I was two years old when my dad starting playing with the Patriots and ten years old when he retired, so I grew up around the NFL. Thinking back, it was very cool to have my dad playing in the league, but I don't think I realized how cool it was at the time because I was living it. I still remember going to a Giants game the year after my dad retired, and after the game I said to him, "Let's go to the locker room." He looked at me with a look that basically said, "Sorry son, I don't work here anymore."
Unlike a lot of families with a dad in the league, my family traveled everywhere with him. We lived in New England for six and a half years, then out in Los Angeles for a year when he was with the Raiders. Then we spent a year in Minnesota and then another year and a half in New Jersey when he finished his career with the Giants.
It's tough when you're a kid moving to a new school every year, but the reality is that being the son of a professional football player made it much easier. For one, you never get picked last in school when your dad plays in the NFL, and secondly, I didn't have to look too hard for friends because my dad's teammates all had kids and we all became friends. Karl Nelson, Steve Grogan, Mark Bavaro, Mosi Tatupu ... these guys were my dad's friends, and in turn I was friends with their kids.
I'm always reminded of how my life is slightly different from others. In New England, everyone called Steve Grogan by his full name or by "Grogs" or some other nickname. But to me, he was my friend's father, so I called him what I called all of my friend's parents, Mr. Grogan. I remember in high school doing an interview, and the interviewer asked me who taught me how to throw a football, and I responded by saying, "Mr. Grogan did." The interviewer just looked at me. No one in sports calls anyone "Mr." Think of how strange it would be if some kid referred to Tom Brady as "Mr. Brady," or to Shaun Alexander as "Mr. Alexander." It sounds funny, doesn't it? But that's how it was for me and my brother growing up.
Now I'm living the life that my father did when I was a little boy. I have three children, two girls and a boy. It's funny to see the looks on their faces when someone asks me for an autograph or stops us to talk. They always say, "Daddy, why did that person ask you to write your name?" Then we'll go to Disneyland or something, and they'll say, "Daddy, can we get Cinderella to write her name for us?" It's great being a parent.
Just like the experience my father had when he played, some of my best friends are my teammates. As a result, my teammates' kids are my kids' best friends. I often talk to coaches' kids about moving around a lot. Coaches work harder than anyone, and oftentimes they get uprooted year after year -- which is tough on a family -- so I talk to some of their kids when I'm asked to. I tell them how I know it's traumatic to move around a lot, but it will prepare them better for life down the road and college more immediately. Everyone heads off on their own in college, and this is a great preparation tool for them.
It's funny the amount of connections between my dad's NFL career and mine. He was teammates with both Archie Manning (Minnesota in 1984) and Phil Simms (NY Giants 1985). Now I'm in the league with Eli, Peyton and Chris.
My dad played with Maurice Carthon and Rob Carpenter, both of whose sons are in the league now. Mosi Tatupu was a teammate of my dad's, and now his son, Lofa, is a teammate of mine. My dad was a teammate of Sean Landeta's on the Giants, and then he was a teammate of mine my rookie year in Green Bay and a teammate of my brother's in Philadelphia. He always jokes with me about longevity, and that my goal should be to play with his kid in the NFL one day.
Now, I watch Bobby Engram's kid having a catch with Mack Strong's kid, and I wonder if they will be doing that in the NFL one year.