Jeff Pearlman

  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon

Marc Boerigter

#174
How does an undersized nobody from tiny Hastings College make the leap from NAIA to the NFL? A former wide receiver (and holder of a league record) explains all. POSTED October 1, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.06.33 AM

Great week for Kansas City.

The Royals shocked the Athletics in the Major League playoffs.

The um … eh … Royals shocked the Athletics in the Major League playoffs.

And now—the Quaz.

If you’re any sort of Kansas City Chiefs fans, the name Marc Boerigter means something. He’s your Vince Papale—the little-known, out-of-nowhere wide receiver who, in 2002, arrived from Canada (via miniscule Hastings College) to not merely make the Chiefs but—for four seasons—emerge as a weapon and special teams standout. On December 22, 2002, the man even made NFL history by catching a 99-yard touchdown pass from Trent Green to tie the league record for longest reception.

In short, he’s the classic underdog tale. The guy you root for.

These days, Boerigter lives in the Kansas City area, where he works local radio and is a senior business development associate at Randstad Technologies. Here, he considers the plight of a concussion-plagued Wes Welker, ponders when one should hang it up, explains the NFL hype machine and explains why he’d destroy Willie Gault in an arm wrestler. You can follow Marc on Twitter here.

Marc Boerigter, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Marc, so there’s a question I’ve been itching to ask an NFL wide receiver (or ex-NFL wide receiver), and here you are. Over the past few years, Wes Welker has suffered one concussion after another after another. He’s probably had, oh, eight … nine that were diagnosed. So why is it OK that he’s still playing? Do you get why he continues to throw himself out there? And should players trust that NFL trainers and doctors have their best interests in mind? Or should they worry it’s all about winning?  

MARC BOERIGTER: I have been asked this question a lot lately. At the end of the day it is up to the player to decide to keep his career going by choosing to play after all of the “documented” concussions. I had a few in my day … lots of time my bell was rung and didn’t say a word about it. Why? Because I was afraid to not play. I had to. It was my job and I didn’t want to get Wally Pipped by someone else. I know the struggle, but I also see a lot of guys who are ending early and for good reason. The worst part is none of us (doctors included) really know what is going to happen to us 20 years after playing. We are just now starting to see what the after effects are. I can only hope and pray that my long term effects from playing football will not be too bad.

As far as the doctors and trainers go, that is part of the struggle a player goes through. Are my best interests of health the main focus? For far too long their job has been to get guys ready to play for the sake of winning. That being said, it’s on the player as well. I hope that it is changing on both sides. Hope is not a good strategy though.

J.P.: You’re from Hastings, Nebraska. You played at Hastings College—an NAIA school 99 of 100 Americans have never heard of. How the hell did you make the NFL? And, when you were in college, did you consider it a realistic dream?

M.B.: I moved a whole three blocks away from home to go to school. That’s right—three blocks. I made it as far away from home as possible. I was a real late bloomer in high school. I chose Hastings because I wanted to play. I get asked a lot, “Why didn’t you go to Nebraska?” Look, I’m a Husker fan, but I was not like every other kid in Nebraska who grew up dreaming to play for the ‘Skers. Here’s how I saw it going for me: I would go walk on, maybe get to run down on the kickoff team in the Orange Bowl and pick up the glory of a bowl ring. That didn’t appeal to me.

Here’s what’s fun about Hastings: Dr. Tom Osborne is from Hastings, the first ever night football game west of the Mississippi was played on our home field (A.H. Jones Stadium), Bill Parcells was a graduate assistant and got his coaching start at Hastings College. It was football tradition … where I could play.

My father was the athletic director at Hastings. I was a ball boy on Saturdays from the time I was in junior high. I saw Jerry Drake make it to the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals. The pro football dream was possible from an NAIA school.  Jerry really paved the way for NFL scouts to look in our neck of the woods. After my Junior year I knew I might have had a shot to play professionally.

I just wanted to play. Getting paid to play (work) a game I love was icing on the cake for me. I just went out, worked hard, had some God-given ability and the road opened up for me and an opportunity arose. I took advantage of the opportunities I had. I look back now and played for eight years total professionally. Not too shabby for a kid from an NAIA school.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.05.57 AM

J.P.: With as great detail as possible, what does it feel like to be absolutely lit up? Like, to be hit as hard as a human can possibly be hit? And what was the worst hit you ever absorbed?

