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'I’ll be a nervous wreck': Mark Rypien prepares for his nephew, Brett, to make his first NFL start

Brett is the first Spokane high school graduate to start in an NFL game at the quarterback position since Mark did so 25 years ago.
Credit: AP

SPOKANE, Wash — Starting in an NFL game can be anxiety-inducing. Watching your nephew start in an NFL game may be even worse.

"I’ll be a nervous wreck. I’ll be honest with you," said former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien. "If I need to take a walk and things are getting a little too much, I’ll do so."

Thursday is the big night for Mark's nephew, Brett Rypien. He’ll become the first Spokane high school graduate to start in an NFL game at the quarterback position since Mark did so 25 years ago.

"It’s pretty cool to see things come full circle. It’s a great story. I’m so excited for him and all of our family. We watch Brett and live vicariously through him now," he said.

It isn’t surprising for Mark though that Brett is getting his shot, even though a lot of people wondered if it would ever happen. Brett has resided on Denver's practice squad for most of his two year NFL career.

"That’s the nature of playing the sport at a high level. Eventually your number will be called and you’ll have to be ready. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve always admired about Brett is his ability to mentally stay focused ever since he’s played high school football at a young age," Mark said. 

Mark did get a chance to speak to Brett briefly on Tuesday night. 

"Just wished him well. That was the most important thing for me and to not put anymore onus on what he’s got to do," Mark said. "He has enough on his plate right now to have some old arm chair quarterback from the past tell him, ‘Hey, you need to do this, you need to do that,’ other than just good luck and we’ll be thinking about you and watching you."

But if Mark had one piece of advice for Brett today, what would that be?

"This is what you prepared for. This is your time. Take advantage of it. Go out there and have fun? It’s not about having fun. Sometimes it’s going to be difficult and sometimes you’re going to go through some tough situations throughout the course of the game," he said.

By the way, Mark turns 58 years old on Friday. You can imagine the gift that he wants.

"Pretty good birthday present if the young gun pulls it off tonight. That’d be great," said Mark, with a smile.

Brett and the Denver Broncos take on the New York Jets at 5:20 p.m. on Thursday on the NFL Network.