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At 42, Landeta's alive and kicking
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Oct. 13 2004
Sean Landeta had just turned 9 when Jim O'Brien's last-second field goal gave
hometown Baltimore a 16-13 victory over Dallas in Super Bowl V.
"Me and every other kid in Baltimore, we wanted to be that guy, because he just
won the Super Bowl," Landeta recalled. "So we went out and started kicking
field goals over an old volleyball net."
That's how it started for Landeta - on a playground close to home in suburban
****eysville, Md. Make a mark in the dirt with your heel, stick the ball in the
ground, then take a running start.
Still, the kicking and punting was all for fun - just playground stuff - until
the summer before his senior year at Loch Raven High.
"I was going to get my senior picture taken, I guess this was August of '78,"
Landeta said. "As I was leaving, just by coincidence, the football coaches
happened to be coming right by."
They exchanged pleasantries, then one of the coaches, Ben Petrilli said:
"Your friends say you kick pretty well. Why don't you come out and kick for
Landeta accepted the offer. Over the years, Landeta has often thought about
what would have happened, how his life would have turned out, had he not bumped
into the coaches that day. What if he'd hit a red light on the way to school
that day? What if the photographer needed to take another picture?
But none of that happened. More than a quarter of a century later, Landeta is
still punting. He parlayed that one season of high school kicking into a
partial scholarship to what was then known as Towson State.
He was an NCAA Division II All-American in 1982 as a punter, kicked three
seasons in the old USFL for the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stars and then signed
with the New York Giants in 1985.
He's been punting in the NFL ever since. The 2004 campaign marks his 20th NFL
season, making him one of only nine players in the history of the league to
have played 20 seasons.
"I can't believe, with the USFL, it's been 23 years," Landeta said. "It just
goes so fast. You blink your eyes. You just try and appreciate every one. You
wish there could be another 23 ahead of you."
At age 42, he may not be booming them like he did in 1986 and 1990 - his two
Pro Bowl seasons. But he's still better than average. Five games into the '04
season, Landeta's 43.4-yard punting average is tied for 13th in the NFL. If
that average holds, it will be Landeta's second-best since the 1996 season -
when he ended his first tour of duty with the Rams.
Landeta was practically a pup at 34 back then. But new special teams coach
Frank Gansz wanted a younger leg. Landeta ended up in Tampa Bay in 1997. That
younger leg, rookie Will Brice, lasted six games for the Rams. Ironically, it
then took 38-year-old Mike Horan to finish out that season.
Horan, balding at the time, showed up at Rams Park wearing a T-shirt and blue
jeans on the day he signed in '97. Some players thought he was a janitor.
"I was one of them," said Jeff Wilkins, then in his first year as the Rams'
place-kicker. "I walked into the players' lounge, and I saw (Horan). He was
just kind of hanging out. I felt like saying, 'Dude, this is the player's
lounge.' And then he introduced himself."
The reception was a little warmer for Landeta in March 2003, when he returned
to the Rams after the year in Tampa Bay, one in Green Bay (1998) and four in
As he walked through the Rams Park facility that day, he saw a couple of his
new teammates working out.
"Hey Coach, how you doing?" the players said to Landeta.
"Actually I was one of those guys," long snapper Chris Massey said. "I remember
him from before with the mustache and kind of the long hair. When he walked
through the locker room, I (thought), 'Man, we signed a new coach. Is this the
Uh, no. The new punter.
A punter who has launched more punts - 1,342 - than anyone in the history of
A punter whose regular-season and postseason kicks in pro football have
traveled 70,036 yards, or about 40 miles. That's roughly the distance from Rams
Park to the Edward Jones Dome. And back.
A punter who was kicking in his first Super Bowl for the New York Giants in the
1986 season when Massey was 7.
"He's probably the greatest punter in NFL history," Massey said.
