Trent Kirchner grew up a sports nut in Fulda, Minn. He graduated in 1996 and went to St. John’s. He spent a couple of years in the mass of Johnnies running down the hill at Collegeville, for the honor of standing on the sideline in uniform for home games.
He wanted a career in sports and it clearly wasn’t going to be as an athlete. In the summer of 1997, Kirchner was running one of those student painting crews and estimated a job for Dan Gladden’s house.
Two years later, Gladden gave him a connection and Trent landed an internship with the Twins. The internship gave Kirchner an idea of the inner workings of a sports operation. As in everything, it was clear that contacts were what mattered.
Kirchner’s true passion was football, and he started a substantial letter writing campaign to NFL teams: general managers, scouts, head coaches and assistants. In 2000, during his last semester at St. John’s, he drove to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
He had no credential to get inside the stadium, so he waited near the area where the scouts and coaches came to use the satellites. No, not satellites for communication; satellites for their restroom needs.
Kirchner was able to get into a conversation with Marc Trestman, then the offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals. Trestman’s quarterback coach was not yet in town, so Marc allowed Kirchner to use the assistant’s credential. That got him inside the arena.
Trent met John Schneider, a St. Thomas graduate who had been involved in NFL front offices since 1993.
Schneider was moving from the Chiefs to the Seahawks. When Kirchner graduated from St. John’s in the spring, Schneider hooked him up with an internship in Seattle.
From there, Kirchner got a job in 2001 doing paperwork with Washington’s college scouting department, where another Minnesotan – Vinny Cerrato of Albert Lea – was running the football operation.
In 2002, Kirchner was hired as a pro scout by the Carolina Panthers. He spent eight-plus years there and met his wife Jessica. That’s right, Kirchner is the rare Johnnie who didn’t marry a Bennie (if you don’t get the joke, forget it and go on).
In 2010, Seattle hired Schneider out of the Packers’ front office to become its general manager. Schneider promoted Tag Ribary to pro personnel director and brought in Kirchner as Ribary’s assistant.
Last June, a month before training camp, Ribary was given other duties and Kirchner was promoted to pro personnel director. Dan Morgan, the former Carolina linebacker, went from a college scout to Kirchner’s assistant.
My hometown (Fulda) connection with Kirchner has led to a number of conversations through the years. We talked to him on a radio interview for 1500ESPN on Friday.
This is his second Super Bowl (New England 32, Carolina 29, on Feb. 1, 2004 in Houston) and a decade later the idea is to win one. What I found interesting in exchanging texts with Kirchner this week was this:
While the Seahawks were enjoying the glory of their second Super Bowl berth, and the bulk of the organization was in New Jersey, the football operation kept on moving.
“We have a draft meeting until 2, and then we’re going to practice,’’ was Kirchner’s text response a couple of days in a row.
On Friday, Kirchner was asked: When do the football people take time to enjoy this?
“We are enjoying this,’’ he said. “We haven’t had the heavy lifting here with the draft meetings. They have been five hours. Plus, with John (Schneider), the atmosphere is so great, lots of laughs, reggae music, it’s always a good time in meetings, even as we’re getting the work done.’’
There's an intriguing connection to his Carolina days for Kirchner in this Super Bowl: John Fox was the Panthers' coach a decade ago, and now he coaches Denver.
"There are other people who were good friends of mine with the Panthers who are now with Foxie in Denver,'' Kirchner said. "I'm happy for those guys, even as I hope to see us win.''
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