If anyone can appreciate being in the Super Bowl, it’s Denver linebacker Paris Lenon.
Few have taken a path as circuitous as Lenon, a 12-year pro who is the last remaining NFL player who played in the short-lived XFL, the pro league founded by pro wrestling’s Vince McMahon that featured no roughing penalties, a race to the 50-yard line for the ball instead of a kickoff and “He Hate Me” — running back Rod Smart, who wore those letters on the back of his jersey instead of his last name.
After playing with the XFL’s Memphis Maniax in 2001, Lenon went to the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe before hooking on with the Green Bay Packers in 2002.
Lenon, 36, has appeared in 189 NFL games with the Packers (2002-04), Detroit (2006-08), St. Louis (2009), Arizona (2010-12) and Denver (2013).
“You have to appreciate every year you’re in this league, and you appreciate the position that you are in being a professional athlete,” said Lenon. “This is an added bonus to be in the biggest game.”
Lenon has appeared in four postseason games with the Packers but also was a member of Detroit’s infamous 0-16 team in 2008.
“When you’re in a situation like that, you have a certain amount of guys that pack it in,” he said. “That’s difficult for me because I’m not that type of person. I’m going to compete to the end, so that’s the most difficult part about being in a situation like that. Now, it’s a complete reversal. Thus far, we’ve had a very successful season. We still have one game ahead of us and we have to put in the work. We have been putting in the work and we will continue to.”
Lenon played in college at Richmond, and entered the NFL with Carolina as a college free agent in 2000. When he was released by the Panthers, the XFL was a viable option. The
“I heard about a new league,” he said. “I had just been released. I heard about this league. At the time, I had the opportunity to go to NFL Europe and I heard about this league in the U.S. (the XFL). I prefer to stay at home. I don’t like flying far. So I thought it was a good opportunity.”
As far being the last man standing from the XFL, he said: “I think it’s a cool story, but other than that, I don’t really think about it that much.”