A most curious tale of a life that’s taken a sudden and puzzling turn is the topic of the latest SC Featured podcast from ESPN Audio: Finding Nittmo – the curious post-NFL life of former placekicker Bjorn Nittmo.
The first Swedish-born player to play a full season in the NFL (N.Y. Giants, 1989), Nittmo bounced around various pro leagues for more than 10 years – training camp with other NFL teams, playing in Arena Football (three different teams), CFL and the World League of American football. Along the way, he even became a favorite of David Letterman, appearing on the late-night show a number of times, and he was in “Any Given Sunday”.
But, it was on one play in a 1997 Tampa Bay–Atlanta preseason NFL game that altered Nittmo’s life forever. And that of his wife and four children in Texas.
A concussion – the third of his career – while attempting to tackle the Falcons ballcarrier on the opening kickoff wiped much of his memory and changed him forever.
On the sidelines, he couldn’t remember if the game had started. In news reports that week, he claimed to have no memory of the previous two weeks. In the years that followed, his recall of the past was largely gone. Soon, he was too.
Today, his family rarely sees him and has no certainty as to his whereabouts or how he survives.
The two-part podcast (nearly 40 minutes each), “Finding Nittmo,” was co-produced by Barry Abrams and Christine Newby. With the help of Nittmo’s wife, ESPN Features Unit producer Dan Arruda and reporter Chris Connelly tracked down the elusive Nittmo in Arizona last fall.
“He lives a very nomadic life and travels from job to job,” Arruda said. “Most of his days are spent driving around Northern Arizona putting up satellite dishes and installing internet cable. He’s not going to return phone calls or texts, so getting him to sit down for an interview is very difficult. You just kind of show up where you think he might be and hope that he agrees.”
SC Featured’s video profile of Nittmo debuted Sunday, April 23 on SportsCenter.