HONESTLY, I don't know how he does it.
No, not the magic. I don't know how he does that, either, or even how Jon Dorenbos consistently hits the hands of the punter or the placeholder over 13 seasons in the National Football League. Or that a player with such a limited specialty has lasted so long, 149 straight games as the Eagles' long snapper - and counting.
How, really, Jon Dorenbos has lasted at all.
That's what really hit you during his second appearance on America's Got Talent Tuesday night. Not that judges like Heidi Klum or Simon Cowell were again blown away by a card trick. Not that Dorenbos seemed so nerve-free, so smooth and at ease as he wooed and wowed the celebrity judges and an audience transfixed on those consistent hands of his.
No, what really hit you was his shoutout before all that to someone he called "My mother, my aunt,'' - a reminder that the very idea that Dorenbos and his sister, Krissy, are doing anything positive at all is his greatest act of mysticism, the greatest magic of all.
We've all written pieces of his story over the years. Many of you have read some, or maybe even all of them. Dorenbos was only 12, visiting a friend's house when his father Alan, a software specialist, bludgeoned to death his mother, Kathy, during a dispute in the garage of their suburban Seattle home in August 1992.
Convicted of second-degree murder after claiming he acted in self-defense, Alan Dorenbos went to prison for 11 years, sending Jon and his sister into foster care, triggering a story of survival more unlikely and incredible than any trick Dorenbos could ever conjure; more unlikely, too, than his NFL career.
The key figure in that survival story was in the audience Tuesday night. Dorenbos introduced his late mother's sister, Susan Hindman, as someone who "Gave up her entire life, did everything she could to fight for my sister and (me).'' Sitting aside Dorenbos' girlfriend Annalise, Susan Hindman bowed her head momentarily, then wiped tears from her eyes.
She was not the only one. Audience members were seen wiping tears. Guest judge Ne-Yo - who would later automatically advance Dorenbos by pounding his golden buzzer - stood on his feet and applauded the woman who, single and only 32 at the time, became "Aunt-Mother" only after a protracted legal battle to gain custody of the two Dorenbos kids.
"She saved our lives,'' he has said. She did so with endless encouragement, even when it came to magic. Rather than dismiss or dissuade Dorenbos, Hindman connected him with an acquaintance who was a local magician.
Ken Sands taught Dorenbos a few secrets, but the big message was about showmanship, dynamics. The card tricks Dorenbos has performed on the show have impressed. But what really strikes you is how engaging the Eagles center is, even among judges who have their own impressive careers as entertainers.
"You know somewhere, during those years of therapy, I remember telling my sister that we could live forever stuck in that whole incident," Dorenbos said. "Or we could do something with ourselves and with our lives.
"I think we've kind of both chosen that (latter) approach.''
Krissy, now Kristina Simeone, is an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. She and her husband, Timothy, have spent much of their professional career researching epilepsy, most recently measuring how effective a special high-fat diet - called the ketogenic diet - can be in controlling seizures of patients unresponsive to available medications.
"We are using the ketogenic diet as a key to unlock the mystery behind epilepsy and its spectrum of associated disorders," Kristina said recently in a story appearing on the Creighton University website.
As anyone vaguely familiar with epilepsy will attest, it would be life-altering magic. Again, I don't know how the two of them got past that awful day, forging lives that leave many of us amazed if not breathless.
I do know therapy was involved. Dorenbos is pretty open about that, just as he was Tuesday night in acknowledging the woman who, at the very least, headed up his and Krissy's rescue team.
So I will be looking forward to his next trick. Not so much to be wowed again, but as a healthy reminder that most heroes do not perform in stadiums or on stages.
Susan Hindman gave up a chunk of her life, so that two little kids could have one.
You don't have to be a fan of magic or football to be amazed by that.