Rich Baird, the principal of Ohio’s Dublin Sells Middle School, was looking for a full-time substitute math teacher to fill in for one who was going on maternity leave. So he called the best football player he had ever coached, and likely the best math teacher with NFL experience, Giants middle linebacker Chase Blackburn.
Blackburn, 28, spent the last six seasons with the Giants, but became an unrestricted free agent at the end of last season. After the ensuing lockout, Blackburn found himself unemployed for most of the season. According to Yahoo! Sports he had some workouts with the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that New York linebackers Michael Boley and Mark Herzlich were injured in a game against New Orleans on November 28, and a day later Blackburn received a call from the Giants.
Blackburn lifted weights at Dublin’s Recreation Center and practiced position drills at nearby Avery Park while he hoped for an opportunity. He and wife Megan sold their home in New Jersey and moved back to Ohio, but Blackburn kept a suitcase packed for himself, just in case. According to mercedsunstar.com, Blackburn said, "Some people thought I was injured. I was caught off guard that no one around the league was really interested.”
Baird was Blackburn’s freshman football coach at Marysville High School, and said he could have requested Blackburn for the position if his teaching paperwork and certification were up to date.
“Just knowing how badly he wanted to get back, I knew it was bound to happen,” Baird said, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Blackburn had nine tackles in the Giants' wild-card playoff victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and an important fumble recovery in the win over Green Bay.
"To put on this type of performance basically right off the street is unbelievable," said teammate Zak DeOssie.