Kurt Gouveia, the former NFL middle linebacker and BYU star, went domestic last fall. Instead of playing football or taking a job, he became a househusband. He did the laundry. Helped the kids with homework. Drove the carpool. Vacuumed the house. Did the shopping.
"I enjoyed it," he said. "It was nice. I spent a lot of time with my family."
So what's he doing here, back in football, cleaning up the field with ball carriers? Gouveia is playing for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the Xtreme Football League. He's playing alongside the twentysomething crowd in the minor leagues of football, most of whom are trying to make it to the NFL. Gouveia's been there, done that. He is 36 years old. He has a fine 14-year NFL career behind him and two Super Bowl rings on his fingers. He has little hope of returning to the big leagues.
"I've been trying to get on with anybody," he says. "I'm too young to retire. Even if I did play 14 years in the NFL. I still love the game. I still want to play football."
For the first time in more than a year, Gouveia suited up for a football game last weekend. He started at his customary inside linebacker spot and helped the Outlaws win their season opener 19-zip over the New York Hitmen. Or did he? He had zero tackles for the game. What gives? Gouveia doesn't play on passing downs. In the XFL, that's the equivalent of a mailman who works only on holidays. The Hitmen had just 14 rushing attempts in 60 plays. Gouveia spent much of the evening on the sideline, and not even the XFL will let you make tackles from there. Not that it matters.
"I'm doing it for fun," says Gouveia. "Obviously, it's not the money."
Gouveia is being paid only $45,000 a season, which is pocket change for a guy who once owned a $2.3 million contract. He made more money in one game than he'll make for the entire season. In the XFL, Gouveia has no chance of earning big money and little chance of earning an invitation to the NFL, but here he is anyway, playing football with players who hope to go someday where he's already been.
"One of the scouts from the (San Diego) Chargers called me and asked if I was interested in playing in Las Vegas," he says. "I thought about it and asked my family, and they said go and have fun."
Gouveia is probably the most experienced, accomplished player in the XFL. He could serve as inspiration for the XFL players who were overlooked or dismissed by the NFL. Despite a sensational career at BYU, Gouveia was deemed too slow for the pro game and wasn't picked until the eighth round of the 1986 draft. He played for the Washington Redskins for 10 years, starting for them from 1990 to '93. He produced one of the key plays against Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVI, making an interception early in the second half and returning it 23 yards to the two-yard line to set up a touchdown. The 'Skins won 24-0.
Gouveia, who also played in the 1987 Super Bowl, left Washington in 1995 and played four seasons for Philadelphia and San Diego, then returned to the Redskins for the '99 season before being released. He has been able to find a free-agent invitation from another team since then and watched the 2000 season from his living room in San Diego.
"A lot of it has to do with my age and the money NFL is offering," he says. "They don't want to invest in a guy who has only one or two years left. My goal is to play football as long as I can. When my body says I can't, I'll stop. I'm having too much fun, just being with the guys, being part of a team. You really miss that. Some players, when they do retire, really crave that. They have a hard time adjusting. This is a slow adjustment. It's not the NFL, but yet it's football. . . . It's something for me to do, a way to keep playing."