FATHERHOOD IN THE NFL: MR. SAMUEL McNABB, FATHER OF PHILADELPHIA EAGLES QUARTERBACK MR. DONOVAN McNABB
I don’t remember when it happened. I can’t recall the day or moment. I can’t even tell you why. All I can tell you is that one morning I woke up and discovered that I had become a football fan. Yes, I am a football fan! On Sunday afternoons, for 16 weeks out of the year, you will find me glued to the television screen, watching not only professional football but also the pre-game shows. When you get past the hoopla, the game of football is full of life lessons about discipline, success, failure, setting and achieving goals, and faith. And the men on the football field are more than just quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, cornerbacks, defensive ends and linebackers. They are husbands and fathers. During the early months of 2005, through a collaborative effort with Ms. Paris Nicole Payton, Entertainment Consultant/Manager and Sports Personal Assistant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I was able to conduct an interview with a phenomenal gentleman who exemplifies the positive and human side of football. So, grab your favorite beverage, find your favorite chair and check out “Fatherhood In The NFL.” There is more to football than touchdowns, field goals, fumbles, end zone celebrations, megabuck salaries, the exhilarating cheers from fans that can be heard at kick-off in stadiums, and guest appearances on ESPN. There is a human side of football. Many of the athletes in the NFL are fathers who quietly and unceremoniously move their families forward. Out of the range of television cameras and microphones, they go about the business of shaping the minds and souls of their children and empowering and strengthening the communities in which they live and work. Samuel McNabb, President and Co-Founder of the National Football Players Father Association explores the human side of football and parenting from a male point of view. The founder of the National Football Players Father Association, and a retired electrical engineer, McNabb is a husband and father of two sons. If the McNabb name sounds familiar it should. Mr. Samuel McNabb is the father of Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Mr. Donovan McNabb.
I was extremely curious about the role models that Mr. McNabb had as he made the journey from childhood to manhood.
“My initial role models were Alfred and Marenda McNabb, my mother and father,” McNabb responded. “They were the people I looked to and pulled from for strength, discipline and guidance as I grew from childhood to manhood. I think as children, we learn to believe and confide in our parents if they are consistent in their approach to parenting. As I grew older, there were more prominent men in various walks of life that became my new role models. I looked up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his strength and courage to try and change the way people were oppressed and abused for trying to enjoy what this country claimed to be free and available. My next role model was Earl Graves, the CEO of Black Enterprise Magazine – another pioneer who worked hard to unite businesses of all nationalities to help build his business and make his vision a reality…these two men have been instrumental in developing my community and business interests that I presently work in.”
McNabb says that many of these characteristics learned from his parents were passed down to his children, very early in life.
“As a father of two young men – one being a high profile professional athlete – I adopted many of the techniques that my parents used on me to discipline and guide my sons through their journey from childhood to manhood,” he said. “Many people commend my youngest son, Donovan, on his ability to handle pressure and adversity as a quarterback in the NFL, but I know we prepared him for this at an early age,” he said. “When you teach your children how to be respectful to get respect you eliminate selfishness and instill humility.”McNabb says that he is appreciative when he sons say that he and his wife are their role models.“Everything should start at home and we know they have bought into our method of parenting,” he said.
McNabb adds that having a complete family structure, with both mother and father present, creates a vital balance in starting and establishing relationships. These are things he had to learn when finding a mate to spend his life with. This advice, he received from family:
“I was always told to be selective in whom I chose to live with. My father wanted a daughter-in-law who desired to build her own family that included grandchildren. My brothers and sister were good at helping me to understand what dating entailed,” he said. Collectively, they wanted both my mate and I to learn how to continually love and trust each other unconditionally and build our lives upon a spiritual foundation that would instinctively teach us how to appreciate and care for each other and the children that we would later be blessed with.”
I then asked Mr. McNabb if he was given any advice about fatherhood. Who told him? What was he told?
McNabb recalls his experience as a new father “a frightening reality,” and says he reached out to his own father for guidance.
“I remember many conversations starting with asking my father what I should do to be a good father and when was the best time to implement discipline and guidance to ensure my children would accept my parenting techniques,” he said. He recalls his father’s ability to “give you a certain look to convince you it was better to accept his decision rather than challenge him.” He says he and his siblings were groomed to react to his first request. “Very seldom did he ever have to repeat himself when we were to do something.”
Such traits are ones that McNabb, too, learned and used in his parenting. Other men he sought for advice included older male relatives, friends, his pastor, fellow fathers, books and later on in life, seminars. His father-in-law also played a role in helping him development of becoming an understanding father. This was exhibited through patience his father-in-law showed him in his early years of parenting.
