INDIANAPOLIS — Canadian boys grow up dreaming of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. American boys growing up dreaming of playing in the Super Bowl. Both are rules.
In the latter case, Jason Pierre-Paul is a rare exception that wound up in the game anyway.
Asked today when he watched his first Super Bowl, the Florida native born to Haitian parents didn’t have to think hard.
Last year? Like, Packers-Saints in Dallas?
“That’s the only time I ever sat down and watched the Super Bowl. I was a regular kid but I never watched football.”
I asked him how many NFL games he’d ever watched, period. He said “probably five,” not including film study. Then again, he could do without that, too. “I feel like the less I know, the better I’m going to be against that person.”
Easy for him to say, I guess, because he’s a freak of nature. A guy who didn’t play football until his junior year of high school and, despite a 6-foot-5, 287-pound frame, was doing things like this at Rogers Center in Toronto as a junior at University of South Florida:
He says he’s still backflipping from time to time in practice. “But nobody’s really seen me. I just stand there and do it when nobody’s looking.” He did those flips in the lead up to the last championship football game of his college career (the 2009 International Bowl), so I wondered if he’d attempt to flip again at a practice this week. I warned him that Tom Coughlin probably wouldn’t be a fan.
“Probably not this week. It would probably shock him a little.”
JPP’s story is one of the most popular ones circling this week. He nearly quit football to work at Boston Market because he was tasked with supporting his family in Florida. His parents barely speak English, and his father is blind. He’s mild-mannered but extremely confident. When asked a question about pressuring Tom Brady that included the word “if,” he cut in. “It’s not a question. We’re going to get pressure.”
At 23, he’s already one of the most entertaining athletes in football. And on Sunday, he could be a difference-maker.
And yet after Sunday, he’ll have played in as many Super Bowls as he’s watched.