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Wire makes impact at linebacker for Falcons

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Wire makes impact at linebacker for Falcons

Special teams player enjoying strong season after spinal fusion surgery


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In addition to being a hard-hitting linebacker and special teams player for the Falcons, Coy Wire is also a thinker.

He majored in philosophy and religion at Stanford. In his post-graduate life, now 30 years old, married, and an outspoken Christian, Wire seems to have philosophies on lots of things.

“The strongest steel is burned in the hottest coals,” is one of them.

So is “How you go is how the team goes.” Wire explains: “If every man thinks that way, you’re going to have a really good football team that flies around, that’s passionate, that’s hungry.”

Wire’s brainpower comes in handy at times like right now, when he’s trying to make sense of all that’s happened in the last year.

In January, Wire underwent spinal fusion surgery, leaving his NFL future in doubt. In February, the Buffalo Bills, the team Wire had played with for six years, released him.

In July, he signed with the Falcons. And Sunday, against Tampa Bay, Wire moved into a starting spot at strongside linebacker and played one of the games of his life.

He made nine tackles, eight unassisted. He seemed to play with a magnetic pull to the ball carrier. Twice he held the shifty Warrick Dunn to gains of two yards in the open field. And he broke up a pass.

He brought focus to a linebacker corps that at times this season has faded into the background.

For all that, Wire described his emotions in one word: “Thankful,” he said.

Doctors had predicted Wire’s surgery would be a success and he could be cleared for contact in as soon as six months.

His surgeon was Andrew Cappuccino, who operated on the Bills’ Kevin Everett who made a miraculous recovery from a fractured spine.

Still, Wire had occasional doubts.

“You have that inferior nature that every man and woman has,” Wire said. “That devil within that wants to tell you, ‘Maybe you don’t want to play anymore. Hey, you could just kick back and relax.’ It’s that inferior nature that wanted to creep in, that invader of the mind.”

For the first time since Wire started football and wrestling at age 7, he couldn’t exercise. No jogging for two months. No weight lifting for four months. His workouts were removing his neck brace and fighting through pain to turn his head from side to side.

So Wire exercised his mind. He prayed. He pored over books like “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. He read “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy and the “The Power of Intention” by Wayne Dyer.

He took away one underlying message.

“The one thing that could stop me from coming back was me,” Wire said. “I had to have my mind right.”

He knew it was after his first day in full pads during training camp with the Falcons.

“It was like when you’re a young kid and the first time you set foot on that monster roller coaster,” Wire said. “You know you’re going to be OK, but there’s just that feeling that ‘Here it goes.’ I remember that first hit. I shook my head a little bit, and I looked around and said ‘Well, still here.’ It felt good. ‘Let’s go. Let’s do that again.’ “

Wire, a former captain of the Bills special teams, is leading the Falcons in snaps played on special teams. Falcon coach Mike Smith decided to give him more time on defense last week, after the Falcons gave up 184 yards rushing to New Orleans.

Wire replaced Michael Boley in most first and second down plays against Tampa, and Boley played with the nickel package. It sounds like Smith plans to do the same against Minnesota.

“Coy will play against certain personnel groupings and Mike will play in the other personnel groupings,” Smith said. “If it goes like it normally does, they’ll be close to 50-50.”

That’s affirmation for Wire. So was the post-game text message he got Sunday from linebacker Keith Brooking, and the phone call from safety Lawyer Milloy. Their encouragement helped him rebound from his one regret.

It was Wire’s man who blocked the punt that helped Tampa tie the game with a field goal, before the Falcons won in overtime.

Wire said it was the first time in seven years he’d had a punt blocked.

“I felt horrible,” Wire said. “My heart just sank for having put our team in that situation.”

Ultimately though, he had a philosophy on that too.

“It refined us as a football team,” Wire said. “It made us dig deep. It made us pull together and have to conquer something that a lot of other teams wouldn’t have or couldn’t have. Going into the last stretch of the season, it just again showed the character of the players on the team.”

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