M.B.: Hahahahaha. This is going to be tough to explain. I’ll start with this.  All the highlight hits you see where guys are getting lit up … those hurt! They all hurt! But it’s the ones you see coming that hurt the most. You tense up when you see it coming. Your body naturally does it as a defense mechanism. It’s why guys alligator arm balls over the middle. It’s unnatural to throw yourself in harm’s way when you know it’s coming.

Whether you see the hit coming or not, you usually end up foggy, no wind in your chest and an unusual amount of snot and saliva all over your face that somehow exited your body.

I was once knocked out by a linebacker while playing in Canada. I was run over by the late Sean Taylor on a crack block (he ran straight over me) and I had to hit the wedge on the kickoff team that felt like my neck shortened by three inches. It feels like they say it feels—like a car wreck every time.

J.P.: I’m gonna ask you a random question only seven people in the world probably care about. You played with a quarterback out of Middle Tennessee State named Jonathan Quinn. The guy had a rifle arm, he was huge, he lit it up in college—and he was an unambiguously bad NFL quarterback. Why? What was missing? And what’s the difference between great quarterbacks and bad ones?

M.B.: Ah, good old J.Q. … love that man. He had one of the biggest arms I have ever played with. He also threw the heaviest ball ever. It felt like catching a 20-pound medicine ball every time. There’s no real reason why he didn’t pan out overall. But then again, he had a nice little run as a backup quarterback in the league. Not everyone can be a starter. He did have the best Billy Bob Thorton impression from Sling Blade, though. “I like them French fried potaters mmmhmmm”

Great quarterbacks have the ability to manage split-second decisions in their heads like nobody else. They have to be risk takers, but conservative. They have to have an arm to throw rockets, deep outs, sidearm screens, finesse change-ups on shallow crosses. A great quarterback has a timer in his head to get rid of the ball. He has to be mobile enough to escape the rush. He has to have the ability to lead men. He doesn’t have to be Braveheart, but a guy who men will follow. You must trust him. He has to manage his teammates. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

At the end of the day, there are only 32 guys starting on Sundays. About five of them are elite. The next 15 are good, and the rest are JAGs (Just Another Guy). By the way, that’s all I ever was—a JAG. But JAGs are still in the league and can play ball better than anyone else trying to be a JAG.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.01.03 AM

J.P.: Does playing in the NFL live up to the hype? I mean, people push their kids toward the goal; dream of it; salivate over it. Once you’re there, is it worth it? Why or why not?

M.B.: The NFL is the hype. It is, was and always will be about the hype. Over-hyped? Probably so. It starts from the top. Coaches work way too many hours because of the machismo of saying they work harder than anyone else. Please. Work smarter and hard, not just long. It is big case of penis envy—for the players as well. But once you are there, you wanna stay. The money, the fame. It’s the pinnacle of your profession. I mean, how many people can say that you are one of the 1,600 or so best people at their jobs in the world? Not very many. Was it worth it? Of course. I’ve been lucky. Athletics, specifically football, have taught me so many things about life in general. I will absolutely let my son play football if he so wishes. But people are starting their kids waaaay too young in tackle football. Kids shouldn’t start playing tackle until the fifth or sixth grades. And parents need to know this—YOUR CHILD DOESN’T LIVE YOUR DREAM! Let them be who they want to be. If they are lucky enough to have ability, things will take care of themselves.

J.P.: I’ve long had the belief that being a pro athlete is great; being an ex-pro athlete is the putrid pit of hell. Your prime came in your 20s, you’re always remembered for things you can no longer do, you do autograph signings and 12 people show up. How off/on am I? How was the initial adjustment for you? And has it gotten easier?

M.B.: It is what it is—cliché. Athletes die twice. When our careers end and when we actually die.

There is a lot of glory to be had in the fact that you were a professional athlete. For most of us, that defines us forever … whether in the eyes and hearts of the fans or in the eyes and hearts of our egos.

