Falcons' special-teams captain Wire a survivor

The self-proclaimed "undersized half-Asian kid from Pennsylvania" was not supposed to be a special-teams star.

He started his career in Buffalo as a safety and his career looked to be over after he suffered nerve damage in his neck in 2007. But one massive surgery, four screws and one titanium plate between the fifth and sixth vertebrae later, the Stanford grad is in his eight season in the NFL.

He started for the Falcons late last season and was voted special-teams captain.

In a conversation with the AJC, Wire discusses his journey in the NFL and how the Falcons' special teams can help get the team turned around.

Q: What was it like being elected special-teams captain by your peers?

A: Anytime you get to represent your team, it's an honor and a privilege. Especially on a team like ours where I have lot of respect for my teammates. It means a lot to go out and represent guys like that.

Q: How are the special-teams units doing this year?

A: I think in the rankings, we are ranked seventh overall. So we are performing solid overall. But like any aspect of the game, we want to improve. We are doing a solid job, but we are not going to be content until we finish No. 1 in the rankings.

Q: What's the mind-set that you have to have running down on kicks and punts, trying to get to that ball carrier?

A: Not only is special teams some of the most physical plays in the game, because of the high speeds and collisions, you have to be fundamentally sound and disciplined because you only get one chance. You don't get three downs like on offense or defense. If something goes wrong, you don't get a chance to make up for it. There is only one play. You have to do everything right because you don't get a chance to make up for it.

Q: Why did you decide to have neck surgery to continue playing in the NFL?

A: For me the big challenge was recovering from my neck injury. It was just a blessing to be able to play again. I have to continue to get stronger so that I can be the best player for the team. That is my goal and my privilege right now.

Q: How would you advise kids about getting in the game, about the toughness needed to overcome those situations?

A: Football is a great teacher. There are a lot of lessons that you can learn about adversity. About perseverance, dedication and discipline. Football has been one of my greatest teachers. Not just the game, but I have a lot of examples of other players who have come in. I was able to watch them and learn from them.

Q: Can the Falcons' special teams help to get things turned around?

A: It's definitely been addressed, and we are cognizant of the fact that we can win some games for this organization. The battle of field possession is crucial, especially against the tougher opponents. Fortunately, we've had a couple of blocked kicks this year, but we have yet to score on special teams, but that is at the top of our list. It is pertinent that we find a way to get the ball in the end zone on special teams and change the game.

Q: How important is it having coaches that stress special-teams play?

A: It's really a third of the game. Everyone talks about offense and defense, but special teams plays a huge part in the success of any offense or defense.

For a lot of guys, this is what we do for a living, play special teams.

We may see some snaps on offense or defense, but there are a lot of guys on this team who play special teams for a living. It is serious business.

It's a crucial part of the game. We are fortunate to have Keith Armstrong as our coach. He's been around the game for a long time. He's proven over the years that he has a successful scheme and philosophy.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.