Doug is quick to dismiss pity: "We live in the entitlement age. I'm entitled to this, to that. F--- that. I get what I get because I can do [the job], not because it's given to me."
At the Vikings' training camp in Mankato, Minn., the players in their pads and cleats click across Stadium Road from the locker room to the Minnesota State practice fields. Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and Chris Hovan all represent ideals of the human form. Then here comes Blevins, buzzing along in his electric wheelchair, a baseball cap perched on his head, which lists as he pushes the joystick forward with his good hand. Blevins is hoping to win a job with the Vikings as an assistant special teams coach. After six seasons with the Miami Dolphins as a kicking coach at $25,000 per year, his contract was not renewed last year, in part because, Blevins says, the team wanted him to choose between coaching and running his own consulting business. "I had to support my family," he says.
The Vikings' kickers and punters are gathered on one of the practice fields. As kicker Aaron Elling, a longtime Blevins client, sets up for 30-, 40- and finally 50-yarders, Blevins wheels back and forth, making semicircles behind the kicker, imparting advice in his raspy Southern drawl. Elling is hooking a tiny bit. Blevins tells him to shorten his first step about six inches.
"He just sees things," says Elling. "Ten minutes and he'll improve your kicking."
Vikings coach Mike Tice agrees: "I've never seen anyone that knowledgeable about kicking."
Blevins remains an insomniac. Nancy complains that when he finally wants to go to bed, at four or five in the morning, he gets her up to help him take a shower. Now, however, Doug's nocturnal habits have an unexpected benefit. He can respond if the baby wakes, and Nancy can get a few more hours of sleep.
Until Sarah Elizabeth stirs, Doug sits in his office, watching videotape. The Vikings didn't offer him a full-time job, but he still hopes to coach in the NFL.
He admits to just one regret: "I will never know what it's like to play football, to go out there when you're hurt and it's fourth down and it's cold and raining and you've got blood dripping down your face. I'll never know what it's like to be in the huddle and suffering and a little scared but mostly fired up and wanting it so bad that it's killing your insides. I'll never know how that feels."
You already do, Doug. You know exactly how that feels.