Which is far from what Landeta envisioned when he ran into Coach Petrilli that
"If you stop and think about it, it's so much more than I ever thought it would
possibly be," Landeta said. "I've always really appreciated the opportunity to
do it, and realized how lucky I was to be doing it. You never think you have it
"Because of that, you know the old saying - stop to smell the roses - that's
something I've very seldom done. But I think it has to be that way. I don't
think you can ever rest and think everything's OK. Because everything may be OK
at that moment, but there's no guarantee it will be - later that day, or the
next day - as your career goes."
Landeta's practice routine has remained the same for years. During the regular
season, he'll hit about 40 to 50 balls on Wednesday; on Thursday, about 30; on
Friday, about 25. He rests his leg on Saturday, then boots about 25 to 30
during pregame on Sunday.
Even now, he practices like he did back at Towson. He'll carry two or three
footballs out to the practice field, punt them to one end of the field; walk
down, pick them up, and punt them the other direction.
"Every year, you just try to do the same thing," he said. "Stay healthy. Do
everything that's necessary. Stretch. Lift. Run. Practice."
Hot tub, cold tub. Massage. Chiropractor. Nothing magical. Nothing mysterious.
Year after year after year.
"It just doesn't seem like his leg ever gets tired," Wilkins said. "He's not
thinking about shutting it down any time soon. The way he's punting, I could
easily see him going a couple more years - three, four, five years. You've got
to figure after 20-something years, he's got something figured out."
When Landeta returned to St. Louis after his six-year hiatus, he found not much
had changed at Rams Park. The players are better; so the team is winning.
That's about it.
"All the people upstairs are the same," he said. "It's just the perception of
the team, and just the result on game day. For the most part, everything else
is kind of the same."
Including Landeta's friends. He still hangs out with some of his St. Louis
cronies from the mid-'90s. ... Tony Catarinicchia from Gian-Tony's; Bart
Saracino from Bartolino's; Charlie Gitto; Mark Cusumano from Kemoll's; Dave
McNutt of Laclede Cab; Charlie Fazio from the Fazio bakery family; and Gus
Torregrossa of Gus's Fashions & Shoes, to name a few.
"During the season, I'll see every one of them once or twice a week when I'm
not here (at Rams Park)," Landeta said. "It's nice to have places to go.
"And these guys, three or four times in the six years I was gone, they came to
Green Bay, they came to Philly, they'd all come out for a game," Landeta said.
"They've stayed in touch. And I've stayed in touch. Just great people."
In a way, it's almost like Landeta never left.
Rams punter Sean Landeta is one of nine players in NFL history
to have played 20 or more seasons in the league.
Seasons Pos. Player Teams (Years)
26 QB-K George Blanda Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, Oakland
23 K Morten Andersen New Orleans, Atlanta, N.Y. Giants,
Kansas City, Minnesota (1982-2004)
23 K Gary Anderson Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San
Francisco, Minnesota, Tennessee (1982- 2004)
21 QB Earl Morrall San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Detroit,
N.Y. Giants, Baltimore, Miami (1956- 1976)
20 CB Darrell Green Washington (1983-2002)
20 P Sean Landeta NY Giants, Rams, Tampa Bay, Green
Bay, Philadelphia (1985-2004)
20 DE Jim Marshall Cleveland, Minnesota (1960-1979)
20 WR Jerry Rice San Francisco, Oakland (1985-2004)
20 OT Jackie Slater Rams (1976-1995)
Re: At 42, Landeta's alive and kicking
Look. It was a nice obituary by Thomas. Didn't know he had been demoted from Sports Journalist. Didn't know till recently either that Dicck Vermeil was the 1st Special Teams' Coordinator to be hired in the NFL and he started that position with the Rams. Wonder if there is more than coincidence to that and his STs having success in Stl. and KC? Don't be shy Mike, steal some KRs and PRs from the past.
Anyway, still think that Landeada's experience should telling him to be kicking line drives, for greater distance, directly out of bounds ... but, hey, that is me ... I don't have to roll over in my grave ...