Two weeks after an amazing Super Bowl game, the Market Bulletin caught up with Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Jake Delhomme at his modest Set-Hut stables near Breaux Bridge.
He was a few minutes late for our interview because a quick stop at the local Wal-Mart turned into an extended autograph session. Seemingly bewildered by the attention, Delhomme said he thought the store would be quiet due to rainy weather. His plan was working until the store manager announced the NFL starís presence over the intercom.
ďJake has an easy going demeanor and is in general, an all-around nice guy. He seems to possess an innate leadership quality; good traits for an NFL quarterback. I was very impressed with his confidence,Ē Sam Irwin of the Market Bulletin said. ďBut I was most impressed with his commitment to his family, especially his 14-month-old daughter. I think thatís how heíd prefer to be remembered.Ē
Jake sat down with the Market Bulletin at the home of his parents, Jerry and Marcia Delhomme of Breaux Bridge.
MB: Jake, someone asked Coach Don Shula if luck was part of the NFL. He said, ďYeah, itís bad luck not to have a good quarterback.Ē Are you bad luck or good luck?
JD: Hopefully, Iím good luck, but I think we created our luck. I think when youíre good, youíre lucky. Iíve always believed that. You do the right things, you go about your business the right way and sometimes I think the luck finds you.
MB: How much of it is coaching?
JD: A lot of it is coaching, but coaches donít play on Sunday. Coaches prepare you during the week, but from my perspective, after Saturday night, itís not much coaching. They might make an adjustment during the game here and there, but itís just our players making plays. When you get to the level weíre at, it entails our fundamentals, but itís all about getting in the right situation and the coach calling the right play. But youíve got to perform, ultimately.
MB: Jake, you came from a small high school (Teurlings Catholic in Lafayette) and a small college (University of Louisiana at Lafayette). You werenít really recruited by any colleges. You were not selected in the NFL draft. What made you stay in this?
JD: I was young. I was 21 years old when my college football eligibility ended. I didnít have to go to work right away. I didnít have much school left and it was nice and easy. Mama and Daddy said I always had a room here, so I could go and try and pursue my dream. If it wasnít in the NFL, I was going to go to Canada, maybe even play arena football. The money was good out there. Thatís what I do. Thatís what the good Lord put me on this earth to do: to play football. I mean, thereís no doubt about it.
I told my girlfriend, who is now my wife, Iím going to ride my right arm until it canít go anymore. Thatís what Iím going to do.
Certainly, there have been ups and downs. But thatís life. Football is a tough business, but it is a great business and I was able to just hang around until after that. And now I think Iíve gotten to where I want to be. Now the tough part is, can I stay where I am?
MB: So you felt like you had ďitĒ?
JD: Thereís no doubt. I felt talent-wise, I was on par with just about anyone they had out there, especially when I went to New Orleans the first time. My arm was stronger than every quarterback they had in camp at that time. Itís just that I was the afterthought. I was the camp arm. I wasnít one of their guys and you know, thatís just how this game is. Sometimes people fall though the cracks. I just needed an opportunity. I was lucky enough not to fall all the way through the cracks. I was able to hang around and Carolina gave me the opportunity.
MB: You know when Brian Mitchell was quarterback at UL-Lafayette (Mitchell played for the Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and is now with the New York Giants) they won all the games they were supposed to win. You get a good quarterback and receiver in the college game andÖ?
JD: Itís always nice to have a good receiver and itís nice to have a pretty good offensive line. I was lucky. I had two pro-caliber linemen my senior year (Anthony Clement of the Arizona Cardinals and Lucas Yarnell of the Austin Wranglers). We had a lot of talent. We had a lot of skill talent, I should say. I threw to Brandon (Stokley, of the Indianapolis Colts) and my other receiver, Donald Richard, played a year in the NFL. A fullback from Minden, Kenyon Cotton, he played two years in the NFL. So we had some talent. We did some good things. We had three winning seasons out of four. Won the conference twice. We had a good run and a lot of fun.
MB: Ok, you started the 2003 season as a backup. You played your way into the starting role and you took your team to the playoffs and all the way to the Super Bowl, but is the jury still out on Jake Delhomme?
JD: Iím sure it will always be out because I wasnít one of those first round draft picks or one of these highly-sought free agents, but thatís fine with me. I think I answered a lot of questions. But I donít play to prove people wrong. I just played for my team. I could care less what those 31 other teams think about me. My feeling is that Iím going to finish my career as a Carolina Panther, thereís no doubt. As long as theyíre happy with me and Iím doing my job, thatís all I care about. As long as my coaches and teammates are satisfied with what I can do.
