Sean Landeta became the longest-tenured punter in NFL history when he suited up for five different teams in his 22-year pro football career.
Not only that, but he was also the oldest.
Landeta was forty-four years old when he last played for the New York Giants in 2006.
He was a two-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro selection who’s in the same stratosphere as legendary punters Shane Lechler, Yale Lary, Ray Guy, and Sammy Baugh.
Nobody would’ve predicted this unheralded product of Division II Towson University would make a serious case for Canton someday.
What’s even more impressive is Landeta didn’t play organized football until his senior year of high school.
It just goes to show that even late bloomers such as Sean Landeta can become gridiron legends and leave a lasting legacy for the next generations of football fans everywhere.
Sean Edward Landeta was born in Baltimore, MD on January 6, 1962.
Landeta told “The Norris & Davis Show” in the summer of 2011 he and the other boys in his neighborhood grew up idolizing Baltimore Colts placekicker and wide receiver Jim O’Brien.
Landeta watched O’Brien nail a game-winning field goal when he was nine years old. That motivated him to become a football player someday.
Whenever Landeta and his friends played street football, they made a mark on the ground, placed a ball on it, kicked it, and pretended they won the Super Bowl.
Landeta also kicked the pigskin between improvised goalposts from tree branches, volleyball nets, and tree wires, per The Washington Post’s William Gildea.
Landeta attended Loch Raven High School in Baltimore County, MD.
Ironically, Landeta never played organized football until his senior year of high school.
College Days With The Towson Tigers
Sean Landeta was just seventeen years old when he joined the Towson Tigers as a true freshman in the 1979 NCAA season.
Landeta saw action in 41 games for the Tigers during his four-year college football career. His 225 career punts netted 9,452 punting yards for a 42.0 average.
He led all NCAA Division II punters in the 1980 season. Landeta also made a school record 57-yard field goal that year.
It was the longest made field goal in Maryland state history in the high school, college, and professional levels up to that point in time, per the Tigers’ official athletics website.
Landeta became the only player in college football history to lead the country in punting (43.7 yard average) and field goals (fourteen) in the same season in 1980.
— Towson Football (@Towson_FB) November 6, 2020
Landeta rewrote the record books with a 72-yard punt a year later.
The Tigers had a 26-15 win-loss record with Sean Landeta as their punter and placekicker. They never qualified for the postseason from 1979 to 1982.
Landeta ended his college football career on a high note. He became the school’s Senior Athlete of the Year in 1983.
He was a three-time First-Team All-ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) selection who established school records for career punts, yards, and average.
Sean Landeta’s success in Division II football carried over to his impressive 22-year NFL career.
Pro Football Career
Sean Landeta took the unconventional route to the National Football League.
He was an undrafted free agent who first played in the pro ranks for the Philadelphia Stars of the defunct United States Football League (USFL) from 1983 to 1984.
Landeta played in his hometown of Baltimore when the team became the Baltimore Stars in 1985.
The USFL eventually folded just a year later. Landeta won two USFL titles with the Stars before the league’s demise.
Then-New York Giants general manager George Young reached out to Landeta in 1985 and asked him to join the team as a free agent.
Landeta seized the golden opportunity. He became a Giant in head coach Bill Parcells’ third year at the helm.
He wasn’t interested in fame and fortune in the National Football League. Instead, he wanted to prove to everybody he belonged on football’s biggest stage.
Not only did Sean Landeta do that, but he also did it consistently for the next twenty-two years. It was a feat unheard of back in the day.
Landeta joined a powerful Giants squad that featured quarterback Phil Simms, tight end Mark Bavaro, and linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
New York was a perennial Super Bowl contender that averaged ten wins per year from 1985 to 1993.
Unfortunately, Landeta had an inauspicious postseason debut in the NFL.
Landeta merely flubbed a crucial punt against the Chicago Bears in the 1985 Divisional Round – he missed the punt from his own goal line.
The culprit: a 13-mile-per-hour gust that whooshed inside Soldier Field on January 5, 1986.
Bears safety Shaun Gayle scooped up the loose ball from the five-yard line and took it to the end zone.
