Chiefs' Huard blossoms as backup
His first job out of college was about pitching football instead of throwing one. Damon Huard was one of the first employees of Paul Allen's...
Seattle Times staff reporter
His first job out of college was about pitching football instead of throwing one.
Damon Huard was one of the first employees of Paul Allen's Football Northwest. Undrafted out of Washington in 1996 and released by the Cincinnati Bengals in training camp, he came home and took a job advocating the importance of keeping the Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest.
"He was out there talking to groups about why football made economic sense and community sense," said Mike Flood, Seahawks vice president of community outreach. "He really studied the issues." This wasn't a job to prepare Huard for life after football. This was life after football for all Huard knew, but how he ended up speaking to Rotary Clubs instead of calling signals isn't nearly as important as the attitude he brought to the position.
"It was a great first job for a young guy out of college," Huard said.
That answer has nothing to do with his playing career, yet it says plenty about why he is in his 10th year in the NFL, starting for the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday against the Seahawks. Huard has made a living being ready without being resentful. During a career that would have caused many to moan about a lack of opportunities, Huard has simply gone out and made the most of them.
"I'm never one to really look back and complain, could have, should have, would have," Huard said. "You just keep plugging away and fighting along and ... give it your best effort."
At Washington, he was the top career passer at a school known for producing professional quarterbacks, yet he wasn't invited to the NFL scouting combine. In the NFL, he won five of the six games he started for the Miami Dolphins in 1999 and 2000, went six years without starting a game, and this season has been so sharp he has been the league's fifth-rated passer since starter Trent Green suffered a severe concussion in the opener.
Seahawks @ Kansas City Chiefs, 10 a.m., Ch. 13
Huard is 33, and the Chiefs are 3-2 when he starts. Last week, he played a nearly impeccable game against one of the league's best defenses, passing for 232 yards and two touchdowns against San Diego. Bitterness might be a taste, it's just not a character trait for Huard.
"I don't think there's resentment, and I don't think he'd be in his 10th year in the NFL if there was," said Brock Huard, his younger brother, also a quarterback at Washington and in the NFL.
Damon has backed up Dan Marino, Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady. He has played in NFL Europe, won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and in a decade he has perfected one of the most delicate responsibilities in the NFL, being a backup quarterback.
NFL coaches would be content to go a whole season without ever calling on the backup, and yet he must be ready to not only step in, but step up. He must remain unambiguously supportive of the starter while being poised to enter at a moment's notice, suddenly shouldering the expectations for a team's season.
Huard had not completed a pass since Christmas Eve 2000 when he entered the Chiefs' season opener in the second half. Six weeks later, Kansas City's season is still afloat.
"He hasn't lost a game for us," said Herm Edwards, Huard's coach at Kansas City. "When you get a backup guy in there, that's the first thing you tell them. 'We're not going to put it on your plate to win it, but you can't lose the game either.' "
Huard started his first game in 1999 after Marino suffered from a nerve problem in his neck. Huard rallied the Dolphins to a victory in the game Marino was injured in and then they won four of the five games Marino missed.
He could have been the starter after Marino retired except Dave Wannstedt became coach and chose Jay Fiedler as his starter.
Now in Kansas City, he's filling in for Green, who will return to being the starter once he's healthy.
"When Trent is back, he is the man," Huard said. "That is fine. That is the way it is. This is my role this year on this team, backing up Trent, and the fact that they are even talking about that means that we've won some games and that's a good thing."
It's a glimpse of that same attitude that allowed Huard to make the most of his first job in football, even though that job didn't involve playing football.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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