You've got to want it. And Louie Aguiar did.
Undrafted out of Utah State in 1989, the punter went to training camp with the Buffalo Bills. He was cut.
He went to training camp with the Bills again the following year. Again he was cut.
But not without making an impression on Buffalo head coach Marv Levy and special teams coach Bruce DeHaven. They both recommended Aguiar to Jack Bicknell, Barcelona's head coach in the upstart World League of American Football.
Playing for the Dragons in the WLAF's inaugural season in 1991, Aguiar again made an impression, this time on Jets assistant director of pro personnel Pat Kirwan, who recommended him to general manager Dick Steinberg and special teams coach Al Roberts.
"After the World Bowl, they sent me a contract and I signed it on June 10. A month later I was in training camp and made the team," Aguiar said. "Yeah, that was a full year. I went through two training camps and played in 29 games. Plus, I punted and kicked off. I was tired, but at the time, I was 24 years old. I was young, healthy and just did what I was told. It was just something I'd always done, so I never even thought about it."
With the Jets for three seasons from 1991-93, Aguiar averaged 39.6 yards on 210 punts while playing in 49 games for the Green & White, including the 1991 AFC Wild Card Game against the Houston Oilers. He said his first game in '91, the season-opening 16-13 win over Tampa Bay, was his most memorable.
"I finally made it in the NFL," Aguiar said. "I remember [18-year veteran kicker] Pat Leahy came up to me and congratulated me and said, 'Don't worry. It's just another game.' Having him there helped me out tremendously in my mindset."
After New York, Aguiar went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Each team is well known for its loyal fan base, but what sets Jet fans apart?
"When you screw up, they'll let you know it," Aguiar laughed. "I had a guy by my [sideline] net who had a bag on his head that had 'Louie Aguiar Fan Club.' I didn't know if that was good or bad, but it made me work harder to be a better punter and just try to be a part of the team.
"The fans there, they wanted a winning team because the Giants were doing well and we weren't. But when you did well, they were right there with you. And when you did bad, they'd let you know that also."
While the average length of an NFL player's career is three-plus seasons, Aguiar was able to play 10. He feels the key to his longevity was having the ability to adapt.
"Every special teams coach wanted you to do something different," Aguiar said. "Al Roberts, he wanted me to kick everything out of bounds, so that way we'd get no returns. So, did I have great numbers punting-wise? No. But did I have great net numbers? Yeah. Did I have great numbers that had hardly any yards returned on me? Yeah. That's what Al Roberts wanted.
"Then when I went to Kansas City, Kurt Schottenheimer was the special teams coach, and he said, 'You don't need to kick the ball out of bounds. Just keep it from the numbers to the sidelines, right or left.'
"And when I was kicking off for the Jets, this is when we had the three-inch kickoff tees, so we'd kick it high and short to the 20-yard line and make teams fair-catch it so they had no return yards. (Miami's) Coach (Don) Shula was very upset that they had no returns against us. So, he was the head of the competition committee and they switched the tees from the three-inch down to the one-inch."
Following his playing days, Aguiar coached for 12 years at Waterloo High School in Illinois and then at Seckman High School in Imperial, MO. In 2013, he made his way back to the Jets by joining Rex Ryan's staff as a special teams coach.
"Giving back to the players what I learned when I was playing, I really enjoyed that," Aguiar said. "When I was there, I believe it was the first year in Jets history that we netted over 40 yards with [punter] Ryan Quigley.
"And [kicker Nick] Folk had good years. Those guys did really well because I asked them what they did, and I made them do it. I really enjoyed helping them out and making them better players and better people."
Even being in the league as long as he was as a player, was there anything about coaching in the NFL that Aguiar didn't realize occurred?
"Oh, yeah, the long hours," Aguiar said. "I was living in a hotel [in New Jersey], and was married and had three children, and they were living outside of St. Louis. Even if they were there, I never would have seen them.
"I'd get up at six in the morning and get to work at seven and start looking at film. Then we'd have meetings and then more film. I'd get home at midnight or two in the morning. I didn't realize the long hours, but I loved it.
"I just loved the X's and O's. And it all started with Al Roberts. He'd give me [the opponent's] tape on Monday and say, 'Break it down and give me a report on Wednesday morning.' Doing that made me, I feel, a better player."
Aguiar, the father of three — Cody, Lexi and Colton — now makes his home in Illinois, and, well, has been in better health. After he, Ryan and the rest of the Jets coaching staff were let go in 2014, Aguiar took a step back to his youth and worked with his hands, just as he did with his dad and three older brothers. Unfortunately, the plumbing, construction and working with concrete, took a toll.
"I started to struggle with walking," Aguiar said. "I kept working and then I had an MRI done and found out I had five bulging discs and a cyst on a [spinal] nerve. So I ended up having a fusion done 16 months ago and the fusion didn't take hold. I have two surgeries coming up, on Oct. 1 and Oct. 5. They're going to put a[n interbody] cage on my vertebrae."