Posts tagged Los Angeles Rams

Taking dad to the Super Bowl … and beyond



Among the key players in this year’s Super Bowl will be three very different men with one big similarity: They love their dads and are bringing them to the game with them – at least in a sense.  Their names are Manning, Wilson, and Sherman, and they have stories worth sharing.

But first I want to tell a personal story of some other men I met who also took their dad to the Super Bowl. Like most guys, they weren’t going as players but as fans, and I ran into them on my way to Super Bowl XL with my son.

Kolby and I were on our way to Detroit to see my former team, the Seattle Seahawks, play the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the flight, we got into conversation with two rabid Seattle fans, brothers in their late 20s, decked out in full team gear. They explained that their passion for the Seahawks went back to their dad, who had taken them to every game as they grew up. Kolby and I could feel the love they had for their dad in their voices and their passion. But what put these guys over the top was when they gushed about their excitement to take their dad to the Super Bowl to see their beloved Seahawks.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s up in the overhead compartment. We got his ashes in a blue and green urn up there. We’re so excited!”

After they turned away came the whisper from my wide-eyed 15-year-old, “Dad, that’s weird!”

Yeah, it is. But, hey, I honor those guys for honoring their dad. It’s clear that he made his interest in them – and taking them to football games – a tradition, a memory, and a lasting bond. He must have loved them and they still felt it. They knew how much he would have wanted to see the Seahawks in the Super Bowl with his sons, so they brought him to the Super Bowl.

I love this story and the bond between men, a dad and his sons. And that takes me to this year’s Super Bowl.

The plot and outcome of this year’s game will depend a lot on the play of Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, and Richard Sherman. Each has something in common with The Urn Brothers in that they are bringing their fathers with them to the game. Not in an urn, but they are representing their fathers’ legacies of love and sacrifice that helped them make it to the big game.

Russell Wilson’s dad went to my alma mater, Dartmouth College, playing football in the four years before I joined the team. He passed away in 2010, but before he died he had built a character of confidence, commitment, and caring into his son. Russell remembers his dad regularly waking him at 5 a.m. and encouraging him to “make it a great day.” From what Dartmouth teammates said about Harrison Wilson and what we see from the hyper-prepared and team-lifting Russell, I think the quarterback is compounding the investments his dad made in him.

Taking Dad Super Bowl

Sons and their dads, from top, Russell and Harrison Wilson, Kevin and Richard Sherman, Peyton and Archie Manning.

Kevin Sherman is a dependable dad who wanted his sons to learn from his mistakes and to make the most of their education so that they could have more doors open for them than he had for himself. Compton, Calif., is a blighted neighborhood with few opportunities and scores of dangers, but Richard Sherman’s mom, dad and family have a winsome bond that was respected by gang members who didn’t want to lure the Sherman kids away from a great family and future.

The tight family is infectiously affirming. Richard swells with respect when speaking of his dad who worked 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. as trash collector for over two decades. From a dad’s dream to Richard’s attending and graduating from Stanford, quite a new legacy emerged in the Sherman family line.

Richard’s preeminent preparation and boiling competitiveness as a top NFL cornerback is mixed with a winsome manner off the field, although his articulate Muhammed Ali-like trash talking on the field is far from my liking, Sherman’s heated post-NFC championship game comments sparked controversy, not for misbehavior or slacking in life, but for venting battle-fueled bad blood between a DB and receiver. (Parents and youth coaches, certainly, let’s teach our kids not to belittle opponents, but let’s also read the whole story as we view others for the content of their character, not the color of a few comments after a heated game.)

Archie and Olivia Manning raised a super-close family that built Hall-of-Fame character, leadership, and humility into high achievers who make their teams eminently better. Archie labored in adversity without championships for the New Orleans Saints, but his greatest achievement was shaping Cooper, Peyton, and Eli Manning. Payton has a dad and brother as fellow epic NFL quarterbacks.

Despite what most think, the Mannings’ football career was not their dad’s focus as they were growing up. “We just tried to raise good kids and have a good family,” Archie says. “I don’t like the perception that … I’ve got these boys and I’m going to mold them into being NFL quarterbacks. Not so. You might can do that, and they might be NFL quarterbacks. I’m not sure you’re going to have a great father-son relationship, and that’s what I wanted.”

No wonder Peyton Manning was recently voted by his NFL peers as the most respected player in the league.

An infectiously intentional ivy-league dad who passed away early, a trash-truck driving, dependable dad from the ‘hood and an iconic pro-bowl quarterback from the Mississippi Delta. Each paved a path leading his son to the Super Bowl, and hopefully to even more important things – like walking in the footsteps of the key man in their life – Dad. And in a different, but similar way, just like the Seahawk-crazed brothers on the flight to the 2006 Super Bowl, these three players are taking their dad (through his legacy) to the game with them.

This all strikes close to home because of my dad’s legacy as a quarterback in the NFL and as a civic servant and leader in the public square. Although Dad and I both came within one game of the Super Bowl as players, we did go to a few games as spectators, and I’ve had the same opportunity with my sons. Most importantly, though, dad and mom loved and shaped me, as my wife and I have aimed to do with our four sons.

Millions of us dads will sit down with our kids on Sunday. So enjoy the game, but devote yourself and your energies each day to what matters most.

