Executive summary: I adored this book. And because it offers so very much to so very many, I think you will too. I recommend it to our readers without reservation. Considering you know that I drag products that I think are without merit, you know I’m not shilling here.
So, what is Sean Conley’s outstanding autobiography, The Point After: How One Resilient Kicker Learned there was More to Life than the NFL, all about?
I could give you the Fifth Grade SparkNotes here: It’s about football, the business of football, about overcoming adversity, about being young and dumb and reckless, about faith, about family. It’s about the value of friendships and mentors; how one person’s belief in you can change the entire trajectory of your life. It is about the gamesmanship of the NFL, and the ruthless duplicity of the Shield’s business calculus.
It’s about the mechanics and the mindset of kicking. It’s about living through daily pain; about the dangers of overtraining and undercoaching; about the sport that breaks young men and leaves them hobbling in their 30s.
It is about having a dream and busting your ass to make it happen, but also having the self-awareness to move on when the dream evaporates. It is about your agency in deciding whether and when that dream dies rather than letting an external force decide for you. It is having the confidence in yourself and an adventurous spirit to try new things, to dare to fail even while pouring your life’s blood into achieving success. It is about what comes next.
But, most importantly, it is about setting your priorities in life, in finding value and happiness and love in your every day rather that thinking that next big milestone will be the one to fulfill you.
It has everything you’d want in football book, of course: the plucky underdog from the Erie steel town; the lifelong dream of suiting up on Sundays; overcoming the odds to vault from one improbable feat to the next — from walk-on at a rebuilt DIII program to a Groza Award winner at a once-proud Big East power. It has the cameos you’d expect, of course — Dan Marino, Jim Harbaugh, Jason Hanson, Rocket Ismail, and many more. (Barry Sanders is every bit the bro that he has always been in the public. Who else would play catch with an undrafted free agent kicker all throughout training camp?)
For Alabama fans of particular note are two people who were critical in Conley’s life. The first, is current Alabama LBC, Sal Sunseri — another Yinzer who who eventually got his shot on the big stage. But by far the most important was Conley’s special teams coach at Pitt, Alabama’s Amos Jones. Jones was a DB from Carrollton on some of Bryant’s last teams, and eventually became a GA for the Crimson Tide in 1981-1982. That pedigree got his foot in the door, and he has been a steady coaching presence in the NFL for almost four decades now.
As the only southerner on the coaching staff, Jones was very much out of place, but perhaps it was being an outsider himself that gave Jones the perspective that few had, to give Conley a shot at the big time; to build him up rather than tear him down; to not only believe in Conley but to tell him so; to put him in a position to help Conley at least earn a shot at a pro career. It is instructive too — we all have been given a break, had someone believe in us, been told to keep at it, been given the tools to succeed. For Conley, the first of many was Amos.
The Point After is all of these things and more, delivered in Conley’s endearing if somewhat scattershot ADD style. Yes, he has ADD. And, yes, it shows. But the editors here have done a very good job of tempering the words, rather than giving Conley a new voice. And the unspoken words just beneath are human, universal, unfiltered, and absolutely worth your while.
The Point After: How One Resilient Kicker Learned there was More to Life than the NFL (Lyon’s Press, 2021), is available in hardcover, Kindle edition, Audible, and on CD. Go check this one out.