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Super Bowl caps month of thrills for Stinchcomb

Remember Atlanta back in 1999? That kind of euphoria is flowing through New Orleans and Miami at the moment, as the city soaks in the Saints' first trip to the Super Bowl.

That first trip, as Falcons fans discovered slightly more than a decade ago, is so sweet. It is for the players, too, as they experience football marquee event for the first time.

Included in that group is Parkview grad Jon Stinchcomb, New Orleans' starting right tackle and one of many Saints who will play in their first Super Bowl today in Miami. The atmosphere is crazy for any Super Bowl player, but the past month has been even more of a wild ride for the former Georgia Bulldog.

His team won its first NFC Championship to reach its first Super Bowl, and the 30-year-old had the best season of his NFL career, earning his first Pro Bowl selection (he appeared at the showcase, but like his Super Bowl-bound teammates, didn't play).

On top of that excitement, his wife Allison gave birth to the couple's first child, son Mason Andrew, on Jan. 19, in between the Saints' playoff wins over Arizona and Minnesota.

"You talk about the best four-week period of my life, it doesn't get any better than this," Stinchcomb said Thursday evening. "It's definitely going to be hard to top this."

The scenario played out almost perfectly. His wife and infant son couldn't make the trip, so they will take in today's big game against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on TV.

But the rest of his family and friends, a group of 12, have tickets to the game. The entourage includes his parents and older brother Matt, who played in Super Bowl XXXVII with the Raiders when they lost to Tampa Bay.

They will be surrounded by a large contingent of Saints, though an even larger group will root from home in Louisiana.

"It's borderline bonkers down there (in New Orleans)," Stinchcomb said. "I don't think our fans can be any more excited than they are. It's been great for them, especially coming off (Hurricane) Katrina."

Stinchcomb and the Saints have volunteered large amounts of time to help the city rebuild from the horrible disaster of Katrina, and the former All-SEC player also has dedicated much of his own time to other charities. Those efforts earned him the Saints' 2008 NFL Man of the Year Award, a reward for being so involved in the community away from football.

On the football field, he's been just as important in protecting record-setting quarterback Drew Brees. He has made 66 straight starts at right tackle since missing the entire 2005 season with a ruptured patella tendon.

He finally got some acclaim for his on-field work this season with his first Pro Bowl selection, a nice payback for the Saints' signing him to a five-year contract extension in the offseason.

"I definitely feel like I had a very good year, the whole team has," Stinchcomb said.

"It was very special to me though. My whole career, especially my pro career, I feel like it's gotten better every year.

"I didn't really expect (the Pro Bowl selection), especially playing right tackle. It's usually a left tackle deal. But being recognized by the players, the coaches and the fans vote, means a great deal."

As rewarding as that was, the feeling can be topped -- with a Saints win today. A victory would be the perfect capper to an emotional month for Stinchcomb, though just being on the field today is special in itself.

"I don't know how exciting it's going to be," Stinchcomb said. "I'm sure it's going to be unbelievable. Everybody who's ever played football dreams of playing in the Super Bowl."