Chris Maurice takes a look at the professional life of former Navy punter John Stufflebeem as he runs for NFLPA Executive Director.
Navy Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem gives reporters an operational update on the missions in Afghanistan during a Pentagon press briefing on Nov. 5, 2001. Stufflebeem is the Joint Staff deputy director of Operations for Current Readiness and Capabilities. (Photo by Helene C. Stikkel)
The election for the NFL Player Association’s executive director position is coming up next month, and the top candidates are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the competition. Among them are a couple of lawyers, Jim Acho and Andrew Smith; a couple of former players, Sean Morey and Sean Gilbert; incumbent DeMaurice Smith; and former Navy and Detroit Lions punter John Stufflebeem.
“That’s where I stand out, as really the odd duck in this group,” said Stufflebeem when asked about his chances in the election coming up March 15. He certainly sticks out:
As a former vice admiral in the Navy, Stufflebeem served as a fighter pilot in conflicts around the world. On top of that, Stufflebeem was a standout punter at Navy in the 1970s under Coach Steve Belichick. His professional football career never really took off, but Stufflebeem did spend a few seasons as the Lions preseason punter, and in 1977, he punted for special teams coach Bill Belichick.
“I’m the only player that I know of that played for both his dad and him,” Stufflebeem asserted proudly.
Bill and Stufflebeem actually remained pretty good friends over the years, and when the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2003, Bill invited Stufflebeem to present a game ball to President George W. Bush during the Pats visit to the White House.
Stufflebeem has worked with the NFL and its players and coaches closely over the years through his crisis management consulting business, but he didn’t start taking their suggestions to get involved with the NFLPA seriously until Junior Seau’s suicide in 2012.
“When Junior took his life it really hit home for me,” said Stufflebeem. “And as I have lost other friends from the military due to their head injuries as well…When guys asked me [to run], I couldn’t think of a good reason not to answer the call.”
Stufflebeem announced that his main goal, if elected, will be to improve the relationship between the NFLPA and the NFL itself in preparation for the next collective bargaining agreement in 2021. Stufflebeem sees the chasm widening between the Players’ Association and the league itself, and he will do all he can to stop it.
“My life was recognizing that going to war was the very last resort, and oftentimes the failure of diplomacy. As any warrior knows, it’s easy to get into war, but it’s really hard to get out of it. I’m convinced we’re headed into a bad place for the long haul if we continue where we are.”
The elections for the NFLPA Executive Director will be held March 15 at the annual meeting in Hawaii.