Hometown hero soaking it up
(ON)Tue 22 Jan Rob Longley
As the confetti rained down on the Gillette Stadium field
after Sunday's AFC Championship,
Nick Kaczur made a point of soaking it all in.
The big kid from Brantford had just finished one of
the most impressive games of his three-year NFL career
with the New England Patriots,
and the reality of the moment was pretty powerful.
A trip to the Super Bowl.
A still-undefeated season.
And, amid the mayhem,
Kaczur found Patriots veteran linebacker Junior Seau
and offered the kind of bear hug only
a fired-up 320-pounder can give.
"I was just asking him, that with all his experience
and this being my first time (going to the Super Bowl),
I was asking him how he felt, "Kaczur said
of his moment with Seau, the 39-year-old
who is making his second Super Bowl trip,
but his first since 1994.
"I congratulated him and said
we have one more to go."
That one more to complete an historic 19-0
championship season is in Glendale, Ariz.,
where the Patriots will try to win
their fourth title
in seven years against the New York Giants.
It's an unbelievable spot for the former city construction worker
who is now one of the most reliable hired hands
for New England's brilliant quarterback, Tom Brady.
"It's all surreal right now," said Kaczur after celebrating with his fiancee,
his brother Chad and other friends who were in attendance for Sunday's game.
"This is somewhere I never thought I would be."
Now, instead of pounding a hammer, he'll be pounding heads
with the likes of the big dudes on the Giants defence,
such as sack machine Michael Strahan, at Super Bowl XLII.
Instead of drawing a much more modest salary from the Argos,
the team that selected him ninth over in the 2005 CFL draft,
he is pass protecting for Brady, run blocking for Laurence Maroney
and about to arrive on the biggest stage in North American pro sports.
Praise for the line came from all corners of the Patriots locker-room
on Sunday night, recognition that it was the grunt work
that allowed them to land the knockout punch
on the Chargers in the second half.
"The way the offensive line played ... we're difficult to stop," Brady said.
"We depend on that O-line every week," running back Heath Evans said.
"They keep (Brady) on his feet and
keep giving us big holes to run through.
"Give a lot of credit to the guys up front,"
added coach Bill Belichick.
For those who appreciate the physical and technical side of football,
the work of guys like Kaczur, Matt Light, Logan Mankins and StephenNeal
has been a thing of beauty, albeit an underrated one this season.
Once Maroney crossed the line of scrimmage
after following the powerful blocks of the boys up front,
it was like running downhill on his way to a 122- yard effort.
"You know what, it's a pleasure to block for that guy,"
said Kaczur, whose success in New England is moving him
further from a CFL career by the game.
"Just get him across the line of scrimmage
and he can do some great things.
"The key is to get him rolling ...
after that, he's pretty hard to stop."
Kaczur said his linemates didn't panic
when the Chargers stubbornly hung around
to make a game of it.
Though the offence wasn't moving as smoothly as it could,
it wasn't as if they were getting beaten up either.
"We've been together for a while now (as a line)
and we have faith in each other," Kaczur said.
"We weren't playing bad in the first half - we just had to
finish a little better and push a little harder.
We knew what we had to do."
Kaczur's story is a good one, a tale
that will no doubt be told overand over
as Super Bowl hype machine cranks up.
The U.S. media will made a big deal because
he's from Wayne Gretzky's hometown
and has had an unorthodox journey to the NFL.
They will never call an offensive lineman the Great One of course,
but as tackles in this or any league go, Kaczur is pretty darn good.