MB: Jake, most of our 16,000 Market Bulletin readers come from rural backgrounds and live in the country just like you do. Can you tell them what it was like for a country boy to be in the big time and play in the Super Bowl?
JD: You know I donít want to say itís no big deal because it is, but it just so happens, thatís my job. Itís just to play pro football. We made it to the big game. It was great. It was fun. The spectacle of the Super Bowl was something else. I mean it was something you canít imagine. You hear about it, but I hate to say it, I didnít get to enjoy the festivities leading up because I was there for business. I was there for work. My family got to enjoy it. As NFL players, I know weíre biased, but itís just the greatest sport in all of the major sports. We think we do things the right way. Itís fun to be a part of that. Now, a week and a half from the Super Bowl, itís kind of funny, a guy from Breaux Bridge playing in the Super Bowl. But I donít think it matters where youíre from. Itís how youíre brought up. I was brought up like most people in the rural areas. You work. You work; you learn the value of a hard-earned dollar. You appreciated things. You didnít take things for granted. You donít lead a fast lifestyle. Thatís what put me where I am today. Just do the same things I was brought up to do.
MB: You had a grim look after the ball game ...
JD: I wanted to catch up to the moment of what it feels like to be on the other side, to be on this side, the losing side. To let it sink in, to hurt, so when we start practice in the fall, the two-a-days and there are days during the season when Iím tired and I want to go home, but I need to watch that extra film. I want to get back there, but I want to get on the other side of that field. They rope you off, the losing team basically. I just want to get on the other side of that rope. I just wanted to watch and let it sink in and hurt a little bit. When I have a tough day, Iíll just think about that feeling and it will make me dig down just a little deeper.
MB: What did the Patriotsí Kevin Faulk (of Carencro) tell you after the game?
JD: I was kind of looking for him and it was a classy move by him coming across the field to say, ďHey, you played a great game.Ē I told him the same thing and to go celebrate. Thatís their time to celebrate.
MB: You would have won MVP had yíall scored 33 points. (The final score was 32-29, courtesy of a Patriot field goal with four seconds remaining.)
JD: (smiling) Yeah, it wouldíve been nice. I could have cared less about the MVP. It would have been nice to be on the other side of the rope.
MB: Whatís Chris Bermanís nickname for you?
JD: (laughing) Daylight comes and you got a Delhomme or something like that. He sings that song about it. I donít know. (For the record itís Jake ďDaylight coming and me want toĒ Delhomme).
MB: Do you have a nickname for him?
JD: Boomer is his nickname. Thatís what he goes by. No, I donít have one for him. I met him one time on media day.
MB: Berman says his favorite nickname for him is Chris ďIíll Never Be Your Beast ofĒ Berman.
MB: What was your major at UL-Lafayette?
JD: I was in pre-physical therapy all the way through and I had 15 hours left for that. I played for four years and then my wife and mother said it was time for a degree, so I switched over to general studies and took two classes and got a degree in general studies.
MB: What kind of music do you listen to?
JD: I can listen to anything. I probably prefer country a little more than anything else, but in the NFL locker room, youíre around white guys, youíre around black guys, northerners, southerners, east coast and guys from the west coast. Thereís a mixture and a variety of music around. If I like it I listen to it.
MB: Whatís in your CD player right now?
JD: I got a six CD-changer. A lot of it is country. I know Vern Gosdinís in there, Elvis Presleyís Greatest Hits and an Eddie Murphy comedy deal. I donít listen to CDs much, only when Iím driving to and from Charlotte.
MB: You saved your best for the playoffs. How did that happen?
JD: I donít know. I think itís just a combination of things. The more I played, the better I thought I could become. Thatís one thing Iím most proud of this season. The coordinators watch so much game film, they find weaknesses they can attack. Thatís something I thought I got better at as the season went on. As the playoffs went on, my teammates were playing pretty good and that helped me and I spent a little more time and started getting more comfortable with the system. I was having some success and you know coordinators really try to focus in on (opposing teamís) weaknesses and attack. Thatís one thing I was proud of. I was able to work on my game and improve. Playoff time is show time. Thereís a saying in the locker room: itís show time. Itís money time. Thatís when you got to step up. I was lucky enough to step my game up along with my teammates to get to the big game.