Jackson Michael is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Maxwell Football Club. He is a freelance writer and journalist; visit his book website.
My dad introduced me to watching football. We first watched Super Bowl XI together. The following season, he started me on a lifelong journey of cheering for our home state’s Green Bay Packers. The Packers weren’t regular playoff participants like they are today. They were lucky to win six games a year. Standing by a losing team taught character, hope, and commitment. The Packers, and the NFL in general, own a special place in my childhood’s heartstrings.
My experience isn’t much different than countless others who grew up in the United States. You could replace the Packers with the Steelers, or Cowboys, or Dolphins, or any other team. College teams count, too. Fathers pass down watching the game to their sons (and daughters), who later watch football with their children. Teams get passed down like family heirlooms.
For some families, the game itself gets passed down. Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli, was also a franchise quarterback. Clay Matthews’ father excelled at linebacker in the 1980s. My dad and I remember Tennessee Titan Charlie Whitehurst’s father playing quarterback for the Packers.
When I interviewed Bob Griese for The Game before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL, I asked him about his son Brian’s career. Brian quarterbacked Michigan to a co-national championship in 1997 (shared with Nebraska), and played eleven NFL seasons. Bob told me that the decision to play football was left up to Brian. Bob supported Brian’s choice to play football, but he didn’t dictate his son’s career path. Bob also let Brian know that just because his dad was a Hall of Fame quarterback, that didn’t mean that Brian could feel entitled to success.
I recently met and interviewed Eric Metcalf, whose father Terry also starred in the NFL. Eric spoke of the example his father set, and how his father’s work ethic led to his own achievements. “A lot of people are very athletic and are able to play sports at any level,” Metcalf said. “But I saw my dad—being as good as he was— till training like he had never done anything on the field. It was instilled in me that even though you have athletic ability, you still have to work to be the best.”
My dad never played a down in the NFL (or even high school, for that matter). The lessons he taught me, however, differ little from those given by dads who made the Pro Bowl and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. My dad didn’t show dedication and hard work on the gridiron, but he exemplified those traits going to work at his every day to provide for the family. A lot of sacrifices came with that commitment, and just like Eric Metcalf watched his father, I watched my own dad inspire me to work hard and do my best.
Again, many others across the country would tell a similar story. Our dads have passed down the values they cherish, and also their love of the game. What a shame that Father’s Day doesn’t land during football season.
-Jackson Michael (@JacksonMichael)