Pack’s Kuhn imparts Super Bowl wisdom, awaits chance to play
The next one would mean so much more because Kuhn would feel like he’d done more to earn it.
Kuhn was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad when they won the Super Bowl in February 2006, and the team gave him a ring even though he didn’t play.
“I don’t look at it all that much,” Kuhn said. “I was on the practice squad. I got a lot of great experiences out of it, and it was a tremendous time, a great week. But I’ve always told myself I wanted to get on an active roster and win one on the field.”
Since coming to Green Bay in 2007, Kuhn has evolved from special-teams contributor to fullback folk hero for his unlikely touchdown-scoring exploits for the Packers this season. Now he has a shot at another ring against his former team in next Sunday’s Super Bowl — and this time, he’ll surely be on the field instead of the sideline.
And when he touches the ball, expect the green and gold-clad portion of the Cowboys Stadium crowd to be loud. They won’t boo; they’ll yell, “Kuuuuuhn!”
“I’m really excited,” Kuhn said. “I was secretly hoping (to play Pittsburgh) because I still have a bunch of friends over there. It’s just a special feeling. I’ve got a lot of friends and family and people rooting for me that are Steeler fans, and it’s going to be great.”
And with the Packers scheduled to arrive Monday afternoon in North Texas, some teammates already have been leaning on Kuhn’s Super Bowl experience. For all the Packers’ star power on both sides of the ball, defensive lineman Ryan Pickett chuckles at the idea that Kuhn is the one player qualified to tell everybody what it’s like to win a Super Bowl.
“That shows how hard it is to get to this point, man,” Pickett said. “Players like me, and Drive (Donald Driver) and (Charles) Woodson and all the other older guys been playing all this time and don’t have a ring. It’s tough to get one. Everybody wants one. It is funny that John Kuhn is the only one that has one.”
Rookie running back James Starks said teammates are having a good time with Kuhn’s status as an elder Super Bowl statesman.
“Yeah, we make little jokes here and there about him, (that) he’s been here before,” Starks said. “It’s his ring. He already had it.”
Kuhn said teammates are turning to him for advice on how to handle the biggest week of their careers. Kuhn is echoing the message from Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who wants the team to think of the Super Bowl as a football game first and an event second.
“I’ve talked to a few guys, several guys, but we’ve all done a pretty good job of just trying to put this in perspective where you have the Super Bowl as an event, and you have the football game,” Kuhn said. “The event is something nobody’s experienced; everybody’s experienced games this year. So I think we’ve all got that in mind — don’t let the event take over the game.”
Kuhn said the Steelers’ Super Bowl team he was a part of did a good job of ignoring the enormity of the event.
“It’s as big or as little as you want to make it,” Kuhn said. “But I think the guys here, we’ve been waiting for a long time here to get back to this game, to get back to this opportunity for this franchise, so I think we’re going to take advantage of it.”
That said, Kuhn figures a few of his teammates will enjoy the spotlight.
“You need to embrace it,” Kuhn said. “You need to really enjoy the fact that you’re there. But at the same time, you need to win that game. You’re there to play a game, ultimately, and to try to win it. If you win it, it makes all the memories that much sweeter.”
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As an undrafted free agent out of Division II Shippensburg, Kuhn signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He was released before the start of the regular season, but the team later signed him to the practice squad. That gave Kuhn a front-row seat for the Steelers’ run to the Super Bowl.
Kuhn had the chance to play the following season, when he was signed to the Steelers’ active roster in midseason and played in nine games, largely on special teams. Then he went to Green Bay, the next step in what would become an unlikely transition to a scoring threat this season.
After a season-ending injury to running back Ryan Grant in the first week of this season, Kuhn suddenly found himself with more chances to touch the ball. He made more if it than anybody ever could have imagined, scoring a total of six touchdowns rushing and receiving.
In the Packers’ must-win game against the New York Giants in the second-to-last contest of the regular season, Kuhn rushed for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass.
Now the stage is bigger, and Kuhn can’t wait.
“I’m anxious already for the game,” Kuhn said. “I want to get there, and I want to play. Because, like I said, this has been something that I’ve looked at ever since I was there with Pittsburgh, and I just wanted to get back there and play so badly. And to be back there and play against Pittsburgh, it’s a whirlwind of emotions, but I’m more excited than anything.”