On football versus baseball

I played sparingly, mainly in nickel packages, my junior year at Stanford. I had already signed with the Marlins [as a pitcher], so I was ready to give up on football when Bill Walsh came in as coach. He said, 'Look, you have to make your own decisions, but I made a tape, and I want to show you why I think you can play in the NFL as a safety.' He said I reminded him of Ronnie Lott. When it's coming from Bill Walsh, you listen.

On Linda, his wife of nearly 12 years

We were friends for 10 years before we dated. I knew her in high school [in Del Mar, Calif.], and we trained together. She played tennis at USC and then on the satellite tour, which is like the minor leagues in tennis. I try not to play her. It's humiliating. She's lefthanded, and she'll switch to her right hand and still beat me 6-0, 6-0.

On his pregame ritual

In the locker room before my first preseason game as a rookie [with Tampa Bay] I looked in my bag and Linda had snuck a note in there. I played well, so I said, 'We have to continue this.' She's put a note in my bag before every game since. It's not all lovey-dovey. It's a little of that, but she's learned a lot about football so lots of times it applies to what's important for that week in her mind. A couple of times she's faxed it to the hotel because I've forgotten it and she knows I can't play without it.

On Linda's brother, former Chicago Bear John Allred

He was a tight end and I had to go up against him on a regular basis. One time I knocked him unconscious on the field. He's much bigger than I am, so I don't talk much about it now.

On the running back who was hardest to bring down

Barry Sanders was the toughest guy to touch, let alone to tackle. No one has ever been tougher to play against.

On Tony Dungy, his coach in Tampa

He's had a huge influence on me in football and beyond. During his first team meeting he talked about our goal to win a championship. But he said that if that's all we had done in our time there, then we hadn't done enough. He went on to talk about the importance of giving back to the community. That made a lasting impact. More than just preaching it, he lived it, and we all got to witness it firsthand.

On the John Lynch Foundation

As a football player you have a platform; people will support what you're trying to do. We've helped send about 30 kids to college with scholarships. We just had a Christmas party with kids from the Boys & Girls Club. To see those smiles is something I won't forget.

On being elected to his seventh Pro Bowl in this, his 13th season

People think you must hurt more the older you get, but I feel as good as ever. Plus, I have a passion for the game. As long as that is intact, I'll play for a long time.


PHOTOPhotograph by William R. Sallaz

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)