Where in the world is Jake Plummer? Playing handball
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- Jake Plummer stands in his tube socks, shorts and a T-shirt, still sweating. He's gone through about 20 shirts over the weekend. A sweatband holds back his shaggy brown mane, and he hasn't removed his goggles. He spreads his palms, showing his calloused hands (though the bruises, he says, are from playing the bongo drums at a bar the night before). "I know it's crazy," he says, "but I kinda want to keep practicing. I'm sore and exhausted, but I still want to play. Is that crazy?"Maybe. Even crazier? Plummer isn't referring to football. He's talking about handball.
Aggie Skirball/NFL/Getty Images
Jake has no regrets about leaving the Broncos, where he went 39-15 as starting QB.
Spend 10 minutes with the former NFL quarterback and it's obvious the man is perfectly happy away from football. One of the biggest reasons has been his rediscovery of handball, the sport that his father, Steve, taught Jake and his older brothers, Eric and Brett, when they were young.Eric, 37, is the most talented Plummer on the handball court, a fact Jake reluctantly admits (though he quickly points out that Eric played in college). The baby brother in the family, Jake, 33, says his first goal is to beat Eric. "It won't happen now, but give me a year or two," he says, grinning. Jake's return to handball came soon after he left the NFL in 2007, a departure many fans and pundits questioned. He could have played a few more years, tried for a Super Bowl ring, or at the very least added more cash to the kitty. But he was tired of the anti-inflammatory diet, tired of his back and knees hurting and tired of coaches yelling at him. Back home in Idaho, he saw John Elway driving around the golf course, unable to walk from hole to hole, and worried that would be him in five years. Raised in Boise by "hippie" parents, Jake craved the outdoors: hiking, camping, even mowing the lawn. He missed spending time with his family (Brett and Eric are both married with children). "I've seen more of Jake in the last year than I had since high school," Eric says. So Jake and his wife, Kollette, a former dancer and Broncos cheerleader, moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, splitting time between there and a second home with 47 acres in Coeur d'Alene, a picturesque town in northern Idaho. Jake started volunteering with the humane society and the senior citizens center, delivering groceries and cutting down firewood. And to help keep in shape, he returned to handball, after a 12-year hiatus from the sport. "The first time I played again, I was so sore that I couldn't lift my arms," Jake says. Playing several times a week, Jake has lost 20 pounds from his NFL days and is in, he says, the best shape of his life. He can drop to one knee and jump back up or move his lanky 6-foot-2 frame with surprising speed and agility. His constant arm and back pain of the last decade is gone. He can run, bike and hike, or, as he demonstrated over a Halloween weekend handball tournament at a local health club, somersault, nose-dive and swat at handball shots from his left or his right side.
The Plummers -- from left, Brett, Eric, dad Steve and Jake -- take their handball seriously.
Jake occasionally travels to weekend tournaments and recently had his father-in-law try handball for the first time. Last spring, while playing with Slavin, they discussed Jake's using his celebrity to help promote the sport. He decided to host a tournament in Coeur d'Alene, with the proceeds going through his Jake Plummer Foundation to several local charities.Jake made some calls, and soon eight of the world's elite pros had agreed to play in Jake Plummer's First Annual Halloween Handball Bash. Amateurs signed up, too, until the entry list topped 95 competitors, men and women. The four Plummer men signed up. Jake's mother, Marilyn, made Costco trips for supplies, and Kollette organized the food. Jake's aunt Pat drove from Boise to serve as event planner. "He wants this tournament to become the Super Bowl of handball," Marilyn says.
First, you need a ball. A small ball: handball, racquetball or tennis ball. After you have acquired the ball, go outside and walk around looking for a flat surface with no glass windows. This is the wall you're looking for -- a wall with flat ground near it.
A ball and a wall! That is all you need to play handball.
Next, begin hitting the ball against the wall, letting it bounce once before you strike it again back against the wall you have chosen. Continue doing this until you find a friend to alternate hitting the ball with. You are now playing handball -- one-wall handball. That is it, the most basic way to play handball.
A ball and a wall! And a friend to add competition.
One of Jake's goals is to teach kids that playing a variety of sports is important.
Anna Katherine Clemmons is a reporter for ESPN The Magazine and a regular contributor to Page 2.