So what's a 290-pound, former high school lacrosse All-American from Baltimore doing in the Super Bowl?
Persevering. That's how Mike Brennan, a lacrosse star at Mount St. Joe and a walk-on tight end at Notre Dame, made it to Super Bowl XXVI with the Buffalo Bills here this week.
In two short years and a whirlwind tour of the NFL, Brennan, 24, has gone against all odds.
"I'm here, I made it to the end of the season, I'm going to 'The Dance,' " he said yesterday. "It's a sweet ending to a bitter story."
Brennan was deemed a surplus guard in Cincinnati when the Bengals cut him last September. And in nine weeks with the Cardinals, he never once got into a game, a curiosity for which he has no explanation.
But Brennan really beat the odds when he abandoned a promising lacrosse career in college to play football for Gerry Faust at Notre Dame. Not long after, Holtz arrived in South Bend and gave Brennan a sobering piece of advice.
"He told me I'd never, ever play football at Notre Dame," Brennan said.
Brennan didn't buy it. He went from a 185-pound lacrosse defenseman to a 290-pound tackle at Notre Dame, lifting weights for the first time in his life, he said. He earned a scholarship his fourth season and started three games. He started every game in his fifth year, and was good enough to be a fourth-round draft pick by Cincinnati.
Now he's got a future in pro football, a master's degree in business and a front-row seat in the Super Bowl.
"I don't plan on being done playing football for a few years," Brennan said. "But I'm not using football as a crutch to get me through the rest of my life."