In the final hours before the Super Bowl, NFL players have been known to go and get, say, a $40 hooker. Or go to Tijuana and get muy smashed. Or try to set the coke-snorting world record.
But before this Super Bowl, wide receiver Deion Branch of the Patriots did something even stranger.
He picked up his cellphone and called every coach in his life who meant something to him. He called Pee Wee coaches. He called his high school receivers coach. He called his junior college offensive coordinator. He called his college head coach. He called 13 coaches in all.
And do you know what he told them? Thank you.
Thank you for caring about me when I could've gone south. Thank you for making me run stairs. Thank you for believing I could do this.
He thanked his coach at Louisville for not giving up on him when his grades were lousy. He thanked his high school coach for believing he wasn't too puny. He thanked one coach for being there for him when his infant son was near death.
He got so emotional while thanking them that "I was crying half the time," says Branch, 25. "It's hard, but I don't want them to think I've left them behind. I want them to know I'm thinking about them all the time."
And when he was done calling--about two hours later--he got on the team bus, put on his number 83 and made the Patriots thank God they had drafted him.
Branch caught 11 passes--tying the Super Bowl record co-owned by his hero, Jerry Rice--for 133 yards. He was named the MVP of New England's 24-21 win over the Eagles.
If you're counting, that's two Super Bowls, 21 catches, 276 yards, one MVP, two rings and maybe the one example of a pro who understands that being a great athlete is the work of dozens of people, not one.