What is it like chasing a dream that always seems to elude you before eventually finding success in a direction that never crossed your mind?
That question is answered in the book “The Point After” by Sean Conley with the subtitle “How One Resilient Kicker Learned There Was More to Life than the NFL.”
Conley grew up thinking there wasn’t more to life than kicking in the NFL.
Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, he was obsessed with becoming an NFL kicker even though at the time (1993) there were only 28 kicking jobs.
He was first intrigued with football when he tried in a Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
Even though he didn’t win, he writes, “I was eight and it was fun. That was the same outlook I would need years later. But I was hooked. That night, I began sleeping with my football.”
He felt, “There was one way to succeed and be happy and that was to play football.”
But the road was never easy for him. His high school didn’t have a team and he didn’t get to a Division I school until his senior year when he went to Pitt and won the job.
He made 16 of 19 kicks, was named to First Team All Big East Team, the First Team All-Academic Big East Team and nominated for the Lou Groza Award given to the best kicker in college football.
He wasn’t drafted but got into camps with three teams, but he couldn’t overcome the damage he’d done to his leg by overtraining.
He could kick well in the tryouts but then his leg was no longer strong enough to do it consistently. And he had to deal with a lot of pain.
He did make it through a short season in or the Scottish team in the World League of American Football. He made nine field goals in six games and got a $2,500 check for having the second-longest field goal in the league.
He is very candid about how difficult those days were when he was often broke, only spent $30 for wedding rings at a flea market and had five roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s for $5 on his one-night honeymoon.
Still, he didn’t want to give up. He contacted teams in the Arena League, which paid $500 a game.
He went to a workout with the Albany Firebirds and was offered a contract. What happened next is the most poignant scene in the book.
He told the executive he had to talk to his wife and they found a quiet spot under the stadium bleachers to talk.
“You always told me it was the NFL or bust,” she said “This isn’t the NFL. You played in the NFL. You’ve done it.”
“But I’m quitting,” he said.
“What else do you have to prove,” she said. “It’s hard watching you go through the pain.”
“I looked out at the indoor arena…Is this the end? My heart felt nothing. I looked back at Karen. I placed my hands on her shoulders.”“You’re right,” I said. “It’s time.”
They left without telling the executive because he feared if he went back to his office, he would be talked into signing.
So it was over.
And he suffered another setback when his father died of colon cancer.
But the book has a happy ending. His wife had a yoga studio but she got a teaching job and would have had to close it. Sean then decided to become a yoga instructor to keep the business going.
Their shop, Amazing Yoga, now has three locations in Pittsburgh.
He found out there was more to life than football. And he has written a captivating book about his journey.
He ends the book, “I am grateful for right now.”