Snee announces retirement: A big man who left a lasting legacy
BY JOBY FAWCETT
Times Shamrock Writer
His massive, muscular body that had helped him reach the pinnacle of professional football could no longer endure the pain it so often could ignore.
That same massive, muscular body that pushed around so many of the NFL’s elite defensive linemen of the last decade finally forced him into an agonizing decision.
It forced him out.
During 10 years of battles waged and championships won in the trenches for the New York Giants, Chris Snee carved himself a legacy of greatness by doing simple jobs well, often at an All-Pro level. He pushed and plowed open holes. He protected his close friend and quarterback, Eli Manning. For an offensive lineman, it’s the highest form of praise.
On Monday, as preseason camp was ready to begin, he faced that inevitable truth that he could no longer play the game he loved so much.
His day was hectic. Frantic even at times.
His emotions overwhelming.
“It’s a bittersweet day,” he said while choking up, cupping his chin, and shaking his head almost in his own disbelief in front of a gallery of reporters at the Giants’ team facility. “I really had no choice.
“I’m going to retire.”
Chris Snee, the tough guy, finally let his guard down. But he stayed the consummate professional, fulfilled his obligations, remained gracious, said his good-byes, and turned the page to the next chapter of his life, just as he lived the previous one, with class and dignity.
“It’s emotional, because it’s not just my profession,” Snee said later in the day, hesitating as his voice cracked with every word. “It’s my wife’s and my sons’, and they have sacrificed so much and they go through this roller-coaster of a ride that is an NFL season. When I played, I did so to make them proud.
“Eventually, for any athlete who has to make this decision, but particularly for a football player, it’s hard because you are conditioned to ignore pain and to constantly fight to overcome obstacles.
Eventually, though, Father Time caught up. The fight to get on the field became too exhausting
His is what many would consider a story scripted for the big screen.
He is a big kid from a small town tucked away in the north corner of the state, an athlete who had more heart than believers, at times. He learned to play physical football on a meager, dusty field in Montrose with just a few patches of grass, but the kids who chewed it up had the unabashed support of a proud community to push them through the toughest times.
The offensive playbook he studied may only have contained two tattered, yellow pages in a spiral binder, because coach Tom Lucenti’s power running game never called for much flash. It relied on a push along the line of scrimmage, and for that, he had the perfect player to build around.
Snee was a bulldozer, never slowed by the dirt and unfazed by the turf stuck in his facemask. His brawn and unique athletic ability helped put his team in the District 2 playoffs, a once unthinkable destination for the Meteors.
Driven by a passion to prove that this kid from the country could reach the grandest stage, Snee went to Boston College. He was the first for the Meteors to earn a Division I scholarship. He became an All-American. But he was never truly satisfied by any of that.
The only thing on a football field Snee wanted more than success was more success.
He spent most of his time in the gym or in a darkened film room, always being a perfectionist.
That dream of playing professional football that he dared to make a goal when he was probably 14 years old was a real possibility.
He could have gone to a big, lavish party on the night of the NFL Draft. It was clear that he was going to be selected at some point. Snee, however, returned to his family’s home in Montrose. He always stayed true to his roots.
He was there with his girlfriend and future wife, Katie Coughlin. They had just welcomed their first child, Dylan, and he was the most proud papa. There were maybe two dozen close friends there. And so too were his mom, Diane and father, Ed.
It was a perfect night.
Then came the call. Chris Snee was drafted by the New York Giants, the team coached by Tom Coughlin, Katie’s father.
For others with less character and resolve, this could have been seen as a distraction. Snee was going from his quiet hometown to the hustle and bustle of the big city and a buzzing media that practically salivated over potentially controversial stories. And here they were, handed one.
Once again, Snee handled the situation like he always did. He had faith in his ability, a commitment to excel and a devotion to his family.
All he did was work and develop into one of the best linemen in the National Football League and one of the best in the history of the New York Giants franchise.
He could have let his ego get as swelled as his reputation of being one of the toughest, hardest working guys in the league. But he never did.
He could have showered in the glow of the bright lights that showcased him at the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl. But he never did.
Instead, he remained a humble leader. A man who teammates gravitated to and looked up to as a source of inspiration. He was a superstar with a work ethic that was as blue collar as the jersey he wore with pride.
He defined resiliency, starting 141 games for the Giants. His strength and intensity put him in elite company, but he remained grounded.
Still, the body always wears down.
Fighting back tears during his press conference, the one of his many scheduled speaking engagements, Snee retired.
“I never would have believed this,” Snee said. “Starting in high school, my dream was to play in the NFL, and a lot of people dream that. But I went about it step-by-step. I tried to make myself better at each level. I feel that I worked hard and feel good about what I was able to accomplish. I have so many people to thank and I started that process.
“As I reflect on my career, it has been a heck of a ride and I am ready now for the next chapter of my life.”
No matter where his new path takes him on this journey, Chris Snee will likely be a success.
He will take on his new challenges just as he did as a player, head-on and with great passion.
Maybe he will coach football someday. Maybe he will just stay on the sidelines and cheer on his sons, Dylan, Cooper and Walker as they chase their dreams. Maybe he will just relax for the first time in almost two decades resting the body that made a dream come true.
He certainly has earned it.
JOBY FAWCETT, staff writer, covered Chris Snee since his senior season at Montrose in 1999.