longer, (but) you never know when you are going to get back here. I am taking in everything. I have taken a lot more pictures since I have been here."
He didn't get a chance for a game-winning kick in his first Super Bowl. Given how closely the Giants and Patriots have played each other, there's a chance it could happen on Sunday.
"They're like walk-off homers," Tynes said. "Those are fun, that's the only word to describe it. You get to turn around and see 52 grown men acting like kids again. That's the best part."
The worst part? What happens if he gets the chance and misses. It's something that's never completely out of mind for a kicker.
"I get nervous," Tynes said. "I am not a robot, but I certainly know how to deal with it. That's what kind of separates guys. It's if you can deal with the pressure and the nerves."
He's been pretty good at that since he looked down at the car keys and made that kick on a high school baseball field in Florida.