SIOUX CITY | Former Hartington Cedar Catholic football star Russ Hochstein has not only signed with a new National Football League team, he was already back on the field Sunday as a backup offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hochstein, 34, who has spent most of his pro career with the New England Patriots, winning a couple of Super Bowl rings, played his last of three seasons with the Denver Broncos last year.
Then, after a preseason trial with the Arizona Cardinals, he was one of that team’s final cuts at the end of the exhibition season.
Proof that quality linemen are always in major demand, the 6-4, 305-pounder had to watch only two weeks of games from his rec room before Kansas City signed him last Wednesday. And, four days later, he was not only one of 46 players the Chiefs chose to suit up from their 53-man roster, he also got into the action in a 37-20 loss to San Diego.
Kansas City picked up Hochstein after starting center Rodney Hudson out of Florida State sustained a possible season-ending knee injury. The team has moved veteran guard Ryan Lilja to center and went with Lilja’s backup, Jeff Allen, a rookie from Illinois, in Sunday’s lineup.
Hochstein, of course, could take over that job once he’s had a few days to familiarize himself with the playbook.
A first-team Sporting News All-American as a senior at Nebraska in 2000, Russ was a fifth-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2001. Lingering on the practice squad, he didn’t make his NFL debut until 2001, appearing in one game for the Buccaneers and also one with New England after a mid-season trade.
Three of the next six seasons, he played in nearly every game for the Patriots, who appeared in three Super Bowls during that time -- all of them three-point contests and two of them wins.
A starter in 20 of his 91 games for Bill Belichick, Hochstein also got a little face time in that oft-aired Visa commercial that had quarterback Tom Brady and a female dinner companion being joined on a date by four of Brady’s offensive linemen.
The commercial you probably haven’t seen is the freebie Russ made to promote platelet donations to Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which is certainly typical of a guy with many Siouxland friends who are certainly pulling for him to play pro ball as long as he wants.
It was nearly the end of my first football season with The Journal when I walked the sidelines in Manilla, Iowa, watching old Eastwood High School win a 20-7 Class 1A state semifinal playoff game over old Manilla High on Nov. 11, 1978.
With Dave Nissen at running back and Kelly Goodburn at quarterback, Eastwood went on to clip West Central of Maynard in a 21-20 state title game under Coach Jim Crow, a marvelous fellow who left us far too soon.
What sticks in my mind the most, though, is “the kick,’’ which is as good a way as any to describe the longest punt in Iowa high school football history -- an 86-yard boomer by Goodburn, who went on to punt seven NFL seasons (1987-93) with the Chiefs and Redskins.
Priding myself even then in keeping accurate stats on these high school games, I had to hustle through the Eastwood bench area to reach a point where I felt one of Goodburn’s strong kicks might wind up. When the ball reached the ground untouched and started rolling -- maybe another 25 yards, if memory serves -- the pressure was off.
It rolled dead at the Manilla 1-yard line, or 86 yards from the line of scrimmage, Eastwood’s 13.
All of which comes to mind because I’ve come to learn Kelly’s son, Kyle, is in his second season as the punter for perennial NCAA Division II power Northwest Missouri State, earning the job as a freshman last fall. Not only that, but he ranks fourth nationally after four games with a 45.8 yards average on 21 kicks, launching just a single 50-yarder in a 66-6 rout of Northeastern (Okla.) State on Saturday.
A former multi-sport athlete at Shawnee Mission North in suburban K.C., Kyle was an honors student and his mother, Sara, was elected last year to the seven-member Shawnee Mission school board, which has five high schools and five middle schools.
Kelly, who was born in Cherokee and grew up in Cushing, is now a financial advisor for Bankers and Investors, Co., in Mission, Kan. And, I’ll bet he occasionally shows off that Super Bowl ring he won with the Skins at the Metrodome on Jan. 26, 1992, in a 37-24 verdict that dealt the Buffalo Bills the third of their four consecutive title game losses.
The higher you move up the college football food chain, the more the games are prolonged by all of those commercials. And, of course, this is a good thing because it enables many schools to occasionally trot out those gaudy throwback uniforms, complete with helmets that cost somewhere around $300 a pop.
So, it’s not surprising that games on the FBS side of Division I have reached an average of three hours and 18 minutes through the weekend, which is up four minutes on average over last season. Since the NCAA started keeping track in 2008, by the way, the averages chronologically, have been 3:11, 3:12, 3:12 and 3:14 through last fall.
FCS games are taking 16 minutes less with an average of 3:02 while Division II contests are averaging 2:57 and Division III are at 2:46 -- all up from 2:58, 2:54 and 2:44 a year ago.