Former ENMU standout cherishes college days

Former Eastern New Mexico University football standout Michael Sinclair played 12 seasons in the NFL. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer

Former Eastern New Mexico University football player Michael Sinclair had his No. 72 jersey retired by the school during halftime of Wednesday’s ENMU men’s basketball game. Sinclair played at Eastern from 1987 to 1990, and went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, 11 for the Seattle Seahawks and his final year with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Sinclair was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl three times and, in 1998, he was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press after leading the NFL in sacks with 16.5. He ranks second in Seahawks history with 73.5 career sacks and 24 career forced fumbles.

Sinclair is an assistant coach for the West Texas A&M football team.

Q: What does it mean to you to have your number retired?

A: It means a lot. You look back at the memories — the guys that you played with, the games that were played, me spending my collegiate career here — and it basically sums all that up. Just to look at that jersey, it’s not all about what I did, it’s all those memories when I look at that. To me, it’s a great honor.

Q: What is your favorite memory from your playing days at Eastern?

A: Whoa, there’s a smorgasbord, there are so many. My best memory would be when we played WT in Canyon. It rained, it sleeted, and it snowed at the same time. Well, coach (Don) Carthel told his wife to go get this canvas that you covered a truck up with. So our whole team held the canvas (over the ENMU sideline), and as 11 would run in, 11 would run out. So we had like a little shelter, it was like our hub. It was one of the coldest games I’ve ever played in, but as far as team camaraderie, I really enjoyed that. We really came together. Everybody was laughing and giggling under this big ’ole tarp. Guys were bumping each other out into the rain. That’s probably my best memory as far as a team.

Q: How did playing at a small school like Eastern affect your NFL career?

A: was disciplined in terms of film study and working hard. Sometimes when you come from a Division I program, you’re used to flying everywhere. I used to tell guys, ‘You don’t know about real college football where you take eight-hour bus rides.’ That will test your passion for the game.

I really enjoyed my time. When I went to leave, I was used to working hard for everything, so I really enjoyed it. Whatever transpired in the NFL wasn’t a shock because I came from a Division II program. You only had two pairs of cleats; one for practice all year, and one for games all year. In the NFL, in a season, I might go through 25 pairs of shoes. At Eastern — two, baby — one for practice and one for the games.

Q: How do you like coaching college?

A: I love it. I love everything about it. I tell my players, ‘Your coach can’t play anymore, but I can take everything I know and deposit it into you guys and vicariously play through you guys.’ I enjoy it. I have a passion for it. I love everything about it.

Q: Who was the best offensive linemen you ever went up against?

A: Probably Erik Williams, who played for the Dallas Cowboys when they had that dominant offensive line. They were very punishing and very… they could be a little dirty at times. They were technicians. I mean, they didn’t win three Super Bowls and Emmitt Smith didn’t become the all-time leading rusher because those guys couldn’t block. They were a darn good offensive line.

Q: As a longtime Seahawk, what did you think about this year’s Super Bowl?

A: I thought we had our chances. I’m not going to sit here and say the referees took the game away from us. Yeah, there were some bad calls, but we should have made more plays and we gave up too many big plays. You can’t fault the refs, bad calls will happen. We had our chances, we just didn’t capitalize.