|Posted on June 19, 2018 at 7:15 PM|
Damon Huard's time in the NFL stretched from the 1996 offseason with the Cincinnati Bengals, to years as Dan Marino's backup with the Miami Dolphins, to time in NFL Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy, to years as Tom Brady's backup with the New England Patriots, to a strong stint with the Kansas City Chiefs and finally, an offseason with the San Francisco 49ers in 2009.
It was an interesting journey, one that included winning two Super Bowl rings and setting the NFL's single-season record for interception-percentage. I talked with Damon about that journey, what it meant for him to finally catch his first break as an NFL starter, what it was like to be around Tom Brady at the earliest stages of his career and what he's doing now with some of the best wines you'll find in the state of Washington.
Ryan: Damon, many remember you from your time with the Chiefs in the mid-late 2000s, but you were working hard to break into the NFL as early as 1996 with the Bengals. Tell me a little bit about that journey and what it meant to you by the time you had the opportunity to start your first game in the NFL.
Damon: "Getting cut by the Bengals was tough. I thought my career was over. Fortunately, I got a call from the Dolphins the next spring and Jimmy Johnson gave me an opportunity to compete and I made the most of it. I had to wait until 1999 for my first meaningful action in the league. When I got in there, I had a great team around me, including the mentorship from Dan Marino. It was very satisfying to have some success after all the hard work put in those first three years."
Ryan: You competed with a young Tom Brady to have the opportunity to back up Drew Bledsoe in New England. We all know the legend that Tom has worked himself into becoming, but as someone who was there with him in the quarterback room, in camp, in practice—what was Brady like back then?
Damon: "Crazy competitive, incredible teammate, hard worker, great listener, and driven to be the best. Nothing was going to stop him."
Ryan: You backed up two Hall of Famers: Dan Marino toward the end of his career and Tom Brady toward the beginning of his. What differences and similarities did you see between the two quarterbacks?
Damon: "They are very similar in their mental makeup. [They're both] extremely confident in their abilities, they both tilt the room when they walk in, they have that presence about them that the great ones have. They make their teammates around them better with their confidence and energy."
Ryan: You’re credited with mimicking Peyton Manning’s pre-snap routine to help the Patriots defense prepare for the 2003 AFC Championship game. Whose idea was that: yours, Bill Belichick’s?
Damon: "That was Coach Belichicks idea. We had played the Colts a bunch over the years and we knew that they were a 4-3 Tampa 2 team for the most part and not real exotic on defense. So I spent a bunch of time that week watching their offense and doing the best I could to give our defense a great look on scout team. It was very cool to be recognized by him in the lockeroom after that 2003 AFC Championship game. Bill had a great way of making everybody on the roster feel a part of the team. He was great at defining everyone’s role. I felt like the most important backup quarterback on the planet and certainly felt a sense of accountability to the Patriots despite playing so little."
Ryan: Your best season, in my opinion, was 2006 with the Chiefs—finishing the year with 11 touchdowns to 1 interception and a 98.0 passer rating. You were the 2nd highest rated passer in the league, behind Peyton Manning (1st, 101.0) and ahead of Drew Brees (3rd, 96.2). Did you know that your 0.4% interception-percentage still stands as the best single-season mark in NFL history?
Damon: "I see that stat on ESPN every once in a while. We had an awesome team that year. We could really run the football with an incredible offensive line: Wiil Shileds, Brian Waters, to name a few, and hard nose running back, Larry Johnson. It made for an awesome play action passing attack. Tony Gonzalez was the best tight end to ever play the game and he made me look good. We preached no turnovers and protecting the football. You do that in the NFL and you win alot of games."
Ryan: Can you tell me a bit about “Passing Time” wine and how it is that you got involved in the field?
Damon: "Passing Time is the realization of an idea between two friends and teammates sparked by a mutual love for Washington wine. It was Dan’s vision, and my heritage and commitment to quality that set the stage for Passing Time to be Washington State’s next world-class winery. We make three cabs from the three Appleations that do it best in Washington (Walla Walla, Red Mountain, and the Horse Heaven Hills). We just bottled our fifth vintage (2016) last week. The 2015 Cabs were recently rated 97, 97, and 95+ by acclaimed critic Jeb Dunnuck (previously of the Wine Advocate). These scores put us in the top 5% of all domestic wines, and the third highest rated winery for Cabernet in the state of Washington. For more info please visit www.passingtime.com"
Follow Damon Huard on Twitter: @damonhuard
Follow Ryan Michael on Twitter: @theryanmichael