Four years later, Brian Kinchen still wonders: Was he dreaming, or did the New England Patriots really coax a washed-up player out of retirement to help them win the February 2004 Super Bowl?

The answer sits in a small cherry wood case on the desk in his home in Baton Rouge, La. The championship ring brightens the whole room.

"If my story were a movie script, no one would believe it," said Kinchen, 42.

A journeyman tight end and center, he was cut in 2000 after 13 years, including three seasons with the Ravens (1996-1998). Kinchen was teaching seventh grade at a Christian school in 2003 when New England called late in the season. All of the team's long snappers were injured; could Kinchen still hike the ball with oomph?

He could.

Five weeks later, Kinchen delivered a perfect snap as the Patriots' Adam Vinatieri kicked a last-ditch 41-yard field goal to win the Super Bowl against the Carolina Panthers - the club that had released Kinchen.

"It was Disney-like," Kinchen said of the experience. "When I looked up and saw the ball heading over the uprights, I let out this primal yell.

"It was a 'God' moment. No way that happens without him looking over me."

Kinchen retired - again - and lives with his wife and four sons. All of the boys play football; two are long snappers.

Last year, Kinchen worked college games for ESPN as a color commentator until his suspension for an on-air remark. Explaining that receivers make catches with their hands because they can "caress" the ball, he added, "That's kind of gay, but hey ... "

Kinchen called the incident "a signal that [broadcasting] was not something I should be doing on weekends while I've got four kids growing up. So I shut it all down to be a father."

Being Mr. Mom isn't forever, said Kinchen, who would like to return to teaching or TV work one day.

"I still look for that transcendent cause that every man should have in life," he said. "But in the end, God will hold me more accountable for my children than for anything else in the world."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com