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What a kick! Interviewing Steve Weatherford

Giants punter Steve Weatherford with Kidsday reporters Joswel

Giants punter Steve Weatherford with Kidsday reporters Joswel Vargas and John Goins at Bloomingales in Manhattan. (Dec. 5, 2013) Credit: Newsday Pat Mullooly

We met the Giants punter Steve Weatherford at Bloomingdale's in Manhattan recently. He was promoting the clothing line Junk Food.

How old were you when you first became interested in kicking for the game of football?

I didn't play football until I was 16 years old. I was a soccer player. . . . The fact that I've been in the NFL for nine years now and won a Super Bowl in the city still doesn't feel real to me. I think God's got a plan for everybody. I think everybody's got a gift. I was very fortunate that I found my calling when I was about 16. . . . It's important to find what you're good at and what you're passionate about, and pour yourself into giving it everything you've got.

Did you ever hope to make it as an Olympic winner?

Yeah, I ran track in college. I was a decathlete All-American, and if football wouldn't have worked out, then I was going to pursue a professional track career. But they don't make quite as much as football [players do]. I think I made a good choice.

When did you become such a health fitness person?

Probably [when] I was about your age [12]. I was always the shortest, skinniest kid in the class growing up, and that's not something you can control -- how tall you grow -- so I decided when I was about 13, I was going to read all the books that I could and do as much research as I could to figure out the best way to maximize my human potential through nutrition and training.

What is your favorite cheat meal or snack?

I don't really have any cheat meals. I grew up eating pretty healthy, but I would say if there's something that I love, that I necessarily can't eat, it would probably be lasagna.

Could you explain a few of your charities: Rush the Punter and Kicks for Kids?

Kicks for Kids started in my rookie year when I was playing for the New Orleans Saints. I noticed a lot of my teammates were throwing shoes away after they would wear them a few times; they were still fairly new shoes, and I just thought to myself a lot of kids would die to have these shoes -- because some kids can't afford to play football due to the fact that equipment is expensive. So I went rummaging through the trash and pulled out all these tennis shoes and cleats, and I would donate them to area high schools so kids could afford to play football, and then that kind of snowballed into me having the idea of having the actual athletes sign the shoes. And then, I would auction them off, and the proceeds would generate enough money for me to be able to select a school that was in need and find kids that couldn't afford to buy tennis shoes to wear to school. And I would take those kids shoe shopping. Usually it would be about 30 kids, and it would give me an opportunity to obviously buy those kids shoes, but it would also give me some intimate time with the children to be able to kind of talk to them about what I'm passionate about and how I became a pro athlete, and everything that goes into the importance of education, nutrition, working out and staying out of trouble.

What is your opinion on a cold weather outdoor Super Bowl?

I think it's cool because . . . football was meant to be played outdoors and in the snow. If you remember games like in Green Bay [Dec. 31, 1967 vs. the Dallas Cowboys] when they were playing and it's 20 below and snow's falling, I think there's something special about that. I mean it's a tough man's game, and I think it would be good for the NFL.

Which was a better feeling, the birth of your children or winning the Super Bowl?

That's a tough one. Even as a high schooler, I couldn't wait to start a family. I was very fortunate. I met my wife when I was 19, and we were married at 23, and we had kids right away. And I would say there's nothing that compares to that, but winning the Super Bowl was a close second.

It has been said you are the strongest player on the Giants team. How does that feel?

It feels good when you work really hard at something and it pays off. I spend a lot of time in the weight room, and I make a lot of sacrifices with my diet. I go to bed at a certain time. When you make all those sacrifices, and you put a lot of hard work into something, then it pays off. It feels great.

What is the longest punt you ever had?

In 2004, we were playing Iowa. I was at the University of Illinois. I had a 79-yard punt.

What will you do after your days of playing football are over?

When I retire from football, I want to be doing what you guys are doing. I like meeting new people. I know whenever I retire from football, that celebrity status of having a pedestal of people looking up to you is going to fade away eventually and I think working in TV I'll still be able to reach a lot of people to inspire them, motivate them and kind of educate them on what I'm passionate about. So I'm hoping to get into TV when I retire.

What advice would you have to someone who's interested in becoming a kicker?

I think learning the sport, learning the position is probably the most important thing. Once you learn the formal technique, I think, being willing to make the sacrifice to be the best is important. Because, for me, I don't want to do anything unless I want to be the best at it and so I don't have a lot of hobbies. If I do pick up a hobby, I want to become the best at it. So I try not to pick up too many because it's time consuming.

What is the best and worst thing about playing football in New York?

The best thing about playing in New York is when you play well there's such a big stage and everything's magnified 100 times and so when you play well people are going to give you way too much credit and when you play poorly, it's going to be the same thing. People are really going to knock you down. But it's important to be mentally tough. It takes a special athlete to be able to compete in professional sports in the city because of the things I just described to you. So it's important to be mentally tough because you're going to go through some ups and downs in the city and that's for sure.

Besides New York, in what other cities did you really enjoy playing football?

I played in New Orleans, Jacksonville, Fla., Kansas City and I also played for the Jets and I would say by far New York is the best. There's pros and cons to it. The weather stinks, but it's New York. So there's always something to do and I'm very passionate about working with kids and there's so many opportunities in New York for me to do that because there's so many kids. In New Jersey and New York, I work with wellness in schools, with Boys and Girls Clubs, and I'm actually the fitness ambassador for 77,000 kids in New Jersey. So that's a cool outlet for me because I'm passionate about fitness, working out, and nutrition and that kind of gives me a platform to be able to inspire and educate those kids.

Are there any other positions you would have liked to play?

Everybody wants to be a quarterback. I think it would be cool to score a touchdown in the NFL. But like I said, I'm so fortunate and so happy and blessed to be able to do what I do. The New York Giants was a team I loved growing up, so the fact that I get to wear the helmet and play for the team on Sundays is . . . it still doesn't feel real to me.

How would you describe growing up in Terre Haute, Ind.?

It was simple. It's about the opposite of New York. It's as very close-knit community. Football was a really important sport. Sports are really important to people there and it was a great school system. So I have very fond memories of my high school years.

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