Growing up in California, Caylin Hauptmann, like many young football players, remembers watching numerous Super Bowls. And like many young football players, Hauptmann dreamed of possibly being part of a Super Bowl.
In 10 days Hauptmann will be able to live that dream as a member of the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks. The former FIU and now Seahawks offensive lineman will be at Super Bowl XLVIII as his team takes on the Denver Broncos for the NFL championship.
Hauptmann will become the second former FIU football player to be part of a Super Bowl. Former FIU safety Nick Turnbull was a member of the Chicago Bears when they played the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI in Miami. FIU coach Ron Turner was the Bears offensive coordinator that season.
I had a chance to catch up with Hauptmann earlier this week to talk about his rookie season in the NFL and representing FIU in the Super Bowl.
PP: I guess this is not too shabby a way to finish your rookie season in the NFL?
CH: It’s a great feeling. It truly is a blessing to be a part of this team and to have this kind of season. It was great beating the 49ers in the NFC Championship, but we’re focused on the Broncos now and finishing our season the right way.
PP: You started your NFL career as a free agent signee of the Cleveland Browns last summer and then got released. Seattle signed you last September. How would you describe life in the NFL after one season?
CH: It was an eye-opening experience. Expectations in the NFL are high all around. It was a tough season both mentally and physically. You have to keep up every day. You are going against the best football players in the world day in and day out. There are no walk-ons in the NFL. But I think the experience of my first year, especially being a free agent, gave me a chip on my shoulder to work harder and longer.
PP: What has been your role on the Seahawks offensive line this season?
CH: I have played at both guard positions. I’m the backup to the left guard and the right guard. The Seahawks have also had me work at all five O-line positions. I’ve played my part in practice, including center. Even though I played left tackle at FIU, [former FIU] coach [Mario] Cristobal and [former FIU offensive line] coach [Alex] Mirabal would have all the offensive linemen working at different positions during camp to be more versatile. So working at different positions is not anything new to me. It’s just continuous learning in the NFL. You are used to not sitting. It takes time. I’m ready when my name is called.
PP: You will be the second former FIU player in a Super Bowl after safety Nick Turnbull with the Bears in 2006. What does that mean to you?
CH: It’s an honor to represent FIU anytime. I’m happy to be a part of history just like I’m sure Nick is proud to be the first FIU player in a Super Bowl. I tell you what, it’s a hell of a feeling.
PP: What kind of Super Bowl memories did you have when you were a kid growing up in California?
CH: To be honest I kind of treated each football game as its own. I started playing Pop Warner football back home in California and I was infatuated with every football game I saw on TV. It didn’t matter if it was high school, college or the NFL. I loved watching and playing football. I guess the first player I really looked up to was Jets offensive lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson because of his martial arts background. [Hauptmann was a martial arts champion in high school] As far as the Super Bowls, I enjoyed watching the tough Steelers offensive lines and the way they blocked for The Bus Jerome Bettis.
PP: A lot of talk about this Super Bowl is the weather and how it might snow in New Jersey on Feb. 2. You guys have bad weather all the time in Seattle. Do you think the weather will play a factor on Super Bowl Sunday?
CH: Not really because both teams come from cities where bad weather is a factor. We’ve had a little experience when we played the Giants in their stadium. It snowed. Plus, we deal with rain and wind all the time in Seattle.
PP: I know the NFL is a daily grind, but how much have you kept up with FIU football since you graduated?
CH: I have kept up with the team. I’ve spoken with Isame [Faciane] and Greg [Hickman]. They are comfortable to call me and talk about their seasons and the next step they take which will hopefully be in the NFL. Having those kinds of relationships are awesome. You build those relationships through the years you play together at FIU. I hope they get their shots in the NFL.
PP: The Seahawks played the Colts this season and you were signed by Seattle the week they played the Jaguars. But Seattle did not play San Diego. I think you know where I’m going with this question?
CH: [Laughs] Yeah I saw both T.Y. [Hilton] and Cyp [Johnathan Cyprien] in the postgame handshakes. It’s always good to see your former teammates, especially when you have all made it to the NFL. It’s awesome. It’s a dream come true. T.Y., Cyp and Tourek [Williams] all had phenomenal seasons. Cyp is going to be a premier safety in the NFL in the years to come. T.Y. is playing like he played at FIU – just dominating. Tourek had a hell of a year. Tourek sacked Peyton Manning and that’s something you don’t do every day.