Blevins put his theories into practice working with kickers as a student assistant at Abingdon High. In his senior year he won Abingdon's Ray Petty Memorial Award, a scholarship usually given to a player. In 1983 Blevins matriculated at Tennessee, where he worked with the football team as an administrative assistant. Pretty soon the parents of kickers at nearby high schools were paying the kid in the wheelchair $25 to $40 an hour to work with their prodigies. As for the Vols coaches, he says, "They had me doing all the s---work, filing, grading film. It was like, Here's the cripple, give him stuff to do."
Blevins transferred to East Tennessee State in 1986 to serve as its student kicking coach. After graduating two years later, he formed his own kicking consulting company. Later he was hired as an assistant football coach at both Abingdon High and Southwest Virginia Community College in Richlands. At night he was back in his bedroom at home, staying up until 3 a.m., sending out letters and r�sum�s to NFL general managers, reviewing tapes, grading every kicker in the league.
An administrator at the community college knew Dick Steinberg, the New York Jets' G.M., and told him about Blevins. Steinberg said, "He can't walk, how the hell do you expect him to coach?" But he called Blevins and listened to this self-described "geeked-out cripple" talk football for two hours.
"Then," Blevins says, "this cripple sent in a fax report after every Jets game analyzing what the kickers were doing wrong." The next season the Jets took Blevins on as a kicking consultant. "The happiest moment of my life," he recalls. His reward for finally making it to the NFL: about $10,000 a year.
"This is an uphill battle," Blevins says. "It's hard enough if you're not an ex-player. But if you're a cripple? Forget it. I needed to have walking, talking r�sum�s out there. If I had guys I found who became successful kickers in the NFL, then I'd always have a place in this league. I needed to develop an All-Pro kicker."
The graduate, a kicker and punter who had hoped to get invited to an NFL camp when he finished at South Dakota State in 1995, was back in the bedroom he grew up in, staring at his old soccer trophies. Every morning he loaded bundles of The Rapid City Journal onto trucks before changing into his swimsuit and climbing the high chair to lifeguard at a public pool.
One afternoon his college coach called and told him that Brian Hansen, then the Jets' punter, would be working out at a high school just across the state line in Minnesota. The graduate drove there in his 1988 Nissan pickup and punted with Hansen for an hour. "He was so much more consistent than me," the graduate says. "My best ball and his best ball were about equal, but then I'd hit a s----y one, and he'd crush another one. His were money every time."
The graduate wondered aloud about how to achieve that sort of consistency. "Call this guy," Hansen said, handing him Doug Blevins's business card.
The graduate sent Blevins a tape of himself punting and kicking in college and was told he had a good leg but needed to work on a few things. "How soon can you get here?" Blevins asked him.
"Give me two days," the graduate replied.