Like a Boss

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By: Grant Lucas
The Bulletin

Kevin Boss will never forget the events of that February day six years ago, as hazy as the details may be.

Not what he describes as a “holy crap moment” when the clock reached zero, or the confetti that rained down on him and the rest of the New York Giants as he raced around wondering whom to hug first. Not the impromptu family reunion on the grass field at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., or the hundreds of text messages and voice mails waiting on his cellphone in the locker room.

Boss will never forget Feb. 3, 2008 — when the Giants recorded a big-time upset by defeating the previously unbeaten New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

“Words can’t do it justice, trying to describe that feeling,’ says Boss, now 30 and a first-year resident of Bend, where currently he is coaching the freshman boys basketball team at Summit High School. “The confetti falling down on you, pulling your family down from the stands, hugging your family and hugging your teammates — it really just felt like a dream.’

And it still feels that way.

Bend-bound Bosses

Boss had always planned to return to Oregon when his NFL playing days ended. But Bend? That, he says, was pretty random.

Neither Boss nor his wife, Bree, who grew up in Salem, has family in Central Oregon. Neither had been to Bend in years.

But in fall 2011, Bree attended a wedding in the area.

“We were in the talks of getting pregnant and looking at where to settle down in the offseason or when football’s over,’ Bree says. “I came to the wedding, saw the area, and I was like, ‘We’re going to like Bend.’ ‘

“We love it,’ adds Kevin, who intends to become a strength and performance coach here in Bend. “We’re here for the long haul.’

Boss does not maintain the same physique of his professional playing days, when he was a prototype NFL tight end at 6 feet 7 inches and 260 pounds — he now weighs a trim 225. Boss was a celebrity back in New York, an easily recognizable figure. But in Bend, that is not the case. He is just another Bendite. And that is just fine with the soft-spoken Boss.

“That’s how I would prefer it,’ he says, “fly under the radar.’

Rising rookie

Boss came from humble beginnings. He grew up in the tiny town of Philomath in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where he was a multisport high school standout. He went on to star as a tight end in football at Western Oregon University, an NCAA Division II school half an hour up the road from home. The jump from D-II to the pros was significant — like a boulder being taken from a tide pool and thrown into the ocean. After Boss was selected by the Giants in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, his top priority was simply making the team.

But late in his rookie season, after starting tight end Jeremy Shockey went down with a season-ending injury, Boss was thrust into the starting role.

And just like that, the rookie was at the top of the depth chart for a Giants team about to make pro football history.

After dropping its opener that season at Dallas, New York went on to win its next 10 straight road games, including three in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. There, the Giants defeated the Patriots — who entered the game as 12-point favorites after putting together the first undefeated regular season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins — and became the first NFC wild-card team ever to win the Super Bowl. New York won its first Lombardi Trophy in 17 years and denied New England its fourth Super Bowl title in seven seasons.

None of this truly surprised Boss, however, especially after the Giants’ final game of the regular season, a 38-35 loss to those same Patriots.

“I remember walking off the field after (that) game and thinking, ‘Man, we can beat these guys,’ ‘ Boss recalls. “They were untouchable. They were 16-0, and everyone thought they were going to breeze through the playoffs. Automatic Super Bowl berth and Super Bowl win. After that game, though, I think that gave our team a ton of confidence, knowing that we had almost beaten one of the best teams ever put together.

“Once we matched up with them in the Super Bowl, we all knew that we could beat this team,’ he continues. “I don’t think there were a lot of other people outside our team that really thought we had much of a chance. But all it takes is 53 confident guys. We were confident and believed in ourselves that we could do it. That was really all it took. And we were able to pull off the upset.’

Super Bowl XLII

Boss, who made nine catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns in his 13 regular-season games and logged four receptions for 45 yards in the Giants’ three playoff wins, hauled in just one pass during Super Bowl XLII. But that one grab opened the gates for the Giants.

“Offensively, we were kind of in a funk a little bit for most of the game,’ says Boss, whose team had not scored since a field goal on its game-opening drive and now trailed 7-3. “I was fortunate enough and blessed enough to be a part of a play that kind of gave the team a little bit of energy and got the ball rolling offensively with that catch that I had.’

On the first offensive play of the fourth quarter, New York quarterback Eli Manning dropped back and unleashed a bullet over the middle to Boss, who made the catch, broke a tackle and sprinted another 26 yards before being brought down from behind at the New England 35-yard line.

“It wasn’t even a play that we had in the game plan,’ Boss recalls. “It was something that we kind of saw, that (New England safety) Rodney Harrison was really trying to cheat down too much and stop the run. We drew it up on the sideline, really. … It was pretty wide open.’

The 45-yard catch-and-run alone was longer than the Giants’ previous four drives put together, and it would stand as the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl XLII.

“I think I probably hopped up and thought, ‘Holy crap. Did I just do that?’ ‘ says Boss, whose momentum-shifting catch came in front of more than 71,000 fans in attendance and nearly 100 million more watching on TV around the world. “ ‘Wow, I just made a play in the Super Bowl.’ It’s just for a quick second, and then it’s like, ‘OK, back to business, back to the huddle, and do it again.’ ‘

Five plays later, Manning connected with wideout David Tyree for a 5-yard touchdown to give New York a 10-7 lead.

