JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The injury blindsided New England Patriot tight end Christian Fauria. It happened in the second half of last season's Super Bowl, and it's still fresh in his mind. He can't guarantee it will never happen again, but he is sure of this much:
His mom will be staying put this time.
"We're going to tie her to her seat," said Fauria, whose mother suffered a broken arm at Houston's Reliant Stadium last February while rushing to buy a soda. "If she wants a Coke, somebody can go get it for her. If she has to go to the bathroom, she can bring one of those bedpans."
It wasn't until after the Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers that Fauria learned she had been hurt. Late in the game, he'd noticed his parents weren't in their seats. That was very strange. They had watched every play of his games at Encino Crespi High, and fervently followed his career at Colorado, and then with the Seattle Seahawks. To catch a playoff game last season, they traveled 26 hours -- much of it through a blinding snowstorm. So where were they now?
"They were supposed to be sitting right behind our bench," he said. "After we won, I ran over there, hopped up and asked where they were. My heart just sank. As important as the game was for me, it was almost more important for them."
Instead of seeing her son reach the NFL mountaintop after nine seasons in the league, Raimunda Fauria was staring at the ceiling of an emergency room, letting a nurse take scissors to her cherished No. 88 jersey. The day turned into a colossal bummer. Until Christian called, that is.
"He said, 'Mom, we'll just have to go again next year,' " she said.
Fauria is an expert on second chances. He spent eight seasons with Seattle, much of the time battling ankle problems. He never felt completely at home there, even though he put up decent numbers when healthy. It wasn't until he signed as a free agent with New England in spring 2002 that he truly fell in love with playing pro football.
"It's been a reawakening for him," his wife, Rhonda, said. "It makes him want to fight that much harder and play that much longer."
Although Fauria is a respectable run-blocker, he's best known for his reliable hands. Long before he was catching footballs for a living, he used those hands to catch bricks and cinderblocks on construction sites, where he worked with his two brothers and father, Ashley, an L.A. County deputy sheriff who worked part time as a bricklayer.
"When we were on jobs, we'd have to throw bricks up to Christian up on the scaffold," the elder Fauria said. "You had to learn how to catch them softly, cradle it and ride it. You could bust your hands up if you caught them the wrong way. If you dropped one of them, you'd probably have a messed-up face."
Like Christian, older brothers Lance and Quinn were star athletes at Crespi who wound up earning college football scholarships. Lance played tight end at Washington; Quinn played fullback at Northern Arizona. Both suffered career-ending knee injuries. Lance had a brief career as a police officer and now works for a fencing company. Quinn is a foot doctor. Their sister, Julie, played basketball at College of the Canyons and became a nurse. She has a 15-year-old son, Joseph Fauria, who plays basketball and football at Crespi. At 6 feet 5, he's the tallest member of the family.
"He's going to be a really good athlete when he grows into his body," Christian said. "He's real tall and skinny right now. With those big feet, he looks like an L running down the field."
As for Fauria, football is more about Ws than Ls. In three seasons with New England, he has caught 71 passes for 733 yards with 11 touchdowns. Most important, he's having the time of his life.
"That's the fun part for the guys who have been here and watched other free agents come in like Christian," quarterback Tom Brady said. "You hear stories of where they've been and what they've been a part of. To see how much joy they have now to be part of a team that's very selfless, that's won games and won a Super Bowl like we did last year. It's just fun."
Fauria intends to do a better job this Super Bowl of soaking in the atmosphere, paying attention to the magic of the moment.
"Last year I was kind of running around like a blind dog at a meat house," he said. "I was just wanting to see everything, wanting to experience everything, and I feel like I kind of missed a lot. So, instead of sprinting through everything, I am going to just take my time and just walk through it and maybe enjoy it a little more."
Same goes for his mom.
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Christian Fauria's career statistics:
*--* Year Team Rec Yards Avg TD 1995 Seattle 17 181 10.6 1 1996 Seattle 18 214 11.9 1 1997 Seattle 10 110 11.0 0 1998 Seattle 37 377 10.2 2 1999 Seattle 35 376 10.7 0 2000 Seattle 28 237 8.5 2 2001 Seattle 21 188 9.0 1 2002 New England 27 253 9.4 7 2003 New England 28 285 10.2 2 2004 New England 16 195 12.2 2 TOTAL 237 2,416 10.2 18