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  1. #1
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    Isaiah Kacyvenski: Out to prove something

    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/12/2006


    When the Rams faced off against NFC West rival Seattle on Oct. 15, Isaiah Kacyvenski had been in St. Louis less than two weeks and was reluctant to disparage the team that had released him.

    "I was pretty 'PC' about playing the Seahawks last time," said Kacyvenski, a 6-foot-2, 251-pound linebacker who is considered one of the top special-teams players in the NFL. "But this time ...

    "I know that the Seahawks don't respect the Rams. And I know this group of guys. We're going out there to prove something."

    Kacyvenski, 29, was in his seventh season with Seattle, which selected him in the fourth round of the 2000 draft. He was cut Sept. 29, some seven months after the Seahawks fell to Pittsburgh 21-10 in Super Bowl XL.



    Even though he was told the move was merely the result of a roster shuffle for that week's game and that he would be re-signed the following Monday, Kacyvenski was deeply wounded.

    When the Rams made him an offer, he jumped at it. Retribution, he acknowledged, was a factor. "To be able to play Seattle twice was a big reason why I came here," he said.

    The Seahawks won the first encounter 30-28 at the Edward Jones Dome. Sunday's return to Qwest Field should be ... uh, interesting, Kacyvenski mused. "I've never been in the visitors' locker room, so that might be strange," he said. "I don't how I'll be received there, but it doesn't really matter to me. I'm going in there to win."

    Large doses of determination, perseverance and obstacle-hurdling have shaped Kacyvenski's life. It helps explain how he wound up at Harvard, earned a pre-med degree, and has carved out a solid NFL career on the heels of an upbringing that would have to classified as well outside the bounds of ordinary.

    "Constant fear"

    The five Kacyvenski children a sixth died of pneumonia at 5 months were reared by an abusive, alcoholic father, David, who worked sporadically as a dishwasher and handyman, and a mother, Margaret, a nomadic missionary.

    Money was more than scarce; it was virtually non-existent. Often, the only way David could feed the brood was by rummaging though trash containers for scraps of food that were at least marginally edible. Running water and electricity were luxuries; the kids hunted empty cans for pocket change.

    Beatings were common. Isaiah said the children were in "constant fear" whenever David was home and drunk.

    The Kacyvenskis moved often, mostly in the Northeast. Sometimes, they would scrape together rent money; often, though, they were homeless. The whole group would live in a tent for months, sleeping on the ground and using a makeshift outhouse.

    Isaiah's first real exposure to football came in 1986, when he listened on a battery-powered radio to the Bears and Patriots in the Super Bowl. A couple of years later, watching on a second-hand TV, "the first game I saw was Notre Dame," he said. "I just fell in love."

    Suddenly, Kacyvenski recognized a way to push himself toward a better life. "I couldn't get to sleep one night I was in ninth grade and it dawned on me that I didn't want to let my life pass me by without trying the hardest I could."

    Knowing that Notre Dame was strong on academics, he pushed himself relentlessly in the classroom as well as on the field.

    "Before, I was just mediocre in school and mediocre in football," he said. "But from ninth grade on, I worked my hardest, no matter what it took. In school, things didn't really come to me too easily. But I'd go in early, ask questions before classes started. ...

    "It was long days, but it paid off."

    His parents divorced when he was 9, and Isaiah moved in with his father. "My dad finally got sober," he said. "That kind of solidified everything."

    Isaiah was a senior at Union Endicott (N.Y.) High when he learned that his mother had been killed. On another of her missionary ventures and, as usual, carrying only a few dollars, she was hitchhiking when she was struck by a tractor-trailer.

    Kacyvenski collapsed in tears at the news. His resolve to fulfill his life's dreams intensified.

    "I wasn't intimidated"

    Notre Dame wasn't cooperating, though. Kacyvenski, a three-time all-conference football player as well as a National Honor Society member, bombarded then-Irish coach Lou Holtz with letters, as did his high school coach.

    "I wanted to go there so bad," Kacyvenski said. "He finally got back to us and said, 'You might be able to walk on.'"

    But Holtz went a step further: He told his son, Skip, then the head coach at Connecticut, about Kacyvenski. He received his only scholarship offer from UConn, and he accepted eagerly.

    "Then Harvard came knocking," he said. Kacyvenski was stunned by the invitation to visit the campus in Cambridge, Mass. At first, he declined, partly out of loyalty to Skip Holtz and partly because he was sure that someone with his background wouldn't fit in at arguably the most prestigious university in the country.

