For many players, coaches become their father figures. But for many who have never played at the college or pro level, fathers are their coaching figures.
Gary Myers takes an absorbing look at some NFL quarterbacks who looked up to their fathers and gave them their start in football in his latest book, My First Coach: Inspiring Stories of NFL Quarterbacks and Their Dads (Grand Central Publishing; hardback; $28; 279 pages). In nine chapters, Myers, the NFL’s columnist for the New York Daily News, takes a look at the Mannings, Jim Harbaugh, Jameis Winston, Phil Simms, John Elway, Derek Carr, Ryan Fitzapatrick, Joe Flacco and Joe Montana.
Every story is wonderfully written, and Myers has a gift of getting the quarterbacks to open up about their stories. The reader learns, for example, of the advice Simms received from his father, a man who handed out compliments sparingly. “Did they want to be ballplayers or one of those guys who hang out with their friends,” Myers writes. Simms, who grew up in a small house in Louisville with nine other family members, chose to be a ballplayer.
“He wasn’t a compliment guy,” Simms said of his father, William.
Including Fitzpatrick in this collection may seem out of synch, given the success stories of the other quarterbacks in this book. But he’s the only Harvard quarterback ever to start a game in the NFL, and probably one of the few — if not the only — one to finish 20 points short of a perfect SAT score in high school.
Mike Fitzpatrick emphasized academics to his son, but realized that playing for an Ivy League school would carry long odds for being drafted in the NFL.
“Nobody knows anything about Harvard football,” Mike told his son.
“If I’m good enough, they will find me,” Ryan said.
“That was the most incredible thing to ever come out of a seventeen year old’s mouth,” Mike Fitzpatrick told Myers.
The stories are unique and inspiring should. Winston said his father taught three rules in life: God, school and anything he set his mind to. Montana agonized as a parent as his sons did not become starters in college. Archie Manning would play “Amazing Catches” with his sons in the yard, and he had a message for helicopter parents: It’s got to be fun.
“If they work at it and become good, it has to be on their own,” Manning said. “They’ve got to want to work at it. Otherwise, just have fun.”
Jim Harbaugh and his brother John were growing up while their father, Jack, was an assistant at Michigan football. Jack would come home for his dinner break, toss the football with his sons and say “Who’s got it better than us? Noo-body.”
Nobody had it better than Jack Harbaugh, who was able to play a game of catch with his father before an NFL game at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. It’s a father’s dream to do it. Same for the son.
And it was a compelling story. In My First Coach, Myers puts together a compelling volume of stories.