Things are a little different for Jon Stinchcomb this summer. Make that a lot different.
For the past nine years, Stinchcomb has about this time been preparing for the rigors of preseason camp with the New Orleans Saints. Last year the veteran offensive tackle had the added anxiety of doing it in under a cloud of uncertainty and on balky knees to boot.
Nevertheless, he put that aside for one weekend each July to join his brother Matt Stinchcomb and buddy David Greene in hosting the annual Countdown to Kickoff preseason football event in Athens. But he always did so knowing the heat and humility of football was just around the next corner.
Not this year. Jon Stinchcomb is now a 32-year-old retiree. He and wife Ali are what he calls “stay-at-home parents.” They have a 2 1/2 -year old little boy named Mason and added daughter Emily Gray to the brood just four weeks ago. So at the moment his biggest concern is how much sleep he is going to get each night.
“Right now we sleep in two and a half hour bursts,” he says with a laugh.
An eight-year veteran who started 80 games in a row at right tackle and won a Super Bowl in New Orleans, Stinchcomb was released by the Saints last August. Though he had numerous offers from other NFL teams to continue playing, he chose to walk away while he still could.
“To be honest with you, I was still hurting,” said Stinchcomb, who was drafted in the second round by the Saints in 2003 after graduating from Georgia. “My knees were pretty sore, probably more than just sore. I didn’t feel like the reward outweighed the risk anymore, especially if I was going to be playing for another team. I’ve asked a lot of my body and, after six knee surgeries, I felt like it was probably a good opportunity for me to step away from the game and be grateful rather than limp away from the game and regret staying around a little too long.”
So Stinchcomb left a million dollars on the table and packed up the family and moved back to Georgia. They’re now living in Lawrenceville. Thanks to a fruitful NFL career and good money management, Stinchcomb is not in a rush to get back to work. And with thermometers expected to blow past 100 this weekend, he’s grateful he’s not still doing his old job.
“Oppressive heat and steamy,” he said of the New Orleans’ camps. “But, you know, I feel like football has been good to me and I’m grateful for every experience that I had with it. I had more good experiences than I ever could have asked for, a Super Bowl, a Pro bowl, a USO Tour, the list goes on and on. So I’ve got no room to complain.”
So it’s a peppier — and much lighter — Jon Stinchcomb who will be signing autographs and glad-handing Georgia football fans for this year’s Countdown to Kickoff event, which will be held Saturday, July 14 on the UGA campus. He has dropped 45 pounds since giving up the game.
“I’m down to about 270 and I don’t have to push around a 300-pound fat guy every day, so I feel pretty good,” Stinchcomb cracked.
This is the seventh year in a row the Stinchcombs and Greenes have hosted “Countdown,” a charity event designed to raise money for Children’s Heathcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Transplant foundation. Dozens of current and former Bulldogs join the three mainstays to sign autographs, play games and generally be available for interaction with their adoring fans. Tickets are $25 apiece or $75 for the family package and can be purchased on the event website at ugakickoff.com.
“This is our seventh rendition of this sucker,” said Jon, promoting the event with his brother and Greene at Children’s Healthcare on Thursday. “We’ve been able to raise $770,000 for charity with it, too, so that’s a good thing. We’re closing in on that $1 million mark and would really like to get there.”
With a less-distracted — though slightly sleep-deprived — Jon Stinchcomb in the fold, they surely will.