Steve Weatherford has done the impossible: He’s made a punter—invariably the low man on the totem pole in the National Football League—interesting. Don’t believe me? Quick, name any other punter in the history of the game. Go ahead, any other one. exactly.
How the current New York Giants punter—who’s undeniably one of the very best at his position—transcended kicking a football for a living to become a factor in the pop zeitgeist is fascinating. The interest for Weatherford outside of football can be attributed to three things: his ridiculous, jaw-dropping physique; his goofy, relentless wit; and his addiction to social media and how it spreads the word about the first two.
Unexpectedly, Steve Weatherford personifies what constitutes a 21st-century professional athlete: equal parts talent and marketability. I don’t think Ray Guy, the NFL’s greatest punter, was worrying about his “brand” back in 1978. Who was? That’s all changed, of course, and that’s precisely why Weatherford has much bigger plans for himself than just being a great punter. And it’s already beginning to pay significant dividends.
Weatherford played for several other NFL teams—including a successful and ultimately controversial tenure with the New York Jets, where he butted heads with famed special-teams coach Mike Westhoff—before happily landing with the Giants in 2011 and seeing his career flourish as a result. The Giants, clearly pleased with the Indiana native as well, recently rewarded Weatherford for his contributions in helping the team win a Super bowl by giving him a five-year contract extension.
Being in Weatherford’s presence, one can’t help but get excited, because he’s excited. He’s always excited. And he’s funny. For the thousands who follow the punter’s exploits on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (among others), Weatherford comes off as the goofiest bodybuilding prankster on the planet. And he very well may be. His constant stream of posts, including numerous photographs (and short videos) that range from loving family portraits—he and his wife, Laura, have three children: Ace, Carney and Aurora—to WTF half-naked celebrations of his eye-popping muscular form, are stuff of urban legend. And the public loves it. Really loves it. And so does he.
As is the case with any celebrity that puts himself out there, wild stories abound. I pinned down the fast-talking Weatherford—who is eyeing a career in broadcasting after his playing days are over—just long enough to separate truth from rumor. The best part? He was game. Steve Weatherford’s not punting now.
How did an NFL punter end up being featured in this luxury magazine (and so many others)?
I get a lot of attention for my physique, it’s true. I could be anywhere, and people are always asking me for training or nutritional advice. My body is about being the best player I can be. I love it when my teammates ask me questions about my diet or what supplements I take or my abs routine.
Here’s a bet I’d win: You’re the first punter in the history of the sport who has given workout advice to his teammates.
I bet that’s true. [Laughs]
A lot of people unfamiliar with football know exactly who you are. Are you cool with attracting so much attention for your, um, other physical attributes?
Are you kidding me? Of course I am! I’m well aware that my fan base reaches much farther than football fans. Look, any chance I get to reach out and connect with other human beings and spread my positivity about life I’m down for. Yes, I have a large gay fan base and a large religious fan base and a large fitness-enthusiasts fan base, and I love them all! The more the merrier.
Is it safe to say that you won’t be sending your former New York Jets coach, Mike Westhoff, a Christmas card?
It’s frankly the only working relationship I’ve ever had that didn’t mesh. Mike Westhoff didn’t enjoy me as a punter at all. I’ll put it this way: I’ve never had a coach who didn’t get along with me. Ever. Though I will continue to focus on the positive way things turned out for me, and how good I have it now, and how much I’m loving being with the New York Giants, I’m still scratching my head over the whole Mike Westhoff experience.
Is a career in broadcasting next?
I think so. Here’s the thing: Once the time comes and I can’t play at this level, I still want a platform to inspire.
Let’s talk philanthropy.
This is a huge part of my life. I love going to schools and hospitals to motivate kids. And right here in this part of the world, we’ve been deeply affected by the Sandy Hook massacre as well as the Hurricane Sandy devastation, and I’m trying to do my part to use my platform to help. I also have the Steve Weatherford Foundation’s “Kick For Kicks” campaign, where we provide barely used NFL sneakers to kids who need them. I also take hundreds of kids shopping for a pair of sneakers, because something as simple as that can help kids dream big. I tell them that I was just like them at their age, and look at me now, playing a sport I love and wearing a Super Bowl ring. Dream big, I always tell them.
Tell me about living in New Jersey.
I love seeing how much pride there is in New Jersey. I’ve been a resident of the state for five years now, and I can say without question that this is home. New Jersey has embraced my family and me completely, and that’s a big reason I spend so much time doing charity work in this state. I love New Jersey, and it certainly feels like home.
Being able to afford to spend time with my family whenever I want. For me it’s not money, it’s time.
Tell me a secret.
I’m very self-conscious.
Um, I beg to differ. If anything, you’re an exhibitionist.
[Laughs] OK, sure, I may always be the first person to take my shirt off, but that doesn’t mean I’m not self-conscious. I’m hyperaware of how I present myself; that’s something very important to me.
Not including you for obvious reasons, who has the best body in the NFL right now?
[San Francisco 49ers] Vernon Davis is a monster and [New England Patriots] Tim Tebow is also jacked.
In five years, tell me what Steve Weatherford is up to.
I’ll be hosting my own talk show that will be a hybrid between Live with Kelly and Michael and Dr. Oz— a nutrition, health and wellness talk show. I’d be pumped about that!