HOW ONE LINEMAN WON TWO STRAIGHT SUPER BOWL RINGS WITHOUT GETTING ON THE FIELD EITHER SEASON
This is an article from the Feb. 1, 2016 issue
CAYLIN HAUPTMANN stood on the sideline in his Patriots sweats as his team clung to a 28--24 lead in Super Bowl XLIX. With 70 seconds left, the 6'3", 300-pound Hauptmann watched his former linemates on the Seahawks, with whom he had earned a Super Bowl ring the year before, create the pocket that allowed Russell Wilson to loft a deep fade down the sideline.
It would have been a unique accomplishment, Hauptmann thought—winning two consecutive Super Bowls, with two different teams, without playing a snap for either of them—but that hope seemed dashed when Jermaine Kearse made a spectacular, juggling 33-yard catch at the New England five. "I just fell to the ground," Hauptmann, 24, recalled recently in a Los Angeles café. "My knees buckled. But then I popped up because—hey, it isn't over."
In the summer of 2013—three weeks into Hauptmann's rookie stint on the Browns' practice squad—Seattle abruptly signed him to their active roster. It was yet another quiet advance in the career of an undrafted rookie who had worked his way into a scholarship at Florida International by way of College of the Canyons (a juco in Santa Clarita, Calif.) by way of Beverly Hills High by way of one of the most blighted areas in Los Angeles.
"I grew up in the Dorsey [High] district," Hauptmann recalls, "but my mom wasn't going to allow that." At 11, he joined the Beverly Hills Bruins Pop Warner team but could only practice because he consistently exceeded the youth league's weight limit. That experience steered him toward Beverly Hills High—where he dominated defensive linemen for four years.
A year after leaving FIU, Hauptmann stood on the sideline as the Seahawks whipped Denver 43--8 in Super Bowl XLVIII. Seven months after that, Seattle released Hauptmann, who spent one more day as a Brown before he was signed by the Patriots on Sept. 16, 2014. He collected his weekly $6,600 check for the remainder of the season, never making what practice players dreamily call "the 53." As New England's collision course with Seattle took shape, coach Bill Belichick and his staff became increasingly interested in learning from the quiet lineman who had practiced for a year against the Seahawks' defense. In the two-week prep period before Super Bowl XLIX, "I was able to give [the Patriots] a sense of what [Seattle's] zone blocking looked like," Hauptmann says. "Guys would ask me what to look for. I'd tell them stuff like, 'On this play they like to cut [block].' A guy like [Pats nosetackle] Vince Wilfork—12 years in—he's not going to get blindsided if he can avoid it."
That's how cornerbacks Brandon Browner (whose second straight ring was also hanging in the balance as he lined up opposite Kearse with 26 seconds left) and Malcolm Butler knew that when the Seahawks bunched two receivers in a goal line situation, a pick play to the outside receiver might be coming. Butler intercepted Wilson's pass with 23 seconds left, ensuring Hauptmann would get a second ring. ("A friend keeps telling me I should wear them all the time and ask every girl I meet to kiss them," Hauptmann says, "but I don't think my fiancée would like that.")
The Pats released Hauptmann last September, and despite his championship pedigree, no one has picked him up since. Even as he works three jobs in L.A.—for a moving company and an insurance company, as well as his own clothing line—he's aware that teams can add practice players at any time during the playoffs. "That's why I still wake up at 5 a.m. and work out," he says. "Practice is where games are won and lost."