The Super Bowl writes countless stories each year that are worth being retold, but few of them have quite as many twists and turns as Brian Kinchen’s.
Kinchen originally started his career as a 12th-round draft pick in 1988, and as a long snapper/tight end hybrid ended up spending the next 13 seasons in Miami, Green Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore and Carolina. He appeared in 195 games, but only saw action in two playoff contests.
That number increasing seemed unlikely heading into December 2003. Kinchen had not signed with any team following his release from the Panthers after the 2001 season, and had since turned to teaching and coaching youth football at a high school in his hometown of Baton Rouge.
The next chapter, however, was one nobody could see coming. Down two long snappers, the New England Patriots had to turn to any and all long snappers they could find.
Kinchen, who worked under head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Scott Pioli in Cleveland, was one of them. He tried out with the team and a short time later signed a contract.
Kinchen ended up playing in the Patriots’ final two regular season games, plus their three playoff contests. The journey along the way was a nerve-wrecking one for the long-time NFL veteran, and one recently chronicled by NFL Films:
"I'm not gonna be shy. I'm gonna throw it like I always did."— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) February 9, 2023
Facing a case of Super Bowl yips, @Patriots long snapper Brian Kinchen found the courage to believe in himself when he needed it most. #NFLFilmsPresents pic.twitter.com/B1GetVLaK6
Kinchen’s stint with the Patriots got off to a solid start, but he showed some inconsistencies in playoff wins over the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. Those ups and downs were a sign of things to come.
“We weren’t overly concerned yet. That changed the week we got to the Super Bowl, during practice,” former Patriots director of player personnel Scott Pioli said. With Kinchen struggling to properly long-snap in practice, the entire special teams operation was on shaky ground heading into the most important game of the season.
That led to what Kinchen called “the oddest moment ever in the history off my life” the following day.
“After a punt period, I’m jogging off the field, I look over at Belichick and he gives me [a thumbs up],” the now-57-year-old recalled. “Bill Belichick. I’ve never seen or heard of him doing that ever. And I was just like, ‘Man, this must be bad.’”
Things did not get any better for Kinchen. Not only did he suffer a cut on his hand during the pregame meal, he also struggled early on in Super Bowl XXXVIII against his former team, the Panthers — to a point where he actively was hoping not to be put into the spotlight with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
And yet, that is exactly what happened with the game tied 29-29 with just over a minute to go. This time around, however, Kinchen delivered to set up
“I’m not going to be shy. I’m going to throw it like I always did,” he said about his mindset on the potential game-winning field goal. “So, as soon as [long snapper Ken Walter] gave me his hand, I released it, and I knew it was perfect. ... It was an unbelievable moment, but it fried every nerve in my body. To this day, I can’t even watch the replay.”
That snap was the final one of Kinchen’s career, and it earned him his first Super Bowl win.