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Neujahr has business sense


He's a businessman, too. Quentin Neujahr carved out a career in the NFL on the strength of his dogged football pursuit, but he's extending that career on the strength of some good, old-fashioned business smarts.

Neujahr has no illusions, so, when the Jaguars came to him during the offseason to cut his salary, he seized the opportunity.

"I just had a baby in March, so it was good for me because I knew I'd have guaranteed income for a year. I knew it set me up to have a good chance to make the team," Neujahr said as he prepared for his first regular-season starting assignment since the final game of the 1998 season.

With starting center John Wade out of action as he recovered from a stress fracture in his foot, Neujahr was pressed into service in the Jaguars' first two games of the season. His performances in those two games proved the Jaguars also have a good business mind. Neujahr is good insurance at a good price.

The major cut in pay to which Neujahr agreed still left him with more money than he ever imagined he'd make in this game, and when he leaves the game for good, he'll take back to Nebraska more savings than a lot of star players manage over their careers. Call it good, old-fashioned, Midwestern common sense.

"I don't worry about stuff like that," he said of his pay cut, "because if you do your performance slides, and if your performance slides it doesn't matter what they pay you."

Just then, a messenger approached him. "Coach wants to see you," the messenger said.

"There you have it," Neujahr said, but he knew he wasn't being cut in this week.

Wade replaced Neujahr in the starting lineup for the '98 playoff game against New England. Until this year's season-opener in Cleveland, Wade had held that starting job, reducing Neujahr to the role of short-snapper for placement kicks.

He's good at what he does, which is almost exclusively short-snapping. It will keep him in the league longer than his blocking ability would allow, for Neujahr has lost a lot of upper body strength, the result of a chronic neck problem he knows will have to be addressed surgically when his career is over.

"Staying here was important because my wife liked the doctors she was working with," he said, referring to his wife Kathryn and the couple's infant son, Dalton Charles.

"I never thought it would come that my salary would be too high to stay in the league," Neujahr said.

It had reached that point. The kid from Kansas State -- when that was the losingest college football program in America -- never considered the possibility when he was trying to hang on with the Raiders, Browns and Ravens that he would ever earn anything more than minimum wage. Then came Michael Cheever's back injury and the Jaguars' desperate need for insurance at center and, all of a sudden, Quentin Troy Neujahr, the former senior class president at Centennial High School in Utica, Neb., was a millionaire.

"I was a guy in the street saying please bring me to camp. It keeps you humble. I've had a lot of things that have kept me humble," he said of his career.

Pay cuts will do that. So will neck injuries.

"It would give a lot of people a better feel for the game," he said of taking the route he's taken; "to understand they're not bigger than the game."

Soon, Wade will return to action, and Neujahr's gameday activities will be reduced to a handful of plays, for which he will be paid handsomely and for which he will be thankful. The game will have given him financial security, to take back to Liberty, Neb., and feed to his herd of 140 cattle.

The pain in his neck and the weakness in his arm are what he gave to the game, and that price will only increase with age, but he has no regrets, "because I'm able to put my family in a situation that they won't have to go through the things I've had to go through," Neujahr said.

All businessmen know there's a cost to doing business.

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