Specialized jobs carry certain risks; among others, when a specialist loses a job there is necessarily a limited number of options or positions that are available. They may well pay a good bit more, so smart people 'get while the gettin' is good' because the future is never guaranteed.
Sean McHugh came from a blue collar background in Cleveland, working hard all his life to get where he was. They had just bought their very first house, he, his 18-month old son, and his wife, pregnant with their second child. And then the proverbial rug was pulled out from under 'em...
DATELINE: DETROIT, MICHIGAN
Unless you've been asleep under a rock for a year, chances are you've heard about what a wonderful season the Detroit Lions had. They were perfect. They were consistent. They were perfectly consistent. Never in the history of the NFL had any team not won a single game in a single season.
0 and 16
(cue the cricket chirps...)
They were so low that word on the street was they had to look up to see the bottom of their cleats. They were the carp in the fishpond of professional football. I can't imagine what it was like to slug through practices each week only to get throttled each week in front of fans who were none too pleased with the team performances. For the sake of this article we won't touch the very real issue of an incompetent team owner who hogtied the head coach which had a helluva lot to do with their Mansion of Misery. Let's talk about Sean.
A fullback by trade-position, Sean had only been in the pros a few years. He had made the final cut for the Detroit Lions and was content and thankful to be there. Sure, his salary was only the league minimum, but even given the work involved a cool $520,000 isn't too shabby for a young family man. He was at peace - at least at as much peace as you can be when you play for the Lions.
Sadly, before the first official practice in September, Sean got the word to leave the field and go to the president's office. What seems like a simple action is a heavy and sombre one. If there is a "Green Mile" in football, that was it: called off the field and into the corporate office. It's never a good thing.
Fired. Let go. Sorry, he was told, but they needed his salary and position to give it to someone else with more experience and, well, he had to go. Ouch (among other choice words, I'm sure).
Set aside having just bought the first home, the family of 3 with one in the oven...that's hard enough. Getting cut in football happens. There may be other openings at other franchises, through injury or otherwise, you don't know. To his credit he maintained as positive an attitude as he could. With that said, the deepest dagger of all could not be ignored...
He wasn't deemed 'good enough' by the worst team in the NFL. That'll do wonders for your self image. Irony of the worst kind.
But how about irony of the best kind? Sometimes things are so bad they're actually...uh, wonderful?
It came in the form of a phone call from his agent just a few days after the death knell. A team was interested in him immediately, and wanted him to come and work out with them. They signed him and he was back in the gridiron business with little time lost. But there is one pertinent piece of information I meant to add, here, that I think you'll find interesting.
Sean will be playing in the Superbowl this Sunday. #49 for the Pittsburg Steelers, listed at tight end.
"Who'd a thunk it?" Who in their wildest dreams could have scripted such a juxtaposition? You're cut with a no-confidence vote by the worst team in football, and then quickly picked up by one of the top two teams and playing in the Superbowl four months later. That's "fried", but in a totally uplifting way, eh?
Never say never, y'all. You just never know...