The NFL Story
Joe Cummings Missoula Fly Fishing Guide
My NFL story is about hard work, good luck, a couple tough breaks and enjoying an incredible life enriching experience at America’s best game.
Football is a family affair. My father was also an NFL player for the Broncos and Jets and was inducted into the Stanford Hall of Fame. Myself and my two brothers grew up in the game. My two youngest brothers were exceptional high school players but took different roads into college. There are 113 father/son combinations that have played in the NFL in its history.
I went to high school in Stevensville, Montana. When you fish the Bitterroot river you drive right past the small town I grew up in. I was blessed to be on great teams with other strong athletes in my class. Our best finish was 2nd in State Class A my senior year. After the season I was named the Player of the Year for all classes in Montana.
I was offered a scholarship to the University of Wyoming and played for the Cowboys from 92-95. I got my first starts as a skinny true freshman middle Linebacker and continued to start the next three years in various defensive positions that ended with an First Team All-WAC selection at defensive end my senior year. My head coach was Joe Tiller who went on to rebuild the Purdue program taking them to the Rose Bowl and helping mentor Drew Brees the current starting All Pro QB for the Saints.
Rookie Year 1996
I was offered a camp meat contract as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles. I was not supposed to make that team, 4th string on the depth chart first day of camp, because of the questions about my athleticism and the ability to transition to the Middle Linebacker position. I was cut by the Eagles, but played well enough in the pre-season to get a call up from the San Diego Chargers the 3rd week of the season. It was a try out with 4 other veteran linebackers and I got the job and made the roster in 1996. Head Coach – Bobby Ross. Famous Players on that team – Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison, Kurt Gouveia, and Stan Humphries.
Second Year 1997
I was cut by the Chargers in the offseason when head coach Bobby Ross left. I was immediately picked up off of waivers by the Green Bay Packers and went to camp with them. Although I played well enough that year to beat out 3 other veterans and make it to the top six linebackers the team decided to keep two kickers – Brett Conway and Ryan Longwell and only hold 5 linebackers. Head Coach – Mike Holmgren. Famous Players – Brett Farve, Reggie White. So I was cut and did not pick up with a team all that season.
Third Year 1998
I was signed by the Buffalo Bills in the offseason and allocated to the Barcelona Dragons in the now defunct NFL Europe. I started the every game for the Dragons as an outside linebacker in the Spring of 1998. We weren’t a great team but we did have a bunch of good players that went on to be NFL players.
I went to camp as the 4th string linebacker in Buffalo. I had honed my skills in Europe and ended up climbing the depth chart and making the team. I had three starts that year and earned 4 game balls for my performances filling in for starter John Holececk. This was probably my best year of football in my career. Head Coach – Wade Phillips Famous Players – Bruce Smith, Doug Flutie, Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas, Sam Gash.
Fourth Year 1999
I made the Buffalo Bills again and started two games as well being a core special teams player. We were the number one defense in the NFL that year. The highlight for me was a game against the Brad Johnson led Redskins. I got the start and had my only career sack in game in which we beat the number one offense in the league. The season ended with a heart breaker to the Tennessee Titans in a famous game dubbed “Miracle at Music City.”
Fifth Year 2000 – 2001
I was an unrestricted free agent and did not garner a contract. I had numerous interviews with teams, but no takers. I went back to the University of Wyoming and earned an English degree. At the end of that semester the XFL, a startup league funded by Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation drafted me. I started the first game of the season for the Orlando Rage and injured myself on a tough tackle. I lost the use of my right arm for three months due to a major neck injury. That was the end of the road physically for me and transitioned quickly to guiding my Home Waters in Missoula, Montana.
I was a utility linebacker for three years in the NFL and became a vested veteran in the NFL Player’s union. Two years in the “Minors” paid some bills and helped me improve as player. I did get retirement that will be some small income beginning in my 50s. Mainly I learned that if you don’t give up and just keep working towards your goals you can achieve success at a high level.