As a football player, Mark Bavaro didn't deal with rejection all that much. A high school star recruited by Notre Dame, he was drafted by the Giants and became a blue-collar symbol of the grittiness it took to win a pair of Super Bowls.
Rejection came only at the end, when his play began to slip and injuries mounted. The Giants cut him in 1991 and he spent the final three years of his career with the Browns and the Eagles.
When he became an author, rejection flowed a bit differently. In this calling, there are no draft parties or signing bonuses, no starting at the top. It took almost 10 years -- as long as his playing career in the NFL lasted -- for Bavaro to publish his first novel.
Yes, Mark Bavaro, the man of few words while a tight end for the Giants who made a name for himself by dragging would-be tacklers down the field, is a novelist. His first book, "Rough and Tumble," was released this past fall.
"I've always thought that I would like to write a book," Bavaro said this past week from his home in Boxford, Mass. "I read 'North Dallas 40' by Peter Gent when I was in high school and I was fascinated by the idea of a football player writing a book, not just a memoir or an autobiography but an actual novel."
Though Bavaro steers clear of labeling "Rough and Tumble" as semi-autobiographical, it is the story of a veteran tight end in the NFL and his desire to win a championship for -- who else? -- the Giants.
"When I retired from the NFL and I had a lot of time on my hands, the first thing I would do to stay busy and pass the time was to write," Bavaro said. "I had the beginnings of a bunch of different stories but this one, 'Rough and Tumble,' kept going to its completion. It was a hobby of mine. I liked to do it."
It took about a year for him to complete the manuscript of about 600 pages in 1999. He sent letters to agents and publishers trying to find someone who would share his desire to get the book into print. His name opened doors in some businesses, but in the literary world, it was more of a hindrance. He was pegged as a dumb jock.
"For a good six or seven years or so, I sparingly sent out letters to agents and publishers with no interest, and some of them never responded back," he said.
Eventually he teamed up with an agent and an editor, trimmed his story by more than 100 pages and sold the book to St. Martin's Press in 2006. It was published two years later.
Bavaro has finished the first draft of a second untitled novel, this one a coming-of-age story about a high school football player who is being recruited by colleges. He completed the draft last summer but hasn't had time to revisit it and shape it.
"I think everything I write will have football in it," he said. "It's what I know."