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Making It

NFL Coach With Cerebral Palsy Has Winning Outlook

Drive and determination made Doug Blevins one of the nation's top authorities on kicking and landed him a position with the Miami Dolphins.

November 05, 2000|SUSAN VAUGHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Kickers praise Blevins for his sophisticated approach to the discipline. To Blevins, every kicker has a unique style that must be cultivated. He searches for peccadilloes that might impede a perfect kick: too many steps, tiny steps, too robust a kick, rushing the ball, pivoting the shoulders.

With trusty stopwatch in hand, he drills punters in a "hang time" game, goading them to increase the air time of each successive punt.

He got a big break in 1995 when the NFL hired him to work with its World League kickers. It wasn't an easy job. Blevins had to help soccer players convert their kicking mechanics to football. In 1997, Dolphin then-coach Jimmy "No Nonsense" Johnson hired Blevins sight unseen, based on his reputation.

"He didn't know I was physically handicapped until I appeared at his office," Blevins said. "He was stunned at first. Jimmy thought it was a joke."

That is, until Blevins opened his mouth about the art and science of kicking. Johnson was convinced.

"He just asked me if it would be dangerous for me to be on the field with the guys," Blevins said. "I said no. And he said, 'Well that's good enough for me.' "

Before he moved, Blevins was driving 220 miles round-trip daily from his Vero Beach, Fla., home to the Dolphin training camp in Davie, Fla. He'd coach kickers; churn out nine-page, single-spaced kicking analyses; and not complain about the grueling schedule.

In addition to his Dolphin responsibilities, Blevins is working with up-and-coming kickers such as Joe O'Donnell, formerly with the Florida Bobcats and an NFL aspirant, whom Blevins described as having "a cannon of a leg."

"I went from last in the [Arena] league to third after working with him," O'Donnell said. "He takes your style and makes it better."

"People ask me all the time, what's the one thing I regret most," Blevins said. "They ask, 'Do you miss walking hand-in-hand with your wife?' 'Do you miss carrying your son?' " But Blevins always responds in the negative; his relations with Nenita and Roman are not wanting.

*

If there's one thing he wishes for, it's to put on the aqua-and-blue uniform and get in the game. Not as a kicker, but a hulking linebacker.

"I'm cold, bleeding, it's late in the fourth quarter," Blevins said. "The ball snaps and I hit that quarterback so hard, you hear the air escape from his lungs."

He paused for effect. "You know he's not gonna get back up. And the announcer turns and says, 'Ohhh, I just hate to see something like that happen.' "

The Blevins' philosophy of life is simple: "If you stop accomplishing, you stagnate." So he's set his sights on two new goals: He intends to build Championship Placekicking & Punting into "the world's premier kicking company," and one day become a college head coach.

"You know, even now, with all that I've accomplished, there are still people out there who think this is a joke or a publicity stunt," Blevins said. "[People] who talk to you like it's a mental handicap instead of just a physical one.

"When all is said and done, I want people to look back on Doug Blevins' career, and say, 'he was a helluva football coach.' Not 'he was a helluva disabled coach.' That's really all I want."

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