In Hefty Company

From Kentucky star to Sup­­­er Bowl champ, Lorenzen returns to his hometown a Giant hero

Two Sundays ago, Jared Lorenzen was standing on the sidelines in the biggest sporting spectacle of the year.

Nearly 100 million viewers tuned in to watch the New York Giants’ improbable upset over the New England Patriots, but few, if any, were fixated on the third-string quarterback familiarly known at UK as the Hefty Lefty.

This past Saturday, Lorenzen was on the sidelines again. He wasn’t pulling for one of the most improbable wins of all time, but he was cheering with as much exuberance as he did for Eli Manning and his Giants teammates in Super Bowl XLII.

“Shoot the ball, Taylar. Shoot it!” Lorenzen says as his 5-year-old daughter pulls up for a jump shot at the local YMCA in Fort Thomas, Ky., a small suburb south of Cincinnati.

Cramped in a gym in Lorenzen’s hometown, the former UK star stands on the sideline twirling a basketball. A once-empty corner of the gym is now filled with family, friends and fans hoping to get a peek of the coveted Super Bowl ring — which Lorenzen won’t receive for another three or four months.

One fan walks past and congratulates Lorenzen. Another wants an autograph. Most, if not all, already know the Fort Thomas legend. But few have spoken to a Super Bowl champ.

“It’s cool that you get these kids that just want to talk to you about the experience, and then you get grandparents that want to talk about the same thing,” Lorenzen later said.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Lorenzen’s daughter is substituted from the game. Instead of heading to the opposite sideline to sit with her teammates clad in orange T-shirts, Taylar dashes for the quarterback who looks more like an offensive lineman. Lorenzen picks up his daughter and lifts her into the air like a toothpick. As Lorenzen kisses her on her forehead, another fan walks past and says, “Good to have you back.” Lorenzen can’t help but smile.

The quarterback — nicknamed everything from Hefty Lefty to J-Load to his personal favorite, BBQ (Big Beautiful Quarterback) — led the Cats from 2000 to 2003. While under center, he set records in career total offense, passing yards, completions and passing touchdowns. Only his touchdown mark has been broken.

Lorenzen, who just completed his third year with the Giants, was undrafted out of college. A player who once tipped the scales at 322 pounds, he will likely never see the field as a full-time NFL starter. Still, Lorenzen’s father, Joe, sat in attendance on Super Bowl Sunday and was as nervous as Archie Manning, Eli’s father.

“I don’t know what I would have done if he would have gotten into the game,” Joe said. “Just watching him on the sidelines was somewhat surreal.

“I couldn’t imagine the emotions I would have felt if that would have happened,” he said. “It was just an awesome experience.”

Lorenzen admits he had little chance of playing in the game. Stuck behind Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning and backup Anthony Wright, the 6-foot-4 285-pound quarterback was relegated to the role of cheerleader.

Leading up to the Super Bowl, Lorenzen posed as the opposing team’s quarterback to prepare the Giants’ defense for each game. But on game days, Lorenzen stays off the field, watching the opponent’s safeties and cornerbacks, looking for any weaknesses Manning might miss.

“He can’t see everything,” Lorenzen said.

Lorenzen has thrown just eight passes for 28 yards in his NFL career, but that didn’t stop him from rushing the field once the confetti filled University of Phoenix Stadium, or from tearing through the crowd to kiss his wife, Tamara.

“I grabbed my hat, grabbed Eli’s hat and started just going nuts,” Lorenzen said of the postgame celebration. “I found (Tamara), jumped around — hugs, kisses, crying, it was just an odd feeling.

“Like coach (Tom Coughlin) told us before the game, this is the pinnacle of our profession,” Lorenzen said.

“It doesn’t get any higher than this. And for us to feel that, and then to know that our family felt that too, was awesome.”

