By Christopher Smith
For a lot of football players, being a second round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints would be a dream come true.
And it was for offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb. Until the 2005 season began. Then reality set in.
The “nice shiny ring filled with diamonds” that Stinchcomb now wears on his right hand — a reminder of the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl win — didn’t come easy.
Stinchcomb, who played for the University of Georgia from 1998 to 2001, told students at Coahulla Creek High School Friday morning about what it took to persevere when his career got him “down in the dumps.”
“Let me be honest: I didn’t like very many people on my team,” he said. “I went to New Orleans and thought, ‘I just joined a prison league.’ There were some bad, bad people on that team. Very talented football players, but bad people. And so it became a question of ‘Is this really worth it?’
“I’m thinking at the time, ‘I’m not starting, I’m not playing, I don’t like my team, I’m not in a city I’m all that real crazy about at the time.’ The second week I’m there and someone steals the grill off my car. I mean, welcome to New Orleans.”
In 2006, the Saints, a struggling team at the time, hired Sean Payton as head coach, dropped several players and signed quarterback Drew Brees. The team went from 3-13 in 2005 to 10-6 the next year.
Stinchcomb said he found the team he was looking for with “genuine” players such as Brees who became lifelong friends.
“When you go through an experience like the Super Bowl you get real close,” he said.
But when he wasn’t close with the team, he said he had to rely on his faith in God and his work ethic.
“It was kind of tough for me. I was at a crossroads,” he said. “So I fell back on a couple of things that have been foundational points for me. One is my faith ... The other was — I was going to work my tail off to make it the best situation I possibly could, even though there were times I thought ‘This is not working.’”
That’s the key to most anything in life, Stinchcomb said.
“Never, never stop working as hard as (you can),” he told students.
And never be afraid or too bigheaded to be “coached” either, Stinchcomb added, saying even though he bumped heads with UGA head football coach Mark Richt he always followed through on the play Richt wanted.
Students should treat teachers, principals and parents the same way, Stinchcomb said.