Pittsburgh Steelers reserve quarterback Brian St. Pierre is 27 years old, already pension-eligible in the National Football League after four years of service, and has watched a lot of football games in his career.
The former Boston College star from Danvers will tell you flat out that he had never seen a game like the Patriots' delirious victory in San Diego. The craziness of it all made for some improbable developments.
Still, St. Pierre wasn't surprised that the Patriots won.
"I thought they would win; I was just surprised the way it went down," St. Pierre said after returning to his North Shore home.
"God obviously wears a Patriots' jersey. I'm not going against them," he said, when asked about his choice in Sunday's AFC championship between the Patriots and the Colts.
So what about the other game for the NFC title between the Saints and host Bears? "What other game?" St. Pierre jokingly responded.
"Seriously, it'll be exciting to watch. I agree New Orleans is America's team right now. I'm definitely with the Saints, but New Orleans is probably limited on defense. We played the Saints and beat them pretty good (38-31 in Week 10). They're very average on defense, but dynamic on offense. I worry about New Orleans playing in cold weather, although I still think that they can win.
"But it doesn't matter who wins the NFC. The NFC is not going to win the Super Bowl," St. Pierre declared.
He still can't fathom the top-ranked San Diego Chargers making all those ill-fated mistakes that enabled the Patriots to pull it off in the 11th hour last weekend.
"The Chargers did everything they could to keep the Patriots in it. I can't recall seeing a game like that, where one team looked so much better than the other, and repeatedly made the mistakes to let the other team hang," said St. Pierre. "Give a team like the Patriots too many chances and you're bound to pay for it."
Some of the things that went on were plain crazy, St. Pierre said.
"But give the Patriots credit: they know how to win," he said. "They struggled against a team that was bigger and faster, but San Diego couldn't put them away. Couldn't stick the knife in."
Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning will be feeling the pressure of getting it done because of his postseason history vs. the Patriots. St. Pierre feels certain of that.
"At the same time, those times New England knocked them out (of the playoffs) were in Foxboro," he pointed out. "It'll be more interesting in the (Indianapolis' RCA) Dome."
As evidenced by their 51 passes against the Chargers, the Patriots can spread it out. Plus, said St. Pierre, head coach Bill Belichick is as good as anybody in attacking weaknesses.
"They'll definitely run it more against the Colts," said the former St. John's Prep star. "The Patriots knew they couldn't run on the Chargers - and didn't even try. They didn't match up physically with the Chargers in running the ball; the Chargers were too stout. But remember, the Colts were dead last against the run. It wasn't even close."
St. Pierre is a big Tom Brady fan.
"He's the best in the game. Take that guy off the Patriots and you're not talking Super Bowl or playoffs," St. Pierre said. "He's the key to the castle for them. Without him, to a man, they'd admit that. He didn't play well for a good part of the (Chargers') game - and he'd be the first guy to admit that - but when he needed to make the plays down the stretch, the biggies, he was right there."
Wideout Troy Brown is another of St. Pierre's personal favorites.
On the retirement of Steelers' coach Bill Cowher, St. Pierre said: "He didn't give me an opportunity. That's the only problem I had with him."
A final word on Sunday's Patriots' game: "They're the favorite until somebody knocks them off. They know how to play a big game, and obviously know how to win them. They're well-coached on and off the field."
If Beverly High hockey coach Bob Gilligan expects his team to play smart, who can blame him? The Panthers are about as cerebral as it gets, with eight varsity players who are on the school's Honor Roll. They are senior defenseman Nick Jacobs, freshman forward Brian Spencer, brothers Alex (a Panthers' captain) and Michael Boches, both of whom are forwards; freshman goalie C.J. Cacciatore, senior defenseman Andrew Eriksen and junior defenseman Conor Walsh. Freshman forward Dan Crowley, a JV skater, is another Honor Roll player.
The Panthers have at least three other players in the program who attend honors classes and missed by an eyelash.
Salem High standout Stephanie Vasquez has committed to play point guard at UMass Boston. The women's basketball coach at the Little East Conference school, Shawn Polk, has been recruiting Vasquez since the Bay State Games last summer.
"I enjoyed my visit there and told Coach Polk I wouldn't be applying anywhere else," the 5-foot-3 Vasquez said. "She said I had a spot there. I transferred from St. Mary's of Lynn for several reasons. Academics. I had three uncles (John, Ron and Jimmy) who graduated from Salem, and for the purpose of improving my college (ball) opportunity."
Bill Kipouras is a staff writer at The Salem News. He can be reached at 978-338-2615 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.