“That’s really when we started to feel pretty confident that we might be able to win this game,’ Boss reflects.

Sure enough, with 35 seconds to play, Manning floated a pass to wide receiver Plaxico Burress for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Giants back in front 17-14.

But, says Boss, “we were still holding our breath that last (35) seconds.’

As were Bree, Boss’ girlfriend at the time, and his older brother Terry, who along with more of Boss’ family members and close friends were in the stands in Glendale.

“Terry and I were like, ‘We’re not leaving these seats until the game is over,’ ‘ recalls Bree, “We felt like (heading down to the field early) might jinx it.’

The Giants’ defense forced three incompletions and recorded a sack, however, preserving the 17-14 victory. The clock melted away, and a jubilant Boss raced around, looking for someone to hug.

Bree and Terry had field passes, which allowed them to find Kevin — in Giants jersey No. 89 — on the field and celebrate with him.

“(They were) probably just barreling through people,’ Kevin Boss speculates, laughingly.

“I’m surprised Terry and I didn’t lose each other,’ Bree adds. “After it calmed down a little bit, after we found Kevin, we went and got his parents down (to the field).’

“I was helping my mom down onto the field, and my close friends and my aunts and uncles,’ Boss remembers. “Looking back, that was probably one of my favorite moments: finding each other.’

The unforgettable

The two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLII were flooded with unforgettable moments — from the minute the Giants defeated the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship to experiencing Super Bowl media day at University of Phoenix Stadium, and from walking out of the tunnel onto the field for The Big Game to the celebratory ticker-tape parade down Broadway back in New York.

Nothing will top having a child, Boss says. Bringing his son Zeke into the world was — and will always be — the greatest thing Boss has ever experienced.

But professionally, the Super Bowl will forever sit atop the list.
“And it goes back to being able to experience that with my family, having them there by my side throughout my entire sports career, supporting me everywhere I’ve been,’ Boss says. “Being able to share that with my family and friends, that’s what it’s all about for me.’

He went on to play three more seasons with the Giants and one each with the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs, starting 56 of 61 games during that time. After suffering a serious concussion during the 2012 season, he was advised by doctors to give up football. (Boss is not involved in the lawsuit against the NFL by current and former players.) He finished his career with 150 catches for 2,033 yards and 22 touchdowns. But he would play in only one more playoff game, marking the 2007 season as the only Super Bowl experience.

“But I feel pretty blessed that I was able to experience it one time,’ says Boss, who sometimes flashes back to the Giants’ playoff run and Super Bowl XLII when he watches NFL playoff games each year. (He says he will be watching today’s Super Bowl on TV, alongside his wife.) “I’ll take it whenever I can get it.’

Here for the long haul

Kevin, Bree and Zeke, now 17 months old, moved to Central Oregon in March 2013, renting a house just across the street from Summit High. (They have since bought a home elsewhere in town.) Boss tracked down Storm football coach Joe Padilla during the summer, expressing his interest in getting involved with the program. And this past fall Boss served as an assistant coach at Summit, helping out with the offensive line and tight ends while also assuming the role of strength coach.

Boss then contacted Jon Frazier, the Summit boys basketball coach. Frazier offered the head coaching position for the freshman team, and Boss gladly accepted.

“I definitely wanted to be around kids and basketball in particular,’ says Boss, who was a two-time all-league basketball player back at Philomath High. “I missed being around the game. It was kind of my first love. I loved being a part of basketball. So when I got the opportunity to be a part of it again, I just jumped at the opportunity. And football, that’s just what I know.’

Coaching at Summit

From C.A. Rath (football) and Dave Garvin (basketball) at Philomath to football coaches Duke Iverson and Arne Ferguson at Western Oregon to Tom Coughlin with the New York Giants, Boss has taken bits and pieces from each of his former coaches — such as coaching styles and techniques.

At the beginning of the basketball season, Boss’ players asked questions. They knew who he was and were curious. But Boss says, “I think I’m more of a normal guy now. … We talk about it (his NFL career) sometimes, but for the most part, it’s pretty normal.’

“For us, the players and the coaches just see him as a tremendous coach who advocates for kids,’ Frazier says. “Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that he was a professional football player. His ability to reach out to kids and his knowledge of the game, we wanted to take full advantage of that. It surprised me that his passion and knowledge of the game was as strong as it was.’

Boss concedes, however, that there was an early speed bump.

“I kind of had a hard time initially with, you know, ‘Why aren’t things run this way?’ or kids are late to practice sometimes,’ Boss says. “I’d been away from the high school game for so long, it took a little adjustment period where I had to take a bit of a step back and be like, ‘OK, this is not a Coughlin-run program.’ ‘

For Boss, whose freshman team currently boasts a record of 13-3, this new gig is more than just a spot on the team bench.

“To me, coaching is all about just helping young boys become young men,’ says Boss, who will also be co-hosting a local sports radio show with friend and Summit JV boys basketball coach Josh Cordell. “That’s the bigger picture. It’s more than just a game. It’s more than trying to win. It’s about helping these kids, being a positive role model in their life and being a positive influence.

“That’s why I got into coaching, and that’s why I love coaching,’ he continues. “I’m having a blast doing it, trying to teach these kids how to work hard and what it means to work hard and what it takes — the dedication and sacrifices you have to make to be successful.”

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