Chicago shut out New York in embarrassing fashion, 21-0.
January 5, 1986: Giants punter Sean Landeta went to punt and completely missed the ball, leading to an easy playoff TD for the Bears pic.twitter.com/01jZ3oyUdN
— Someone's An Idiot (@SomeonesAnIdiot) January 5, 2020
It was uncharacteristic of the usually reliable Landeta, who led all NFC punters with a gaudy 43-yard average.
“Up to this point,” an embarrassed Landeta told The Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith. “People will remember me for that punt rather than making All-Pro or leading the conference in punting.”
Prior to Landeta’s postseason gaffe, he had kicked 250 practice punts weekly. He even told Smith he was “married to my punting.”
Landeta liked having his mother record his punts’ hang times inside her car which was parked near his Baltimore residence.
He also liked practicing his punts near his house. It wasn’t unusual for Landeta to break a lamp or muddy up a couch.
Landeta’s dedication to his craft got in the way of his dating schedule with a girl he met after training camp in 1985.
They couldn’t see each other before 10:30 p.m. because that was the time he showered after he put all the work in for the day.
Landeta later found out the girl dated one of his teammates. He presumed he was married because they never went out before 10:30 p.m., per The Chicago Tribune.
Landeta earned vindication just over a year after his embarrassing miscue against the Bears in 1986.
The New York Giants routed the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI, 39-20.
Sean Landeta was a Super Bowl champion.
He earned his second Vince Lombardi title just four years later.
Not only was it the Giants’ second Super Bowl title, but it was also a game that featured the greatest punt of Landeta’s NFL career.
Several months before that pivotal moment, Landeta had a chance encounter with rock star Jon Bon Jovi at a nightclub.
The two men hit it off. Landeta introduced Bon Jovi to Giants public relations director Ed Croke.
Croke, in turn, introduced the rock legend to veteran Giants photographer Mike Malarkey.
Bon Jovi suited up as a discreet Giants photographer on the sidelines for the Week 2 game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Nobody except for a lone Giants cheerleader noticed. She never told anybody about Bon Jovi’s disguise.
Bon Jovi, a New Jersey native and Giants fan, eventually developed a rapport with several players and even head coach Bill Parcells.
The Giants marketing department placed t-shirts with the team’s and Bon Jovi’s logos on each player’s locker room stool.
Landeta told Giants.com’s Dan Salomone some two decades later he and his teammates wore the shirts underneath the jerseys.
The shirts inspired the Giants to play their best football in Super Bowl XXV.
Ironically, security personnel whisked Bon Jovi away from the Giants locker room.
New York quarterback Phil Simms tried to intervene. He told the security guys Bon Jovi was with them.
It all fell on deaf ears: the brewing Gulf War in the Middle East prompted the league to tighten security measures for Super Bowl XXV.
Bon Jovi wound up watching the game from the press box, per Giants.com.
He witnessed Landeta’s punt that pinned the upstart Buffalo Bills on their 10-yard line with just 2:16 remaining in Super Bowl XXV.
Bills quarterback Jim Kelly led a drive that ended on New York’s 29-yard line.
It gave Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood a chance to win the game and give the Bills their first Super Bowl title.
While Norwood was lining up for his potential game-winning kick, Landeta felt Bon Jovi tap him on his shoulder.
Landeta had been looking all over for the famous singer. They witnessed one of the most memorable moments in Super Bowl history from the Giants sideline.
Alas, Norwood’s 47-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right to the dismay of the Bills and their supporters.
The Giants emerged victorious with the slimmest of margins, 20-19. Landeta and Bon Jovi ran out to the turf in jubilation.
Had Landeta’s punt gone awry and the Bills gained better field position, Norwood would’ve lined up for a closer field goal attempt.
Fortunately, Landeta’s punt saved the day for Bill Parcells’ squad.
It was a fitting way to end The Big Tuna’s eight-year tenure in the Big Apple.
As for Sean Landeta, his professional and personal life was clicking on all cylinders.
The Baltimore Sun’s Ken Rosenthal dubbed Landeta “the original playboy punter” in 1991.
