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Kalani Simpson

Sidelines

By Kalani Simpson

Saturday, February 2, 2002


Rolo shows luck, skill
both important

ON Maui, Nick Rolovich fills the air with perfect spirals, and none other than Steve Spurrier, the old mastermind himself, is predicting big things to come.

In New Orleans, the land of super dreams, sit two quarterbacks with similar stories, blinking in the flashbulbs, drowning in questions, battling butterflies and waiting for destiny.

Not to say that Rolo is headed for Super Sunday. But the guys at the podiums show what a thin line stardom really walks when it comes to athletics. Being good isn't good enough. Not always. Sometimes, most times, you need a little time, and a little luck, too.

Rolo knows. He wasn't stocking shelves like Kurt Warner. Not yet. Not quite. But his future had already been decided when he faltered and Timmy Chang stepped forward. He wouldn't be Hula Bowling, under the watchful eyes of the Swamp Thing, he wouldn't even be thinking about pro football. He'd play out the string and get on with his life. He'd have a regular job as a regular Joe.

And now, thanks to simple twists of fate, his dream has reawakened, his football candle burns again.

Sometimes you need a moment, the right moment. Rolo got it, and never looked back. Neither did Warner, Mr. Wheaties now but a sub for three seasons in college, "Potsie" in the Green Bay Packers training camp his first year in the pros.

It just wasn't his moment yet.

Or how about Tom Brady, the Patriots' Cinderella kid? Here's one to show that sometimes mistakes are made. Brady was always good at Michigan, every time he got the chance, but he wasn't the one coaches wanted to see succeed. There was a golden boy, Drew Henson, the phenom from Brighton, Mich., with the cannon arm, the Yankee contract and the legend that grew by the day.

Well, Brady couldn't compete with that. Not on paper, anyway. So Henson got every chance and second chance and third, while established starter Brady was getting subtly and not so subtly edged out of the way to make room for the future hall-of-famer.

Henson was the greatest, they said, and sometimes he was. But mostly he was above average, and struggling to live up to the hype. And though Brady did everything right, his job was in constant jeopardy because Henson was the greatest, or was going to be, as soon as they got Brady off the field.

And what did coaches get for their loyalty to Blue Chip? He left early, skipping his senior season for baseball. Today, he's a great prospect.

Tomorrow, Brady is in the Super Bowl. A pretty good quarterback, after all. So many things have to go right for sports stardom to happen. All along the way, so many little things must fall into place. So many fairy tales almost never happen.

So many don't.

Injuries, depth-chart blunders, bad timing. It's a miracle it ever happens at all.

But sometimes it does anyway, the hard way, and then it's all the sweeter.

We see it in New Orleans. We saw it happen here. No, not to say Rolo will play on Super Sunday, too.

But now he's got a chance.



Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com



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