I am probably in the minority here a little bit in that I exceeded what I thought I would accomplish. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had and that I was able to take advantage of that. That said, I am a usual NFL statistic as well. I am divorced, I don’t have as much money as I should probably have and I have struggled with the loss of not playing a game any longer. You just can’t replicate the competitiveness and joy in a rec softball or sand volleyball game. You find yourself wanting to win too badly instead of enjoying drinking the beer in between innings and having the fun you should have. When it’s over, it affects everyone else around you as well. I feel good, though, that I have found the balance. I was intelligent enough to know the majority of my life would not revolve around playing. Knowing that is a big piece to the puzzle to stay sane. In the transition I have learned to lean on the people I love, and to let them love me. You learn that it is OK to have a bad day. The world will not end. You can get up tomorrow and start over. It’s a constant balance that I feel I have found.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.05.37 AM

J.P.: With Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson in the news of late, there’s been a lot of talk about violence in the NFL, and why so many players seem to have issues. What’s your take? Is it a problem? Can we trace this to the violence of the game? To PED? To fame? All? None?

M.B.: It’s a problem. It’s a societal problem first and foremost. Athletics have always been a microcosm of society—the ups, the downs, the violence on the playing surface. Just look at bench-clearing brawls, hockey fights, big football hits. We love that part and glorify those pieces of sports. Which is a start to the problem.

I’m sure that PED and fame also play a factor. I never took anything other than simple protein shakes. But some dudes are putting all kinds of supplements into their system. Even if they are on the approved lists, has anyone actually done studies of what combinations of all of those at one time do to a person’s mind? Think about it this way—you’re a regular person who drinks a few cups of coffee every day. Try going without caffeine for a week, cold turkey. You get irritable, you have headaches and suffer throughwithdrawal. Chemically your body is not used to the changes. I think the stuff guys take make a difference in their mentality.

Ego is a better term than fame for the issue. Everyone has one … and they all grow at different rates and have a popping point. Different people react in different ways to the glory of being an NFL player. The biggest problem I have with most of the NFL punishments is it is and was never consistent. It was “due process” for guys at the top of the roster and immediate cuts for middle-to-lower end players. BS. Total BS. I believe that it’s a privilege, not a right. I don’t care how great a player you are. You are held to a higher standard because of being in the public eye

The thing that baffles me about the NFL’s reaction to the “new” tape coming out: How did that change anything? Did anyone really need to see it? The first one was enough. There is no place for that type of violence toward women or people in general. The game and Shield are not bigger than the rest of society. I mean, guys have played after killing people while drunk behind the wheel. That isn’t right. Guys deserve a second chance to make up for their mistakes and make a living. It just shouldn’t be playing professional football.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.59.46 PM

J.P.: You played several years in the CFL—a league I’ve always enjoyed; a league many seem unwilling to respect. What’s the difference in caliber between the CFL and NFL? If a bad NFL team is having its worst day, and a great CFL team is having its best day, can the Canadian club pull off a win?

M.B.: The biggest difference is the overall size and speed of guys. There are tons of NFL-caliber players up north. Most are just undersized for their positions to play in the NFL. Here’s how to view a matchup of CFL vs NFL. Two different styles of game. If a bad NFL team is having its worst day, the CFL would win. I actually think it would be fun to do a home-and-home series. CFL wins with CFL rules. Can you imagine the NFL guys with an extra guy on the field? Bigger field, no fair catch… oh and the ROUGE! Heads would explode. More people should respect that league. Lots of good coaches and players have made the transition to the NFL from there. The players who don’t succeed in the CFL are guys who “just want to get some film” and get back to the NFL. The ones who do respect it and have a great career up there, or head back south for a nice run.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

M.B.: I have a few: My NFL record 99-yard touchdown reception. That’s a club shared by, I think, 13 or 14 of us. It will never be broken unless the NFL goes to the Canadian-sized field, so I can always hang my hat on that one. My first professional catch in the CFL went for six yards. It was a nice way to start a career. The 2001 Grey Cup Championship is another. And lastly, my first NFL game in 2002 in Cleveland. I had zero catches but I made two special teams tackle. It was one of the craziest endings ever to a game thanks to Dwayne Rudd and his helmet toss, and John Tait picking up the ball and rumbling to field goal range.

