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Tough Tynes

Giant alive and kicking despite series of personal and professional struggles

Email|Print| Text size + By Bob Hohler
Globe Staff / January 25, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - If a bug-eyed, crimson-cheeked Tom Coughlin does it again - rages like a maniacal drill sergeant at Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes for failing to boot a football through the uprights - don't expect Tynes to flinch this time, either.

Tynes has experienced too much to let Coughlin shake him. So what if the Giants coach could fire him faster than a Ferrari clears an E-ZPass laser on the New Jersey Turnpike.

In recent years alone, Tynes has:

Watched federal marshals haul away his older brother, Mark, to a federal penitentiary. Mark R. Tynes (inmate No. 05559-17) is serving a 27-year term at the Forrest City Federal Correctional Complex in Eastern Arkansas for marijuana trafficking. His release date is 2026, when Lawrence Tynes, Tom Brady, and some other veterans of Super Bowl XLII could be grandfathers.

Seen his father, Larry, a Florida sheriff's detective, and his mother, Maggie, divorce amid the anguish over his brother's crime.

Held vigil while his mother suffered through several serious health problems (she lurched so close to death that she received the last rites) amid the divorce and criminal proceedings.

Labored in NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League before he finally landed a job with the Kansas City Chiefs, then lost it, en route to Fort Coughlin, The Meadowlands.

Then came a sleepless stretch in October, after the premature birth of his twin sons, in which Tynes missed a 34-yard field goal and an extra point in a 16-3 victory over the Eagles, prompting Coughlin to invite two other kickers to try out for his job.

So, yes, expect Coughlin to a) sneer, b) rant, or c) hurl his headset at Tynes if the itinerant kicker shanks a field goal attempt against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

But, no, don't expect Tynes to shrink from his coach's scorn. Instead, he is likely to forge ahead, as he did after botching two field goals in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game against the Packers, including a 36-yard miss as time expired in regulation, before he knocked through a 47-yarder in overtime to send the Giants to the Super Bowl.

Tynes, surrounded by reporters yesterday at his locker in Giants Stadium, attributed his resilience in part to the struggles he has endured with his family and his quest to make it in the NFL.

"Things in life build your character," he said. "I've never been handed anything."

In fact, Tynes seized his chance at glory in Green Bay, knowing Coughlin might not hand him another opportunity - ever. With the windchill at 23 degrees below zero and the Giants facing fourth and 5 at the Packers' 29 in overtime, Tynes stunned his teammates by bolting onto the field rather than wait for Coughlin to decide how to proceed.

Imagine Jonathan Papelbon hurtling out of the Red Sox bullpen before Terry Francona reached for the red phone. It was anarchy in action.

"I didn't expect we would be kicking a field goal," said Jeff Feagles, the Giants' holder and punter who has played 20 seasons in the NFL. "I thought we'd be going for it or I would be punting. Then I saw [Tynes] run in."

For Tynes, it was all or nothing.

"He would have had to pull me off the field," Tynes said of Coughlin. "I made the decision for him."

Up went the football, down went the Packers. And there went Tynes from the top candidate for a postseason pink slip to the toast of the town in Gotham.

Guest starring early yesterday on "The Late Show with David Letterman," Tynes explained how he handled Coughlin screeching at him last Sunday before nearly 50 million television viewers.

"I know he's yelling at me," Tynes said. "I just never hear him."

To Tynes, there's something to be said for tuning things out. He told reporters yesterday he has battled adversity since his older brothers, Jason and Mark, beat him up when he was a kid, first in Scotland, where he was born and lived until he was 10, then in Florida.

His parents met in Scotland, where his mother was raised and his father served in the US Navy. After learning soccer there, Tynes was recruited to kick for his high school team when the family moved to Milton, Fla., near the naval air station in Pensacola. He went on to kick at Troy University, as a teammate of Osi Umenyiora, now a Giants defensive end.

But Tynes struggled to stick in the NFL. Cut by the Chiefs during the preseason in 2001, he returned to Troy to pursue a criminal justice degree. The Chiefs gave him another chance in 2002, assigning him to the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe, but that, too, got him no closer to the NFL, so he spent the next two seasons kicking for the Ottawa Renegades in the CFL.

Then came his break. In 2004, Tynes beat out Morten Andersen for Kansas City's kicking job, only to be traded to the Giants (for a seventh-round draft choice) last year after he missed a 23-yarder for the Chiefs in a playoff loss to the Colts.

"He's had a hard road to get here," Feagles said. "It's hard to break in as a kicker in this league, and when you do, you get in that spotlight like he did [in Green Bay]. But I know this about Lawrence: He's a very confident individual and a great competitor. At his position, you have to be."

Tynes has impressed his teammates in the process.

"I'm not a kicker," said offensive lineman Chris Snee, "but to bounce back from missing two kicks in those conditions and to nail that one like he did, he showed he has some guts."

Stay tuned, Tynes said.

"Obviously, that was the biggest kick I've ever made," he said. "The only one that trumps that will be the one next week."

Bob Hohler can be reached at hohler@globe.com.

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