As J.P. Losman sauntered through Coeur d’Alene City Park on Thursday after finishing the Ironman check-in process, an employee of the grueling and world-famous triathlon offered a familiar salutation.
“Good luck on Sunday,” a woman told Losman as he walked his bike around vendor booths a stone’s throw from Lake Coeur d’Alene and the beach’s heavy foot traffic.
Losman, an offensive assistant coach at college football powerhouse Clemson, had a bout of deja vu.
“Wow. I haven’t heard, ‘Good luck Sunday,’ in about 10 years,” said Losman, sporting a new Ironman T-shirt and purple-and-orange Clemson sweatpants.
Losman received well-wishes from boss and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney before his North Idaho journey. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson’s prized quarterback recently drafted No. 1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, said he would also keep tabs on Losman’s pursuit.
But the word Sunday – the day of the full Ironman Coeur d’Alene’s return after a three-year hiatus – holds a much different place in the former NFL quarterback’s heart.
Losman was a first-round NFL draft pick in 2004 by the Buffalo Bills, a Tulane University product who appeared in 45 NFL regular-season games in his career with 33 starts.
His Sundays were occupied for eight NFL seasons, playing five years with the Bills before ending his career with brief stints with the Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins.
Losman started just one full season in 2006, completing 268 of 429 passes for 3,051 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Now a 40-year-old father, husband and fifth-year assistant at Clemson nearly 10 years removed from his last snap under center, the 6-foot-3 Losman weighs around 195 pounds, the leanest he’s been since college.
Training for a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike race and 26.2-mile run got him there.
A newfound motivation sent him on a cross-country journey to Coeur d’Alene for his first try at Ironman, a title he had long respected.
“I never told my kids I played football, but a teacher at school showed one of them one of my football cards,” Losman said. “I got tired of people telling my kids I used to be good, so this is something where I get to show them I am still an athlete.
“I’m ready for the next challenge. Coach Swinney says that our dreams have to be bigger than our memories, so I’ve been dreaming big.
Losman drove from his Clemson, South Carolina, home on Thursday morning to the nearest international airport in Atlanta, a two-hour jaunt. When he got to Coeur d’Alene late in the afternoon, he checked into his hotel and immediately took in the downtown sights of the tourist destination.
Then he got to work, proceeding to go on a nighttime bike and run.
“I came to Coeur d’Alene by myself, didn’t really tell too many people I was even doing this,” Losman said. “I don’t even care if get a medal or anything. Just knowing I came all the way out here and finished this is good enough for me.”
Losman faced some of the toughest and most physical defenses in the NFL during his time in Buffalo. Now he faces the daunting swimming portion of Ironman in the typically chilly Coeur d’Alene waters, something he couldn’t simulate in warmer South Carolina.
“That’s going to be tough,” said Losman, who began his Ironman training early in the pandemic last year.
He balanced his training and home life to Clemson’s run to the College Football Playoff in the pandemic-altered 2020 season.
Losman has experienced four runs to the four-team playoff in five seasons, three national title game appearances and two national championship.
When he was issued an Ironman bike on Thursday with a crimson tone similar to fellow college power Alabama’s, he nearly requested another bike.
“I’ll just put some purple or orange tape over this,” Losman said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.