Prior to proposing to former paralegal Pamela Schmidt, Landeta dated and flirted with numerous models and centerfolds.
From a 1991 book: Donald Trump's pursuit of Marla Maples was spurred by his perceived competition with New York Giants punter Sean Landeta. Trump wanted to show ″he was more attractive than a professional athlete to this woman.″ @RichEisenShow
— John E. Bialas (@johnebialas) October 8, 2020
Landeta dated Marla Maples in 1985 – the former’s first year with the New York Giants, per Rosenthal.
He insisted it was just a friendly set-up and not the typical couples date. He also told The Baltimore Sun he had seen her around since then, but not frequently.
On the other hand, he got Donna Rice’s phone number when the Giants celebrated their Super Bowl XXI victory over the Denver Broncos in 1987.
Despite Landeta’s lengthy track record of dating beautiful women, he told The Baltimore Sun Schmidt was “the prettiest of them all.”
They met on a blind date in 1989. Back then, Schmidt resided 55 miles from Giants Stadium.
Landeta never thought he’d propose to a New Yorker. He admitted to Rosenthal their attitudes are vastly different.
Despite their differences, Landeta and Schmidt seemed to click. He eventually asked her to spend the 1989 offseason with him in Timonium, MD.
Landeta had no idea why he did it.
He dated the same girl from his senior year in high school to his senior year in college.
However, that all changed when he joined the New York Giants in the 1985 NFL season.
That was when the gorgeous women started coming in droves.
Landeta proposed to Schmidt when he was twenty-nine years old in 1991. It was a strange twist of fate considering he never thought he’d get married until he was thirty-five or forty years old.
He told Rosenthal his status as a pro football player had a lot to do with the women frequently knocking on his door during his heyday in the NFL:
“I’m not afraid to admit that if I wasn’t playing pro football, there’s no way that I could have dated some of the girls I did.”
“They were way too pretty for me. I think back to some of them, and it’s like, geez.”
Landeta joined the Los Angeles Rams in 1993. He joined the team when it relocated to St. Louis in 1995.
The Rams were a bad team back then – they averaged a paltry five wins per season during Landeta’s first tour of duty with the squad from 1993 to 1996.
Nonetheless, Sean Landeta was at the top of his game. He had a league-leading 44.8-yard average in the 1994 NFL season.
#5. Sean Landeta. Punter. 1993-96, 2003-04.
In 1994, Sean led the league in yds/punt at 44.8. His career average with the Rams is 44.1. pic.twitter.com/YwEaKpiewX
— Rams Rewind (@RewindRams) April 2, 2020
Landeta played one year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1997. He suited up for the Green Bay Packers the season after.
After Landeta’s one-year stint with the Packers in 1998, he became a free agent.
Landeta told Jim Gehman of the Eagles’ official website in November 2021 he had whittled his choices down to Philadelphia and the Miami Dolphins.
Landeta chose the City of Brotherly Love because he previously played for the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars from 1983 to 1984.
He also told Gehman that the hiring of first-year Eagles head coach Andy Reid was another factor.
Reid and Landeta got to know each other during their time together in Green Bay in the 1999 NFL season.
Reid was the Packers quarterbacks and assistant head coach that year.
Landeta felt confident he would see plenty of action in an Eagles uniform because Reid knew his potential.
Landeta was already 37 years old when he signed with Philadelphia in 1999. He told Gehman any time an older player gets an opportunity to play for someone who’s familiar with his upside, he should take it.
Since the Eagles and Giants are division rivals, Landeta was already familiar with Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium during his time in New York from 1985 to 1993.
“The (nine seasons) I played for the Giants and came back as a visiting player, for me, it was almost like a home game because I was familiar with the Vet,” Landeta told PhiladelphiaEagles.com in 2021. “And when I came back to play there again, it was.”
The Eagles limped to a rough 5-11 record in Landeta’s first season in Philly.
However, a solid core featuring quarterback Donovan McNabb, running back Duce Staley, cornerback Troy Vincent, and free safety Brian Dawkins helped the Eagles soar the next three seasons.
Philadelphia went 34-14 from 2000 to 2002. The Eagles also reached the NFC Championship Game twice during that stretch.
