11-13-01, 11:55 p.m.
A guy like Kevin Kaesviharn comes along and you remember.
You remember that most players are just guys. Most of them are good guys. Guys with wives, mothers, dads, brothers, sisters, kids. Guys who made it where little kids go to dream.
On Monday, Kaesviharn, the Bengals rookie cornerback, got his second game check of $11,611. Throw in $4,000 for the one week he was on the practice squad and that makes $27,222 he's made in his three weeks with the team.
He figures that about covers what he would have made from September to June substitute teaching in the Sioux Falls, S.D., school district. Which is what he was doing that Friday last month when the Bengals called. Teaching high school gym. He had just been overseeing some Frisbee soccer.
"It's not like I want that to motivate me," Kaesviharn said of the money. "But at the same time, it's nice."
It's easy to forget.
It's the money that makes you forget.
Those lottery jackpot signing bonuses worth as much as a school district's budget. Those annual minimum salaries that yield a decade of salaries for men and women who chase crime, put out fires, teach kids, save lives.
The hype makes you forget, too.
The Hollywood treatment on the mushrooming number of networks and the breathless Edward R. Murrow reporting of tweaked hamstrings and strained quads.
"This is Tampa Bay. . . ."
Then a guy like Kaesviharn comes along and you remember it's not all police blotters and paternity suits.
Kaesviharn turned 25 the day the Packers cut him back in August and he wondered if the four-year odyssey that began when he got out of Augustana College in Sioux Falls had come full circle.
In between teaching math at Washington High and being a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater, there have been two seasons in the Arena Football League and one in the XFL on the fringes of the money game.
And one squid eating contest.
That's what happens in the AFL, where there's a promotion at the end of every quarter.
"I think it was squid," Kaesviharn said. "After a minute, this one guy threw right up on the field. None of us
wanted to go back out there right away."
That's the way it was in Iowa, where the Barnstormers would also stage mascot football games. There would be a milk carton trying to zoom past a chicken on the post.
"There'd be about 16 mascots out there trying to run and catch and they couldn't do anything," Kaesviharn said.
Definitely not the NFL.
But at 6-1, 190 pounds, with good speed and a horizontal jump good enough for college track, no one is saying he doesn't belong. Not the Bengals, who have two cornerbacks on injured reserve and have decided to keep him on the active roster as the fifth cornerback.
For a team that has 26 interceptions in the last two and a half seasons, why not look at a guy who's got 26 pro interceptions?
"He's smart. He's athletic and I know because I've played basketball with him and he just elevates on you," said Mike Freidel, Augustana's defensive coordinator then and now. "He coached cornerbacks for me that one year and I'll tell you, it helps him. When he played, we always put him on the best receiver. "
Freidel couldn't talk long because he had a 1 p.m. class. As an associate professor in the health department, he's teaching Stress Management 214. That's how they do it in Division II, where Freidel wants you to know they can play football.
"The year after Kevin played, we had 15 guys drafted or signed as free agents in the NFL," said Freidel of the North Central Conference. "And that was about 10 more than the WAC."
Kaesviharn notices what are probably little things to the big-time draft picks and the hardened veterans. Like police escorts to the airport and to the stadium.
"We flew commercially in the Arena league," Kaesviharn said. "Going charter is unbelievable. The food is awesome. I don't think that's the usual airplane food."
"Yeah, I figured the training table would be different," Freidel said. "We eat what the students eat. And it stinks. We bus to all the games. The longest trip is probably 10 to 11 hours. Greeley, Colorado."
Kaesviharn has played special teams for the Bengals in his two games, which have been both on the road. Each time he found out only a few hours before he was making the Saturday afternoon trip.
He had no clothes for his first trip to Detroit last month because all he had with him when he signed after his workout was sweats and T-Shirts. That Friday afternoon, he went shopping with fellow rookie cornerback Bo Jennings, who had been in town all of 10 days. They went to the downntown Lazarus, where Kaesviharn played it conservative buying a sweater and slacks.
"I don't know how long I'm going to be here," he said. "I wanted to make sure I keep most of the money."
Jennings, who played at Tennessee State and was on the Lions' practice squad before the Bengals picked him up on waivers, has helped Kaesviharn get around town and they've become close.
"We're going through the same thing," Kaesviharn said. "We're both new here and learning and we can talk to each other about the same things."
Freidel isn't surprised to see his G.A. in the NFL. He always thought he had a pro heart. Even when Kaesviharn was coaching, he'd come in early to work out and keep the goal alive.
"I swear he could have led the nation in interceptions his senior year if it wasn't for the compound fracture of his thumb," Freidel said. "He had it wrapped so big that it looked like a third leg. He'd be able to run with the receiver, but he wouldn't go up for the interception. He'd just go up and bat it down or knock it away.
"That shows you he's got the determination to make it," Freidel said. "He keeps himself in great shape. He's one of those my-body-is-a-temple guys."
Kaesviharn is looking forward to passing it on as a high school coach and teacher. He just isn't sure when that career will begin and his time as a pro will end.
""I want to give back and this is going to help me do it," Kaesviharn said when he first arrived.
On Monday, he shrugged when asked what they have in mind for him.
"I don't know," he said. "I can't focus on that. I have to focus just on playing."
They have decided his wife should stay back in Sioux Falls, where she work as a nurse in an orthopedic institute.
"That's the only stability we've got," said Kevin Kaesviharn, the guy who makes you remember.
It's not all about leases and millions and salary caps and wins and losses.
It's easy to forget.