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SPORTS

Greek-American Niko Koutouvides on His NFL Career and the Super Bowl

February 16, 2022
By Eraklis Diamataris and Christodoulos Athanasatos

NEW YORK – On the eve of the Super Bowl, stories from players who experienced the “big game” and what went on backstage could fill several volumes. Nevertheless, those who had the opportunity to participate will always cherish the memories.

Greek-American Niko Koutouvides lived his dream to play in the Super Bowl at a young age and several years later it was repeated. For him, the joy of participation will be overshadowed, at the same time, by a double missed opportunity: How would things be if the roles for Seattle versus Pittsburgh were reversed during the 4th quarter in 2005? What could have been done better to prevent the Giants winning against the Patriots in 2012?

The questions no longer make sense, possibly putting an unnecessary “asterisk” in a career that began with restrained optimism, but left behind achievements and memories that every professional American football player would want to experience.

Koutouvides, whose father’s side of the family hails from Asia Minor and his mother from Xenopoulo, Kefalonia, shared his memories with The National Herald, taking a look back at the course of his career with praise for the great quarterback Tom Brady, giving his Super Bowl predictions, and addressing those “what ifs” which twice deprived him of the champion’s ring.

Niko Koutouvides. Photo: Courtesy of Niko Koutouvides

From an early age, the three sons of the Koutouvides family showed a penchant for sports. Like all Greek-American children, they had a first contact with soccer, which is very popular among the Greek community. Soon, however, the trend changed, when Niko’s older brother decided to turn to American football and influenced his younger brothers as well. But who would have expected that Niko would eventually become a professional?

“I did not expect even in my wildest dreams that I would become a professional football athlete. To be precise, I wanted to become a dentist. I believe that football is the most important sport in the world. To be precise, it is the ultimate team sport, where players have the same goal on the ball and you have to support others. I would not trade my professional years with anything, these memories remain forever. The secrets in the locker rooms and other memories that we will never forget as long as we live,” said Koutouvides.

The young, then, Greek-American had shown his talent from the first year in college. The agents approached him and suggested that he leave university early and enter the draft directly. They did not, of course, take into account the Greek mother.

“My mother would have killed me if I had dropped out of school. I finished normally and was selected in the draft from Seattle,” he answered honestly.

The Super Bowl experience

In Seattle, Koutouvides not only found stability, as he played for four years, but he was lucky enough to play in a Super Bowl in the second year of his professional career.

“In my second year, we went to the Super Bowl, we played with the Steelers, but the game did not go as we wanted for various reasons. I was young, I did not understand how difficult it is to play there, until I continued to play and understand how many things must go well to reach the final. You see all these stories, how many people do not manage to get there,” the Greek-American athlete noted, and clarifying that, although he is grateful for the opportunity, the defeat still hurts.

Niko Koutouvides during his days in the NFL with the New England Patriots. Photo: Courtesy of Niko Koutouvides

“This defeat stays with me forever, it was a pity, but I had to move on. There is satisfaction that I was there, but if you get there, you want to win it. It happened to me twice. Maybe my children will one day have the luck that I did not have,” he said.

“Brady is special”

In his rich career, Koutouvides had the opportunity to work with the ultimate legend of the sport, Tom Brady, who recently retired. Being an athlete, possibly as big as the game itself, Brady, according to Koutouvides, is engraved in his memory not only for his talent and leadership skills, but also for the special personality, which put him even deeper in the consciences of all.

“Everyone knows Tom as the best quarterback of all time, but if you had him as a teammate you would understand that he is an equally significant person, a fantastic player, a husband and a friend. I have been out of action for eight years. If I text him, he will reply. Whether you are a superstar or the last player on the bench, he would take the time to find out your name. I do not think you have any reason not to like him – other than the fact that he beats you on the field. His statistics will never be beat by anyone, at least as long as we live,” Koutouvidis concluded.

Regarding Sunday’s Super Bowl, the Greek-American former athlete admits that “Los Angeles has the brilliance and talent, but I support the underdog, I would like Cincinnati to win.”

In the end, the Los Angeles Rams came away with the victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on February 13 in a very close game 23-20.

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