The dream of all football players of any age is to play in the Super Bowl. That dream unfortunately is only attained by a select fraternity in which some of the greatest players of all-time have not belonged. That dream has become reality for former Butler Grizzly star Jeremy Mincey who will take the field this Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII on the defensive line for the Denver Broncos.
"It is definitely a dream and I am absolutely humbled to be apart of a team and something special like this," said Broncos defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey.
Butler County's tie to the greatest sporting event in the world nearly did not happen.
"I was signed to Jacksonville State out of high school but something in my heart was telling me that I need to go to Butler," said Mincey, "It was one of my greatest blessings to attend Butler, Coach Troy Morrell gave me an opportunity that would change my life."
Mincey made the right decision.
In 2003, he helped lead the Grizzlies to a 12-0 record for their fourth NJCAA national title while being named to All-KJCCC squad. Mincey recorded 59 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback sacks, one interception, two pass breakups, three forced fumbles, four recovered fumbles and a sack for a safety in 2003.
"The coaching at Butler was great and gave me a chance to play at the university I always wanted to play for in the University of Florida," said Mincey, "Butler instilled in me the type of work ethic that I utilize to this day, Coach Morrell and Coach Braet each implored to me to take advantage of my time and to work harder every day."
As a senior for the Gators in 2005, Mincey earned second-team All-SEC honors when he finished his final collegiate campaign with 62 tackles and 10.5 tackles for a loss. In his two seasons at Florida, Mincey started in each of the 24 games in which he played for the Gators.
Mincey's road to the NFL was not one that was paved in gold. After his senior season at Florida Mincey was drafted in the sixth round 191st overall by the New England Patriots in 2006.
"I loved Bill Belichick, he was probably one of the only coaches who asked about my family and was sincere about it and he gave me an opportunity to showcase my talents in the league," said Mincey.
Mincey did not catch on with the Patriots as their defense was loaded with veterans but made the roster for the San Francisco 49ers.
"That is when I really just dedicated myself and focused and worked as hard as I could to make the active roster, after my first season I was offered a contract by San Franciso and Jacksonville, I chose Jacksonville first because I wanted to finish my degree at Florida," said Mincey.
Page 2 of 3 - Mincey came into the Jaguar camp ready for his first campaign in the NFL.
"In my second year with Jacksonville I strained my calf in training camp, I was having a really good camp until I got hurt, the Jacksonville Jaguars called me into the office and told me they were going to cut me," said Mincey.
With tears in his eyes Mincey poured out his heart to coach Jack Del Rio.
"I told him that I just wanted an opportunity and that I would play on the practice team and work my way up I just needed the opportunity," he said.
Mincey got his opportunity.
In 2007, he worked his way into six regular season games and two playoff games and finished with 12 tackles (seven solo), and one quarterback sack.
After cracking the first team Mincey's career looked to be on the rise. In offseason workout drills Mincey broke his wrist and was put on the physically unable to perform list, Mincey played in the final three games of the Jaguars' season in 2008.
The plague of injuries continued for Mincey as a broken right thumb prevented him from participating in training camp and he was subsequently reverted to injured reserve list and did not play during the entire 2009 season.
"At this point I was contemplating retirement wondering why all these bad things kept happening to me, but something inside me said keep fighting and keep going," said Mincey.
After surgery to repair his thumb Jacksonville called again to give Mincey another shot. Mincey worked on the practice squad again until an injury to starter Aaron Kampman gave Mincey his turn with the first team.
"The day I was told I was going to be with the first team I broke my right hand in practice, I remember laying in bed contemplating how I was going to play but something told me I was going to play," Mincey said. He had his hand cast and after sitting out the first game of the 2010 season, Mincey played the final 15 games with one good hand. Mincey started eight of them, compiling 31 tackles and three pass deflections.
In his first offseason as a professional Mincey escaped without injury in 2011 and had a career year. He started all 16 games and compiled eight sacks during the 2011 season and 100 tackles at defensive end, which led the team. Mincey earned a contract extension with Jaguars signing a four-year contract in 2012. His cinderella story in Jacksonville came to unfortunate end late this season as he was cut from the team on December 13.
"I made a mistake here and a mistake there and I was cut and I was hurt for how hard I worked in Jacksonville to build my legacy and have the media shatter it," Mincey said.
Page 3 of 3 - What seemed to be a misfortune turned into another opportunity to be seized by Mincey as four days after being cut he was signed by the Denver Broncos.
"I was contacted by the Broncos and my familiarity with coach Del Rio and his defense made the decision easy," said Mincey, "This is like a dream, this doesn't happen to anybody, in the history of the league there is probably not another player that has had this kind of ride."
This Sunday, Mincey will begin to see his dream realized as he suits up and head out the tunnel for the biggest game of the year.
"Go the extra mile, never be satisfied with just doing enough, I would not be where I am at today without that work, sometimes I take a look around and wonder how I can keep up but you have to find a way, in all that you do find a way," said Mincey.