    "I thought it'd be all rich kids with pocket protectors," he said. "I just thought it wouldn't be the place for me."

    As it turned out, just the opposite was true.

    "I got there, and it was awesome," Kacyvenski said. "The biggest thing was, I wasn't intimidated by Harvard University. I knew I'd be able to work and do whatever I had to do to get through it. That's what I'd done up to that point. ...

    "I went home and slept on it, and I thought, 'I just can't turn this down.'"

    Kacyvenski was awarded an academic scholarship (Ivy League schools don't offer athletic scholarships), and became the first football player in Harvard history to start every game over four seasons. He was an all-league selection three times and graduated with honors.

    "Appreciate every day"

    Kacyvenski said the difficulties that he endured in his childhood molded his cheery outlook.

    "It makes me appreciate every single day," he said. "I have to pinch myself every time I walk in the locker room and step on the field. I'm doing something I love to do, and I get paid well almost too well for it. I don't ever go through a day regretting anything."

    Kacyvenski married his high school sweetheart, Lauren Antos. They are raising two children, Isaiah Jr., 3, and Lilliana, 8 months, and are thinking about having a third.

    A big, happy, loving family now ranks at the top of Kacyvenski's list of dreams.

    "When I come home, and it's been a long day and I'm all beat up, I just look at (the children) and it always gives me more energy," Kacyvenski said. "I love going home and playing with my kids. I'm sore, everything's hurting, but I'll play tackle football on the floor with my boy, on my knees, for hours on end. ...

    "Especially how I grew up, I want to be the best father these kids could ever have. I'll always have time for my kids, and I'm going to make sure that they know they're loved."


  2. #2
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    Re: Isaiah Kacyvenski: Out to prove something

    Wow this guy can talk and I'll bet that he is motivating the Rams by telling them that "I know that the Seahawks don't respect the Rams". It must be interesting to in the locker room with this guy.

    The fire is lit ....let's throw some gas on it
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  3. #3
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    Re: Isaiah Kacyvenski: Out to prove something

    I don't begrudge him signing with another team, but I think he blew the whole thing a little out of proportion. Immediately after getting released and signing with you guys, he said something like "they said they wanted me back on Monday, and everyone in the NFL knows what that means..." But there was a contract offer on the table that he turned down in order to sign with the Rams, so that was a case where they really did want him back on Monday.

    Given the amount of roster shuffling we've had to do, it's possible if not likely that he would have been released again, had he stayed with the Seahawks. And since his salary was guaranteed by being on our active roster at the start of the season, it's easily understandable why he'd sign somewhere else. And if he has a chance of getting playing time on your defense, it will be a great situation for him. I like the guy and wish him the best, but I do think he took things a little more personally that perhaps he should have.

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    Re: Isaiah Kacyvenski: Out to prove something

    I don't think that you can expect a player to not take personnel moves personally.

    So is he good enough to be a starter on the defense? Or even good enough for special teams? I think I saw him in on one play so far and it was not a good moment for him.
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    Re: Isaiah Kacyvenski: Out to prove something

    Wow, "Seahawks don't respect the Rams", the players are just as scummy as MOST of the fans. That's a shock...cough cough Matt Hasselbeck.


    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

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    Re: Isaiah Kacyvenski: Out to prove something

    Seahawks dont respect the Rams, so what,does that surprize anyone ? they have beaten us 3 in a row,you want respect go out there today and kick there a**es and earn there respect.

  7. #7
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    Re: Isaiah Kacyvenski: Out to prove something

    Can't help but like a guy like Kacyvenski who has gone thru as much as he has to get where he is now...he's a hard working guy with a chip on his shoulder...the fact that he wanted to come to the Rams so he could play the hawks twice a year hints that something more than we've all read happened to him behind the scenes in Seattle

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    Seahawk76 is offline Registered User
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    Re: Isaiah Kacyvenski: Out to prove something

    Quote Originally Posted by UtterBlitz View Post
    I don't think that you can expect a player to not take personnel moves personally.

    So is he good enough to be a starter on the defense? Or even good enough for special teams? I think I saw him in on one play so far and it was not a good moment for him.
    I've followed Kacyvenski for a number of years and, although you can't blame the guy for signing with the Rams, he's overstated the perceived slight by the Seahawks when they waived him. They were definitely going to resign him the following week and he knew it.

    Anyway, to answer your question, Kacyvenski is a very good special teams player, an okay LB backup, but definitely not an NFL-caliber starter. He's a classic overachiever who provides lot of fire, enthusiasm and a great work ethic that's more valuable to a team than his talent, which is mediocre at best.

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