Once you’ve seen Phillip Supernaw up close, like actually stood toe-to-toe with the 6’5”, 255 pound, six-year NFL veteran — you won’t forget him. In 2014, he was featured on The Tonight Show as “a love child between Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.” Last year, wearefanatics.com voted him the “most attractive” player on the Tennessee Titans’ roster.
Phillip was my go-to tight end back when we were both playing for the Ouachita Baptist Tigers. Except, nobody called him Phillip in those days. Back then he was just “Supe”.
Supe has “it,” that x-factor that makes people shine. At my wedding reception, his special sauce was on full display. Supe is an avid Michael Jackson fan. So when “Thriller” came on, Supe’s shirt came off, and needless to say, most of the ladies in attendance were thrilled.
Maybe it’s his herculean frame or his movie star good looks, or maybe it’s just the fact that his last name is Supernaw, but there’s always been something “super” about Supe.
2018 would have been Supe’s seventh year in the NFL, but even Superman has to deal with kryptonite. For Supe, it’s his foot. He was released from the Titans in early August, with plans undergo the corrective surgery needed to get him back on the field in 2019.
When I called him for this interview, he’d just gotten the news. I started off with the same question I’ve asked everyone else: “Can you tell me about your career, including any statistics or awards you’ve won?”
Supe’s response was classic Supe: “I’ve got no idea about any of that stuff. If someone tells me they were ‘all state’ or whatever in high school, that’s how I know they weren’t.”
The only statistic you need to know about Supe is six years. He was an undrafted free agent from teensy, tiny OBU, yet somehow he carved out a spot on an NFL roster for six straight seasons, playing for the Texans, Ravens, Chiefs, and finally the Titans.
I kept trying to get Supe to talk about the foot problem and the other injuries he’d suffered over the years, but he wouldn’t budge. So I did a little research of my own: broken tailbone, broken ankle, multiple concussions, torn meniscus, torn rotator cuff, multiple AC tears—a total of nine surgeries throughout his career.
It became obvious Supe wasn’t going to talk about himself, so I moved on to broader topics, like the current issues surrounding player safety in the NFL.
“Listen, if you’re scared to get in a car wreck, don’t get in a car,” Supe said. “Guys in the League know what they’re getting into—they’re chasing money. And the guys who say they aren’t, they have forty-million dollar contracts.”
Beyond scholarship money, Supe is the only athlete I’ve interviewed for this series who’s actually been paid to play the game. The farther along we got in our conversation, the clearer it became to me that football meant something different to Supe.
“I’m not chasing some dream to run out of some tunnel. There’s not a single NFL player who plays for the love of game,” Supe said. “If you make the team, you get money. Simple as that.”
Supe is 28, from Houston, Texas, and engaged to an Arkansas girl named Abby Floyd (sorry, ladies). He started playing tackle football when he was eight. This year would’ve made twenty consecutive seasons. That’s a lot of pain, a lot of injury, and even though Supe might have lost some of his “love” for the game, he hasn’t lost his respect for a job well done.
“All these guys talking bad about the NFL, talking about CTE, it kind of offends me,” Supe said. “Because I’m like the ultimate old school, hustle guy, and what they’re saying is guys like me are dangerous.”
Supe believes in his profession. He’s chosen his path and stuck to it. “If I wanted to be an accountant,” he added. “I would’ve done that, but I chose to ram my head through walls.”
For Supe, football is like any other job. It comes with its ups and downs, inherent risks and possible rewards. He’s paid more than his pound of flesh for his signing bonuses and six-figure contracts, but in turn he’s made a good living as an NFL tight end.
And that’s saying something, because football isn’t easy. It’s extremely hard work. But when you’re built like Superman, look like Superman, and work like a construction man, no job—not even the NFL—is too much to handle.
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