Sharing tears with his family was a sweet ending to a long season, Lorenzen said. Besides traveling to every game — Tamara braved the minus-23 degree wind chill at the NFC Championship in Green Bay, Wisc. — Tamara and Taylar rarely see him at home during the grueling 10-month span of mini-camps, blazing summer workouts and the season.

“It’s real tough,” Lorenzen said after his daughter’s basketball game. “This is the first basketball (game) I’ve gone to, and there’s only two left. You miss a lot of stuff. You just can’t be around the family all the time, and it’s difficult, especially on the little one.”

Sitting down on Saturday to catch a few minutes of the UK-Alabama game is a luxury the Lorenzens haven’t had with a Super Bowl to worry about. With little more than a post-Super Bowl party later that evening on their minds, Lorenzen and Tamara finally kick back in their quaint one-story house while their black Labrador scratches at the glass door.

Just as Lorenzen starts to finally relax, he jumps up and points at someone on television he used to know while in Lexington. Lorenzen says he just received a text message from her a few days earlier.

Then, as UK guard Ramel Bradley nails a 3-pointer, Lorenzen asks how many games the Cats have won in a row. Before anybody can answer, Taylar yells from the shower.

“It’s too hot,” she shrieks from a back room.

Lorenzen looks at Tamara, who doesn’t budge from the couch. After months of waking up in the morning to take care of Taylar, of rushing to soccer and basketball practices, and of keeping up the house, Tamara wants a break. With little hesitation, Lorenzen says, “I’ll check on her,” and saunters to a back room.

“It’s hard sometimes, and I take it out on him occasionally, but he understands,” said Tamara, who married Jared in July. “I just get tired. He let me sleep until 9:30 the first two days (after he got back from the Super Bowl parade), so I was happy.”

Lorenzen understands the strain he puts on his family being away all the time, but with few football careers lasting longer than 10 years, Lorenzen says it’s a “short-term deal.”

Now, he is home. At least, for a while.

Lorenzen will have to report back to New York on March 31 for spring workouts and mini-camp — if he decides to re-sign with the Giants. Lorenzen, a restricted free agent, said he is happy with the team, but with Manning entrenched as the starter in New York, Lorenzen wouldn’t mind pursuing other options if he was given a chance to play.

“I’m happy where I am, I’m comfortable with where I am,” Lorenzen said. “But there’s a part of me also that wants to have a chance somewhere. It’s just human nature. I look at some of the teams around the league, and I would love a chance to play.”

Sitting on the sidelines is a far cry from Lorenzen’s days in high school and college. At Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Lorenzen played football, basketball and baseball. And at UK, he started all but six games.

Lorenzen said he has great memories at UK, most notably his first game at Louisville freshman year, where he rushed for a career-long 33 yards and tossed his first touchdown pass. He also endured years of probation, three head coaches and the dreaded “Bluegrass Miracle” in 2002, when Louisiana State scored a last-second touchdown on a 75-yard Hail Mary.

Still, Lorenzen called his time in Lexington special. He keeps tabs on the current Cats and thinks head coach Rich Brooks has done a tremendous job with the team. Departing senior quarterback Andre Woodson will be a star in the NFL, he added.

Woodson’s success at quarterback in recent years, leading the Cats to their first back-to-back bowl games since the 1950-51 seasons, has made people in Lexington almost forget the days of Lorenzen. But in Fort Thomas, Lorenzen’s legend has only grown.

Pictures of his high school and college days hang from the walls of a local Applebee’s, and people from all over the restaurant walk by to pat Lorenzen on the back or ask him about his Super Bowl experience.

Lorenzen’s family hasn’t been to the Applebee’s in their hometown for more than a year, but the lore of Lorenzen has noticeably changed from their previous visits. People approached the quarterback in the past and occasionally asked for an autograph, but never like they do now. As Lorenzen watches Taylar bounce around the restaurant, the waitress asks the Super Bowl champ to sign an autograph for the fourth time — this time for a co-worker.

“It never gets old,” he said, “and I hope it never does.”