Sendlein the center of attention

By Mark McClune

Lyle Sendlein can’t go unnoticed.  He’s 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, and has a beard that any lumberjack would envy. 

He looks like he could be famous.

And he is.

The Cardinals can’t run a play until Lyle Sendlein decides to snap the ball.

Lyle is one of 150 people in the world who have the job title “NFL offensive lineman.”  It seems like a pretty cool job until you see the bruises on Lyle’s arms.  If a lineman does his job, nobody notices.  But Lyle Sendlein has a special place in football history.  Without him, Kurt Warner doesn’t lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl and Vince Young doesn’t direct Texas to a national championship.   

Like his sons, Lyle and Austin, Robin Sendlein also played at the University of Texas.  And Robin Sendlein has been working here for years. Before becoming a Phoenix firefighter, Robin also played in the NFL.  

But there’s one difference:

Longhorn Robin played for a national title and lost. 

Longhorn Lyle played for a national title and won. 

Robin will never forget how much his legs ached after standing for four hours on the Rose Bowl bleachers watching his son’s team come out victorious against USC in 2006. Lyle grins but says he doesn’t remember much of it after a USC defender kneed him in the helmet early in the first half. Dad beams about how his son and his O-line buddies stormed the ABC postgame set. 

Lyle’s grin quickly vanishes when you ask him about the Super Bowl. That loss seems to still sting. So does his senior year at Scottsdale’s Chaparral High School.  After winning back-to-back state titles as a sophomore and junior, Lyle was unable to close out his career with a state championship as a senior.

Lyle doesn’t say much about playing with Kurt Warner or Vince Young.  It seems there is a code about an offensive lineman always protecting his quarterback.  

Football seems trivial when Lyle talks about the times he went to work with his dad. Something tragic always seemed to happen.  Those things put football into perspective.  

Robin says raising Lyle was easy. He was his Pop Warner coach — back when Lyle was a quarterback. (Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm also was a quarterback growing up, and the subject sometimes comes up in meetings.)

But there’s no time to look back when you’ve got the challenge of the week ahead. At 26, Lyle Sendlein has been the starting center in two of the most exciting games in football history. Someday it will probably hit him. Right now, he’s trying to keep his quarterback from getting hit.