“He would never tell me that I made a mistake or when I used poor judgment in some of my decisions,” Mr. McNabb remarked. “He would always say how important it was to be more flexible and less rigid in making decisions by listening to your children and learning how to communicate with them as opposed to always dictating to them.”
Such struggles of fathers and sons prompted McNabb to spearhead the creation of the National Football Players Fathers Association (NFPFA) in November 2000.
“It was 1999 when Donovan was drafted at the NFL Draft in New York City when the idea came into existence,” he recalled. “There was another player’s father also invited to the draft who came over to ask me why the fathers did not have an association to work with helping our sons get through the experience of being in the NFL. We later got together to discuss how we could get more dads involved in their son’s lives through an association that would take on the existence of being more than a social group or clique.”
After much thought and conversation, McNabb on the responsibility, becoming the Founder and President and soliciting other men to get them involved as active members.
“As a father of an existing player, I have noticed how unstable and self-centered some of the young men without prominent male figures in their lives are and I have also noticed that they make poor decisions both on and off the field. Most of them take good care of their moms, but definitely have a noticeable void in their lives without a father. We thought our mission and purpose should be inclusive and concise to gain the most support from other fathers, their sons, the National Football League and National Football League Players Association. We simply indicated that we were created to provide guidance support for both our sons and any other professional football players who desired to have a positive male figure in their lives. The NFPFA assists their sons with professional and personal development, maintaining their image, maximizing their potential both on and off the field, assisting in their charitable and community service contributions. They work with partnering sponsors and businesses to provide scholarship opportunities and provide mentoring clinics and college football exposure fairs. We are presently working in both the Chicago and Philadelphia school systems and are hopeful to expand to other NFL cities in the near future.”
What tools should our children – especially our young males -- be equipped with that will enable them to become successful well-adjusted adults?
“Well, ‘tools’ as we know them might be a bit harsh for answering this question,” Mr. McNabb responded. “But if I must use this method, let me say that the first tool I would pull out of my proverbial tool bag would be a hammer. I would use this tool to pound the message regularly into our children that no one is going to hand them anything without a good effort on their part toward becoming sculptured (educated), chiseled (cultured), and sanded or fine tuned. The next tool that I would use to build children would definitely be a chisel to help form our children into the best identifiable form to make them sturdy, strong, considerate and well grounded. The next tool would be a level to make sure that children always keep their balance in making good decisions, being obedient and choosing good friends or peers. This would be followed by a sander he says to “smooth all the rough edges and prepare my children for the finest polish to seal and ensure their success for now and forever.”
He adds that such building should start at homes with parents and suggests other outlets such as friends, relatives and neighboring churches. He says that there has been too much pressure on teachers to equip our children: “Educating is their responsibility.”
Mr. McNabb believes that parents are solely responsible and observed: “Too many children have been given a free pass by their parents to do whatever they please. They have removed the parent and assumed the role of raising themselves as best they can without our involvement. So, the key word to equipping our children will always be accountability.
McNabb suggests taking time to sit and talk as a family. He says this starts the process of “identifying our children’s roles as future spouses and parents.”
What information should we share with our children concerning their future roles and responsibilities as spouses and parents?
“Their learning process starts when they become coherent to our actions and their surroundings,” Mr. McNabb pointed out. “As the old saying goes, ‘The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree’ and that basically means that our children will start to emulate our ways and actions as parents when their time comes. We need to understand that there is no certain age for us to sit down and begin sharing information, instead we must realize each family has to determine the level of maturity of their children before they start verbally explaining the roles and responsibilities of being a spouse and parent.”
Our discussion moved to parenting in the Millennium. We noted that parenting has become more of a challenge than in times past. We asked McNabb to shed some light on why parenting seemed to be more of a challenge.
He said that accountability and responsibility had been altered: “In the past, parents were not trying to be a child’s friend. They understood their roles and accepted the fact that it was better for them to enforce house rules and laws than to accept disrespect and disobedience. Today, mothers want to be best friends and big sisters to their children instead of a parent, and if dads are useless in the house, it’s because they prefer to groom a drinking or smoking buddy instead of a son. Today, parents pacify their children too much with watered down parenting techniques and gifts to prevent them from being upset for reprimanding them. Back in my day, my parents dared you to pick up the phone to call the police. They knew how to intimidate and demand respect from us.”
Mr. McNabb noted that to rebuild, it will take everyone: “It starts in our churches and community. If we can extend our talents to those that are seeking a change, we can begin the process of healing. If we are successful, then one newly healed leader will reciprocate and seek out a new potential leader and before long we will start to correct the errors of the past with a new found vision to excel and aspire.”
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