PITTSBURGH - Numerous NFL players are on the move during the season. Jared Retkofsky is the only one who does it in a moving van.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have pulled the only moving man with a Super Bowl ring from last season away from his heavy lifting job to be their long-snapper.
Retkofsky spent the fall working for his girlfriend's brother's moving company in Fort Worth, Texas, and snapping for the New York Sentinels of the United Football League. Then Pittsburgh long-snapper Greg Warren suffered a torn knee ligament for the second successive season.
Retkofsky, a former Texas Christian player, snapped for the Steelers during the second half of last season and the playoffs after Warren's initial knee injury possibly cost them a game. Linebacker James Harrison volunteered for the job when Warren was hurt against the Giants, only to snap the ball into the end zone for a safety that started New York on its 21-14 comeback victory.
"We've been down this road before in Pittsburgh, so it's good to have Jared," coach Mike Tomlin said.
Retkofsky has been down this road before, too. Many roads. He wears his Super Bowl ring on purpose when soliciting business - now that's a calling card - and he said customers don't believe his sofa-lifter-to-Super-Bowl story when he tells it.
"When we go out and do estimates, go into people's houses and tell them how much it would cost, I'd wear my ring in there and [they] get a kick out of it," he said.
Retkofsky's error-free work as Warren's replacement last season didn't win him a job in the NFL this season - he injured a shoulder during a motorcycle accident last spring - but he's had plenty of interest. In the two-week period before the Steelers signed him Monday, he had tryouts with the Redskins, Falcons, and Texans.
Talk about a man on the move. The moving company is understanding about him leaving without warning; after all, that Super Bowl ring generates a lot of business.
Retkofsky also enjoyed playing in the fledgling UFL this season, even if relatively few fans were aware the league was in existence.
"I got the opportunity to keep playing football. We all got a paycheck," he said. "A lot of those guys are getting second chances now, a lot of those guys are getting picked up [by NFL teams]. They get an opportunity to keep playing football, and NFL teams get a chance to look at them. They haven't just been sitting on the couch for two months, they've been playing football."
Just before joining the Steelers last season, Retkofsky was happy upon getting a $3 an hour pay raise to $15 an hour at a moving job. Now he's making NFL money again, at least as long as the Steelers (7-7) keep playing.
Spiraling a 15-ounce NFL football to a punter or a holder might seem a lot easier than hefting a 150-pound sofa, but a 260-pound linebacker isn't trying to barrel through a moving man.
"I'll take the pressure of snapping a football over moving a couch any day," he said.
Retkofsky was happy to be called back by the Steelers, though he was disappointed that Warren was injured again. Warren was hurt Sunday on the final play of the Steelers' 37-36 victory over Green Bay while snapping on Jeff Reed's extra point.
Retkofsky was on his way home from the Redskins' tryout when Warren called to tell him about his injury.
"It's a bad situation, but he's a good friend of mine," Retkofsky said. "I've learned a lot, most of my technique and skill from Greg himself."
Retkofsky is very familiar himself with bad situations. He had an unsettled life growing up; he didn't know his father, and his mother had drug problems and often was unable to raise him.
At age 12, he was living with his best friend's family until the father killed the mother and himself in a murder-suicide. Retkofsky was subsequently taken in by a couple, Eric and Kelley Dennis, who ended up raising him. He now calls them Mom and Dad.
While with his new family, Retkofsky began playing football and learned how to snap, an unusual avocation for a high school fullback. He was recruited by TCU, where he played the defensive line and snapped before earning a degree in speech communications.
No wonder the nomadic life of an NFL specialist seems like a dream occupation to Retkofsky.