I remember my first NFL game, Super Bowl IX, Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota. I sat there watching these two teams play for the championship with my dad not knowing a thing. I was a wide eyed nine-year old boy asking questions, and him trying to explain the rules, while he was following the game on the TV. I learned what a safety was, which was the first in Super Bowl history. I was rooting for the Vikings, who were known as the purple people eaters, because it sounded cool. Pittsburgh won the game 16-6 and I was hooked.
I would think many father and son pairings who played in the NFL remember watching some games together. The only difference was their sons most likely saw their first game not on TV, but live, watching their dads either throw, run, block or tackle something or someone. Being around it and seeing things first hand up close, these sons were hooked as well.
There have been some great father and sons who have played in the NFL, here are three combinations:
Father – Howie Long (Oakland Raiders - DE),
Son – Chris Long (St. Louis Rams - DE)
Howie grew up in Massachusetts and went to Villanova University where he was an honorable mention for All-American honors his senior year. He was drafted in the second round of the 1981 NFL draft by the Raiders, where he went on to play 13 seasons and was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. He recorded 91.5 sacks in 179 career games. Long is now a studio analyst for Fox Sports where he has been a valuable member of that group, and also has had some success acting from time to time.
His son Chris was born in California, while dad played for Oakland. He followed in his footsteps playing football in high school as a gangly tall player who was finding his game. He was so good he had his high school uniform retired. He went on to play defensive end at the University of Virginia and earned All-American honors.
He outdid his father and selected 2nd overall in the 2008 NFL draft by the Rams. He has 30.5 sacks in his four year career. He is currently one of the leaders of both the defense and team.
Father – Jackie Slater (LA Rams – T)
Son – Matthew Slater (Patriots – WR/CB)
Jackie’s football career was defined by the blue collar work on the offensive line. He was born in Mississippi, and went to the same school as Walter Payton, Jackson State University where he was named an All- American by the Pittsburgh Courier after a great senior season. He was drafted in the third round by the LA Rams as an offensive tackle in 1976, where Slater played 20 seasons with the Rams, the first player to play that long with one team. He was later enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, in his second year of eligibility. He played a total of 259 games for the Rams starting 211 and earning 7 Pro Bowl selections. Jackie got into coaching where we coached one season in the NFL in 2006 and is now at Azusa Pacific University passing on his experience as an offensive line coach
Jackie’s son Matthew was also born in California and went on to enroll at UCLA. He was listed as a wide receiver, but excelled as a special teamer in kick coverage, and returning kicks. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in his time at UCLA. His skills on special teams and being able to play both WR and CB caught the eyes of NFL teams. He was drafted in the fifth round by the New England Patriots. He has continued to excel as a special team player, where he has been named the team captain for this unit. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2012 for the one Special team spot for the AFC. He is still with the Patriots where he signed a new contract this past off season.
Father – Bob Griese (Miami Dolphins – QB)
Son Brian Griese (Denver – QB)
Bob is best known as the QB of the only undefeated team in NFL history as he led the 1972 Miami Dolphins to a 17-0 record and win in Super Bowl VII. Bob grew up in Indiana and was a three sport all-star in football, basketball and baseball. Even though he was an excellent pitcher, colleges were looking at him for football, where he received a scholarship to play at Purdue University. Bob was not just an outstanding quarterback, but handled the kicking duties (punting and kicking). He completed his time at Purdue as a two time All-American QB and runner up in the Heisman Trophy race to eventual winner Steve Spurrier in 1966. He was selected 4th overall by the Dolphins in NFL common draft. After a couple of rocky seasons, he and new coach Don Shula came led the Dolphins to three consecutive Super Bowl appearances, winning two, Super Bowls VII (over the Washington Redskins) and VIII (beating the Minnesota Vikings). He played in 161 games over his 14 years in the NFL, throwing for over 25,000 yards and 192 touchdowns. After he was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1990, he moved to broadcasting where he worked for NBC, ABC and ESPN broadcasting pro and then college football. He retired from ESPN in 2011.
Brian grew up in the shadow of his dad in Miami, FL. He played football in high school, but unlike others he did not get many college scholarship offers. He decide to walk on at the University of Michigan and after a red shirt and another non-productive seasons, he became the starting QB in the middle of the 1995 season and finished out the season beating their hated rival, and at the time #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. He swapped the QB job in the next season, until his senior season he led the Wolverines to an undefeated season and the 1997 National Championship over Washington State in the Rose Bowl. His dad was there as he called the game for ABC. He was selected in the third round by the Denver Broncos and was a backup to Broncos legend John Elway. He was named the starter after Elway’s retirement, even earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2000. He did not seem to get many chances to start, even though he was playing better than his competition with stints with Tampa Bay, Miami and Chicago. He retired from football in 2009 and also liked his dad went into broadcasting as he works for ESPN 360 and does radio commentary for the Denver Broncos. He also spends a lot of hours dedicated to Judi’s House a charity for children grieving support center. This is in honor of his mother who died of cancer when he was 12.
It is a privilege getting to spend time with your father watching a game like this. Too many take it for granted. These three father and son examples demonstrate how learning from a father can lead to a career or how to do things the right way. Not every story happens the way these did, but on a day like this, I wanted to salute fathers and what they do with their sons, and now daughters.
To my dad Gerald, Thank You for showing me the great game of football. I will always remember the years arguing over calls and cheering for our teams. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.