Lawrence Tynes is an average-sized guy with petite facial features and the nondescript demeanor of a New Jersey stockbroker. Once he takes off his pads and helmet, Tynes says, no one has a clue that he is a professional football player. He could be the most anonymous sports star in New York, a guy who leads a Peter Parker-like existence six out of seven days a week.
Take what happened Tuesday, two days after Tynes kicked the most important field goal in the NFL this season. Tynes and his wife were quietly having breakfast at JD's Deli in Oakland, N.J., and it seemed as if almost everyone around them was talking about the Giants' 20-17 overtime win over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game. No one suspected that the dark-haired man at the table against the wall was the player who had kicked the 31-yard field goal that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl.
"It was cool," Tynes said. "Someone was talking about how terrible it was that we were playing the Super Bowl in a dome and we should be playing outside. I wanted to stand up and say, 'Are you kidding me?' "
After what he went through last week at rain-soaked Candlestick Park, Tynes has earned this trip to a Super Bowl in a dome. The field in San Francisco was a mess, the ball was slippery and the wind was blowing. On one end of the Giants' bench, the puddles and mud were so deep that Tynes couldn't practice kicking the ball there when the team was driving in that direction.
"It wouldn't have been worth it," he said with a laugh.
The night before that game, Tynes dreamed he won it with a 41-yard kick from the left hashmark. There was no rain in that dream, however, and there wasn't gut-churning pressure.
During the timeout that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh called before the kick, Tynes felt everything beginning to unfold in slow motion. He usually is pretty good about blocking out the pressure. He wears earplugs to mute the crowd noise and sticks to his routine: three steps back, two steps to the side.
Still, he couldn't help but feel the magnitude of the moment.
"There's a little more stress, obviously," he said. "I'm only human."
The stress should have multiplied when Zak DeOssie's low snap came into the hands of holder Steve Weatherford perpendicular to the field. Weatherford, however, was able to quickly right the ball and put it in the place he and Tynes had agreed upon before the kick. Next thing anyone knew, Weatherford was running around the field screaming about going to the Super Bowl. And Tynes somehow ended up in the arms of his wife, Amanda, during the postgame celebration.
"I never doubted he was going to nail it," Weatherford said.
With that kick, Tynes became the first player in NFL history to make two postseason overtime field goals. The first was an eerily identical situation four years ago when Tynes kicked a 47-yarder to give the Giants a win over the Green Bay Packers and a berth in Super Bowl XLII.
A lot has changed since then.
Tynes had an erratic reputation heading into that game against the Packers. As Giants fans may remember, Tynes, in the final year of his contract, missed two field-goal attempts against the Packers before hitting the game-winner.
Now Tynes is comfortably in the middle of a five-year, $7-million contract. He has stopped missing the mid-range kicks that used to give Giants fans fits, and the team feels very secure about its kicking game heading into the Super Bowl.
"All the special-teams guys, their work ethic is tremendous," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "They do some of the oddest things to get themselves prepared. I see Tynes kicking the ball with only one step. They prepare for everything."
One thing about Tynes' life has remained painfully the same. His brother, Mark, couldn't be there to celebrate with him. Instead, Mark Tynes watched the game from federal prison in Arkansas, where he is serving a 27-year sentence for drug trafficking.
In the past four years, Tynes has expended a great deal of money and energy trying to get his brother's sentence reduced. As it stands, Mark Tynes won't be out of prison until 2026.
"I miss my brother. I really do," Tynes said. "I wish I could share all this with him. He's not here, but he'll be able to watch. He'll see the game. I think about him when I play, especially when I hit a game-winner and I am able to share it with my wife on the field. That was cool. He's going to get out. But I'll probably be a GM by then."
A general manager? Yes, Tynes said his dream is to make a career in football once he no longer can play the game. There haven't been a ton of kickers to make that transition. But it's not impossible. Perhaps then, he will be recognized at the local diner.