"Hang on one second," Joe Linta says suddenly over the phone the other night from his Branford home.
In the background, you suddenly hear Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome on the NFL Network talking about Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and Linta's claim that his client should be football's highest-paid quarterback. Linta couldn't help but stop in mid-sentence and turn up the volume on his television.
"Sorry for being rude," he said a few moments later. "It's funny how all of a sudden you can become the news."
Linta is a football guy's football guy. He's a respected agent. He's a former player and coach at Yale and the current coach at Hamden Hall. He is known around Connecticut, around the NFL, for being a grounded man. He has seen plenty. He has done plenty. But this week Joe Linta did some stuff he never did before. He posed with Mickey Mouse. He took a helicopter ride. And in the middle of it all, he made some news.
Linta represents four Ravens and he said the biggest, most satisfying hug he had after Baltimore's Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers was with Flacco's center Matt Birk. Linta and Birk have been together for 15 years. The Yale man was thrilled that the Harvard man could win his first Super Bowl in what might be his last time. "We're like a married couple," Linta said. "Matt knows what I'm thinking. I know what he's thinking."
Yet as his players and their families celebrated at Huck Finn's on Decatur Street in the French Quarter — Linta's agency rented out the place — they were only thinking about one thing. Party!
"It was crazy," Linta said, "and it went on the wee hours of the morning."
And there was no time to sleep it off. Flacco and Linta were back up at 6:30 a.m. for an appearance on "Good Morning America." From there, they climbed into a limo for the Super Bowl MVP press conference.
"I rode with John Harbaugh," Linta said. "He obviously wasn't drinking the night before, because he was chipper and very coherent, as opposed to my one-word answers."
When the press conference was over, there was a police escort to an executive airport. A private Disney jet awaited Flacco; his wife, Dana; their baby boy; Flacco's mom and sister; Linta; and Tom Kleine, also of JL Sports.
"They treated us like royalty," Linta said. "Police escort into Disney World, Joe gets in the car and goes through the parade. We go back and did some pictures with Mickey Mouse."
So you posed with Mickey?
"Oh, yeah," Linta said.
From there, they took the private jet to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Awaiting them were two helicopters to take them to "The Late Show with David Letterman."
"I thought I was going to be scared to death on the helicopter, but I wasn't," Linta said. "It was like an amusement park ride. Going into Manhattan, it was an incredible view."
So they sat in the green room while Flacco did the show. Letterman had already left by the time that Linta got to tour the stage. But, hey, Paul Shaffer was there. When the party finally split up, Flacco went off to Baltimore, his mom and sister went back to their Jersey home and the JL Sports guys returned to Connecticut. Linta got home about midnight.
"I was on fumes," Linta said. "I had slept like an hour. But the day was a bucket-list thing. Obviously, it's the highest point in my professional career as an agent. You take a guy who really wasn't thought of very highly coming out of college [at Delaware]. To see Joe progress and what he has become, that you believed in him from Day 1, there's a parental pride about being right and being part of it."
Those feelings can cut both ways, of course, and when Linta says, "The best and worst moments of my career have happened within a couple months of each other," no one could offer an argument. On Dec. 1, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before he went to the team's facility. In front of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel, Belcher stepped behind a car and killed himself with a bullet to the head. This was a young man who had worked charity events with Linta, who only weeks earlier was eagerly texting Linta to make sure his family was OK during storm Sandy.
"You get that call on a Saturday morning and the only thing that could be worse was if it was your own child," Linta said. "I was just devastated by it. You don't know how to react. You're in disbelief. I never thought something like this could happen in a million years."
"You try to find answers and once you get through the what-happened part of it, you have two choices. You can lock yourself in a room and shut the door, or you can try to move forward as best you can and help some of the people who were directly affected by it."