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Old 01-28-2009, 08:31 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Retkofsky at pinnacle of dream job just months after toiling as furniture mover

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports...,239508.column
chicagotribune.com

Pittsburgh Steelers' Jared Retkofsky took long road to Super Bowl
Retkofsky at pinnacle of dream job just months after toiling as furniture mover

David Haugh

11:03 PM CST, January 27, 2009

TAMPA

After nearly an hour Monday night, Steelers long-snapper Jared Retkofsky and injured punter Daniel Sepulveda gave up trying to find their way back to the team hotel in their rental car.

They called OnStar for directions, and it turned into one of the longest drives of the season.

"We got lost," Retkofsky said Tuesday. "But we finally made it."

His trip to Super Bowl XLIII has been much longer and more circuitous.

"To think 12 weeks ago that I would be snapping in the Super Bowl, I would have told you that you were absolutely nuts if you had said that," Retkofsky said. "I'll take the pressure of snapping a football any day over moving a couch."

As far as stories about Jareds go, Retkofsky's rivals the rags-to-riches tale of the guy who lost all that weight eating turkey sandwiches.

Four months ago, Retkofsky worked for Bonilla Moving Inc. in Ft. Worth, Texas, and had just received a raise to $15 an hour. His idea of a tight spot was maneuvering a glass tabletop down a flight of stairs, not making the perfect snap for a field goal that might win the Super Bowl.

The NFL part of Retkofsky's dream had begun to die. The Steelers had cut him twice and the Seahawks once since he graduated from Texas Christian University in 2007. There was talk of an audition with the Chiefs, but no return call.

Money was so scarce that Retkofsky was going to skip a tryout with the Bills in September rather than pay for a flight to Buffalo until his agent, Chicago-based Ken Sarnoff, picked up the tab. When that chance never materialized, Retkofsky began to think seriously about Plan B.

He and his wife had separated, and in the current economy the job market had little to offer a graduate of TCU's communications school. So Retkofsky started applying to the fire and police academies around Ft. Worth and took the job moving furniture.

"My bills just started piling up and I had to take care of myself, so I was willing to do anything," Retkofsky said.

Vince Bonilla, owner of the moving company that employed Retkofsky for four months, remembered him bringing that attitude to work every day. He allowed Retkofsky occasional days off to attend tryouts, and he used the words "humble" and "clean-cut" to describe the guy who will be wearing a No. 61 Steelers jersey Sunday against the Cardinals.

"This couldn't happen to a better person," Bonilla said Tuesday by phone. "He was an inspiration to a lot of people here who were thrilled when he got the call."

Retkofsky's phone first rang Oct. 26 when he was shopping at Wal-Mart. His dad, Eric Dennis, called to see if he had seen Steelers long-snapper Greg Warren being carted off the field with a season-ending knee injury. Warren, with whom Retkofsky had become friends during his two training-camp stints, followed up on the phone hours later with some friendly advice.

"Greg called me and said, 'Hey, man, I'm done for the year, so you need to get in touch with your agent and get to Pittsburgh as soon as possible,' " Retkofsky recalled.

By the end of the night, Steelers special teams coach Bob Ligashesky had sent text messages to Retkofsky. By Monday afternoon he was on a flight to Pittsburgh for a tryout with three other long-snappers. That moment, Retkofsky's life began to change.

The Steelers always liked Retkofsky, a defensive end at TCU who learned to long-snap as a freshman. But Warren had signed a three-year, $2.3 million contract last off-season, and no team carries two long-snappers.

"Jared has gotten the job done this year," Sepulveda said. "We knew the two years Jared didn't make our team that he was capable, that it was just a matter of showing everybody he could do it."

When it finally appeared Retkofsky would get a chance, when he was pulled out of the locker room after the tryout to go sign a contract, he felt like dropping to his knees and crying.

"I had gotten to the lowest point just before I signed when the pressure of not being able to support myself and having to ask my parents for money really tore me up," Retkofsky said.

He already felt he owed parents Eric and Kelley Dennis a debt he could never repay. They took Retkofsky in as a 7th-grader when his biological mother, a single parent in and out of drug rehabilitation during Retkofsky's childhood, suffered a relapse. This all happened less than a year after Retkofsky's best friend moved away after losing his parents in a murder-suicide.

"Every time I tried to get up, somebody pushed me back down," Retkofsky said.

Nothing could ruin his mood this week in Florida, not even the likelihood that it will be his last game in a Steelers uniform. If Retkofsky is released when Warren returns, he will have made about $200,000 and an impression on any NFL team looking for a long-snapper with Super Bowl experience.

"Regardless of whether I snap again for the Steelers, I've had an OK run," Retkofsky said. "If this is my last game, I get to say I got to play in a Super Bowl. Considering everything, that's so emotional for me to say."

A moving story indeed.

dhaugh@tribune.com
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Old 01-28-2009, 09:49 PM   #2
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Default Re: Retkofsky at pinnacle of dream job just months after toiling as furniture mover

thats pretty damn cool.. i didnt realize he had it that rough. i hope another team gives him a job next year if warren comes back healthy and that we send him off with a super bowl ring.
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Old 01-28-2009, 09:52 PM   #3
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Default Re: Retkofsky at pinnacle of dream job just months after toiling as furniture mover

great story. i wish him lots of success in the future.
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Old 01-28-2009, 11:39 PM   #4
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Default Re: Retkofsky at pinnacle of dream job just months after toiling as furniture mover

I wish nothing but the best for him in the future.
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