The worst—the first time I was ever cut/fired in Green Bay in 2006. It’s such a hard feeling to describe. And the 2003 season playoff loss against the Colts, at home, in a game in which neither team punted. What a game … but devastating.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 12.04.57 AM

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MARC BOERIGTER:

• Different ways your last name is misspelled?: Too many. Most people try to slide an H in there somewhere. I can’t even begin to try to spell half of the pronunciations I have heard over the years either.

• Five reasons one should make Hastings, Nebraska his/her next vacation destination?: Hastings College Campus, Kool Aid Days (Hastings is the where Kool-Aid was invented) The Hastings Museum, Eileen’s Cookies (the original) and Big Dally’s Deli. Oh, and Duncan Field. The baseball field in Hastings has dimensions that are 370, 405, 408, 405 and 367. There’s a lot of history in that park for baseball buffs.

• Five sweetest and five ugliest NFL uniforms?: In no particular order: Best: Packers, Bears (with the black shoes), Jets, Chiefs, Chargers’ powder blues. The five worst: Tampa Bay in a landslide, Saints, Jags, Oakland and Seattle.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Alain Vigneault, designer sunglasses, Theo Huxtable, Wall Street Journal, Wayne Chrebet, Bob Barker, Philadelphia cheese steaks, Ralph Tresvant, people who wear sunglasses indoors, long walks on the beach: 1. Who doesn’t love walks on the beach? I prefer the lake since I don’t live near a beach; 2. Theo Huxtable—Cosby Show was great; 3. Wall Street Journal; 4. Wayne Chrebet—great player; 5. Bob Barker. If this is Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore, he rises on this list; 6. Designer sunglasses; 7. Alain Vigneault—should be higher probably, but look at who he has had in net. 8. Philly cheese steaks—love them, but a ribeye shouldn’t be sliced thin and chopped up. It should be think and on a grill. I am from Nebraska; 9. Ralph Tresvant—New Edition reference! Nice work, Jeff. He probably should be higher, too,but I’m pretty sure he has done No. 10 since he was in an R&B group; 10. People who wear sunglasses indoors—Douche central. Is it really that bright inside? Medical conditions excluded

• You can either have $200,000 or the superpower of never having to poop again. Which do you take?: This is easy … take the money. Every guy in America uses the bathroom to “get away” and every guy has taken a shit that makes you feel like a million bucks afterwards. Might as well take the $200k and feel like a million bucks. Best of both worlds.

• Who wins in an arm wrestling match between you and Willie Gault?: Arm wrestling today? Me! A race on the other hand—Willie. I’d need a Seinfeld-inspired head start to beat him

• In exactly 28 words, your argument for or against neck tattoos: Ummmm, No.No. No. No. No. No. Tattoos are OK. I don’t have any, but why on earth would you put one there? Makes zero sense to me.

• We give you a start—right now—in an NFL game. What are your stats?: One catch for eight yards. Hitch route. Blew a hammy trying to make a move past the corner in addition to the lower back tightness. Left the game after one series.  (out of shape).

• Are you afraid of death? Why or why not?: Yes/No. I pray that I have a lot of time left. I have a lot I want to do yet. But if, for some reason, I don’t, I’m comfortable that I know where I am going.

• Climate change—real problem or big hoax?: Real problem. But I think the damage has been done. We can try to change, but I’m not convinced it will help.

  • Gregory Hardy

    Nice get! My brother and Boerigter were teammates at Hastings. Go Broncos! Was fun to follow his pro career. Seemed like a great guy, even let my brother score his Chiefs tickets. Wish I had that Hastings “to-do” list the weekend I visited for a game in 1997. I just seem to remember sitting around the motel, ha ha.

  • Sarah Pistulka Cordes

    Nice interview Marc. Proud Bronco here. Got to know Marc briefly on an interim trip. He was a sweet and kind kid. Was later so cool to have him on my fantasy football team.

  • iggy

    As a long time season ticket holder in Calgary, where Marc played in the CFL, I loved watching him play. His height and wing span made him such a mismatch against many DB’s here. Never forget his contributions.. And his trademark TD pose… Lol

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life