Thirty-nine-year-old punter Sean Landeta won a game against the then-San Diego Chargers with his leg in December 2001.
Landeta had four punts that pinned the Chargers inside their 20-yard line. Two of those punts forced San Diego to start their drives from the five-yard line.
The Chargers never made any headway in crunch time. Philadelphia won the game.
The home fans at Veteran’s Stadium chanted his name while his teammates slapped him on the back after the final whistle.
To nobody’s surprise, Landeta earned the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week award for the second time in the 2001 NFL campaign, per The Washington Post.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) November 20, 2021
During the pinnacle of Landeta’s tenure in the City of Brotherly Love in 2002, Gildea revealed security personnel had mistaken him for somebody who wasn’t an NFL player.
These security employees regularly banned him from locker rooms and team meeting rooms thinking he wasn’t a member of the team he played for.
It even reached a point Landeta had to produce an ID so he can state his case.
Landeta returned for second tours of duty with the Rams (2003 to 2004), Eagles (2005), and Giants (2006) as his NFL career wound down.
Sean Landeta retired from the National Football League on March 26, 2008. His retirement coincided with the 25th anniversary of his pro debut with the Philadelphia Stars in 1983.
He played for five teams in twenty-two seasons and became the longest-tenured and oldest punter in league history.
Landeta was forty-four years old when he took the field for the Giants in the 2006 NFL season.
He was a two-time Pro Bowl and three-time First-Team All-Pro selection.
Landeta is also a member of the National Football League’s 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams, the New York Giants All-Time Team, the Philadelphia Eagles’ 75th Anniversary Team, the St. Louis Rams 20th Anniversary Team, ESPN 40th Anniversary Super Bowl Team, and the USFL All-Time Team.
Sean Landeta is one of only three players in NFL history to have more than 1,400 punt attempts and 60,000+ yards punting. Over the course of his 20+ year career, Landeta was named All-Pro three times and won two Super Bowls with the Giants. pic.twitter.com/ooxgEtGDVi
— PFRPA (@ThePFRPA) August 19, 2019
Landeta told the Eagles’ official website in 2021 his proudest on-field accomplishment was working hard so he could perform at the game’s highest level.
He always knew one slip-up could cost him his career. Fortunately, he played twenty-two years in the NFL thanks to his consistency nearly every season.
Landeta told Gehman he competed with ten other punters during training camp every year. These weren’t just ordinary punters – they played at least five seasons in the pro ranks. They gave Landeta stiff competition, to say the least:
“They could have chosen the other guy several times and, fortunately, they chose me. And so that’s that’s where that kind of luck comes in.”
“You have to do your part, but those other things have to go your way to play a long time.”
Sean Landeta married the former Donna Bretzel on May 30, 2009. They currently reside in Jupiter, FL near Bill Parcells’ residence.
Landeta has a son Joey from a previous relationship. Donna has two daughters: Amanda and Alexa.
Landeta played for the two fierce NFC East rivals, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, during his storied 22-year NFL career. He earned two Super Bowl rings with Big Blue.
On the other hand, his wife hails from a family that bleeds Philadelphia Eagles Green and White.
The couple had a potential issue during their wedding reception: they seated guests who rooted for the Giants and Eagles in the same tables.
They got along well for awhile. When the alcohol started flowing, they began chirping at each other.
The two sides wore their team’s colors at the hotel the following day and promptly picked up where they left off on the friendly banter, per the New York Post.
The Towson Tigers Hall of Fame inducted Sean Landeta in 2005.
Landeta became a member of the NCAA Division II College Football Hall of Fame a year later.
He’s also enshrined in the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (2009), the Loch Raven High School Hall of Fame (2011), and the Maryland State Sports Hall of Fame (2011).
Landeta first became eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
He became one of the modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 in the fall of 2021.
“It’s a great honor to be chosen for that,” Landeta told Gehman.” And hopefully, at some point, I can break into that Top 25 (finalists).”
Regrettably, Landeta didn’t make the final cut. Hopefully, he will get that elusive gold jacket and bust in Canton sooner than later.