You have to feel for Daniel Sepulveda, the Pittsburgh punter who will miss playing in the Super Bowl for a second time while on injured reserve.
The fourth-year punter for the Steelers tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Baltimore on Dec. 5. Surgery to repair the knee five days later cost him the remainder of the season.
It’s the same ligament and the same injury he suffered during training camp prior to the 2008 season. Sepulveda watched from the sidelines as Pittsburgh beat Arizona in the Super Bowl.
That’s where he’ll be again Sunday, making the most of the opportunity to be a part of the action without being in the action.
If the sting of missing the chance to play the Super Bowl in your hometown of Dallas, he isn’t showing it.
“I could think of a lot worse problems to have in life,” the fourth-year veteran said in an interview last week with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Sepulveda tore the ligament back trying to make a tackle on a punt return, just doing what comes instinctively. He started his college career at Baylor as a walk-on linebacker, after all, the same position he played at Highland Park High School in Dallas, which ironically will host Green Bay’s indoor workouts Wednesday and perhaps Thursday.
Not getting much of a look at linebacker at Baylor, Sepulveda captured the coaches’ attention as a sophomore during an open punting tryout. He dabbled with punting in high school, but no one saw him becoming a two-time All-American and the only punter to win the Ray Guy Award twice. He never missed a game due to injury in college.
“I guess I just have a biological predisposition to tearing an ACL,” Sepulveda said in the Tribune-Review story. “I have been told I have loose joints.”
Not that he’s feeling sorry for himself. A strong Christian faith carried him through the 2008 season in which he still got a Super Bowl ring, and it will carry him through again this summer’s training camp. Whether the Steelers will hand the job back to Sepulveda without competition as they did in 2009 awaits to be seen. He was fourth in the AFC with a 45.5-yard average at the time of the injury.
“I want to be as closely related to God as I can be,” he said. “In order to do that, I recognize the truth in the Bible that God can work for my good in the midst of all circumstances, even when they are bad. And this is something I would call a bad circumstance.”
Despite the injury, the circumstances are in Sepulveda’s favor based on the team he plays for. The Steelers stayed loyal to Sepulveda, especially while he’s been injured during their two extended postseason runs. Loyalty to kickers is rare in today’s NFL, where the specialists are expendable and too-easily replaceable.
Just ask journeyman punter Jeremy Kapinos, who replaced Sepulveda in the Steelers’ lineup two months ago. Kapinos filled in for one game for Indianapolis earlier this season, then was back home a week later. When Pittsburgh called, it was the fourth team in four seasons for Kapinos, who punted for Green Bay last season but was not asked to return in 2010.
Sepulveda may well get another Super Bowl ring on Sunday. Here’s hoping that the Steelers will stay loyal to him once again so he can be on the active roster the next time Pittsburgh reaches the big game.
About the Author
Written by Scott Farrell
Scott Farrell is the publisher of ScotSports.com in Dallas, Texas. He is a former sports writer for The Dallas Morning News, and also works as a freelance statistician for TV sports productions, most recently for ESPN at the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. Farrell has covered high school sports in Dallas for 21 years, and has also worked in athletic media relations at SMU, Fresno State and Texas-Arlington. He won Best Sports Coverage Awards from the Texas Press Association three times and Best Sports Writing once. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.