Someday each of us will be laid to rest (unless they scatter us in the ocean or take us to the Super Bowl in an overhead compartment).  What will you be remembered for? Riches, fame, and personal success are transient. But a legacy is what passes on to the next generation, and the next, and the next. … That is what endures.

Jeff Kemp and his father, Jack, were the first of six sets of father-son quarterback duos to play in the NFL. 

I didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, but …



It’s that time of year: the NFL playoffs. For months, fans have been putting their hopes in their teams’ players and coaches, who have been pouring every ounce of mental and physical energy into a singular goal: reaching and winning the Super Bowl.

Every team is dying to get there but few do. Fans dream of going to the big game, if they could even afford the tickets. Players, coaches, fans — we all yearn for our team to make it.

My own yearning to go to the big game started early — as a seven-year-old boy. It was around Christmas when my dad told me that if his team won their big championship game against the Chiefs, I would get to fly to Los Angeles to watch the very first Super Bowl in NFL history. Dad was more than a Buffalo Bills fan — he was their quarterback.

Dad played hard. We cheered hard. But our Super Bowl dreams were dashed when the Kansas City Chiefs won the league championship, earning them the trip to face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I.

Less than 20 years later, I had my chance to go to the playoffs as quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams, only to lose in the first round. The next year our team made it all the way to conference championship game, just like my dad’s team did. But we weren’t that close; we lost to the Bears 24-0 in frigid, windy Chicago. But hey, 25 points in the fourth quarter and we’d have been in the New Orleans Superdome playing in Super Bowl XX.

make it to the super bowlOne of the best teams I played for, the San Francisco 49ers, went to and won multiple Super Bowls, but not in the season I was on the team. My teams made it to the playoffs six times, but never to the big game. So I know at least a bit about the yearning and the sacrifices made to reach and win the Super Bowl.

The best NFL coaches do more than just cast a clear vision of the Super Bowl as the team’s goal. They connect every little detail of preparation and practice as vital to the journey and prize of a Super Bowl championship. I remember Hall of Fame coach, Bill Walsh, explaining to us how details — like perfectly consistent steps in handing off the ball or timing in releasing a pass — relate to the constant improvement and excellence that would lead us toward a Super Bowl.

Laser-like focus is crucial to accomplishing great things in life. The trick seems to be in choosing what steps are important and what goals are truly great.

I didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, but there are more important things in life that we should all set our focus on. Often we are distracted from the ultimate goals and most important things in life. It may be busyness. It may be the sudden blitz of life’s painful problems. It may be the distractions of entertainment, or for us fans, the obsession with a sporting event like the Super Bowl.

I’ll be the first to admit it. I love the playoffs and I obsess a bit too much about getting to see all the great games, culminated by the Super Bowl.

But for those of us who believe in and aim to follow Jesus, all the enthusiasm and emotional devotion we have toward the playoffs should trigger a calibrating question: How much do other interests of mine crowd out what should be my transcending joy and dominant interest?

If I can put so much energy into reaching the Super Bowl, how much more focus and effort can I put into my marriage, raising my children to know Christ, and preparing them to walk in His purpose for them?

God and His Word point us as men to the ultimate goals and destination: seeking first His Kingdom, our eternal relationship with Him, and leading others to the same. Our goal is the upward call of the prize of dwelling with God eternally and elevating our Savior, Jesus.

We all love our teams. But this eternal goal should be motivated by gratitude and love for God, who never lets us down. And that should drive us to the daily and the practical: to show our love for Him by loving others, including each person in our family, and every human neighbor He puts in our path.

Friend, you may never get to attend the Super Bowl or accomplish your biggest earthly goal. But there are bigger, more attainable goals in Christ. This year let the intensity, attention, and extravagance of the Super Bowl prompt us as Jesus followers to refocus on our greatest joy, our greatest victory and our greatest calling. How should that make us live differently?

The value of humility



We live in an age when, too often, rules are scorned, values are turned upside down, principles are replaced by expediency, and character is sacrificed for popularity. Individual athletes are sometimes the worst offenders, but not as often as one might think. In fact, sports teach important moral lessons that athletes can apply on and off the playing field.

Many people dream of being a professional athlete. For me, the dream seemed to be within reach because my father Jack Kemp, was an outstanding quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. The trouble was, I was not very good! I was a third-string football player through most of junior high and high school and for two years at Dartmouth College. I was not anyone’s idea of a “hot prospect.” After graduation, I was passed over by NFL scouts. When I was finally asked to join the Los Angeles Rams in 1981 as a free agent, I was designated a fifth-string quarterback.

Jeff Kemp kids campIt was a 50-to-1 shot that I would even survive training camp. Rookies were the only players required to show up for the first week of camp, and there were dozens of us competing for the few open spots.

After the first two days, a young boy approached me as I was walking off the field. He asked me if he could carry my helmet to the locker room. It was a long way, but I said, “Sure, I think you can handle that.”

The next morning, he showed up before practice and offered to carry my helmet and shoulder pads, and he was there again after practice with the same offer. So it went for the rest of the week.

On the last day, as we were departing the field, my young assistant said, “Jeff, can I ask you a question?” (We were on a first name basis by then.) I thought, “This is my first fan! He’s going to ask me for an autograph.” Then came his question:

“When do the good football players come to camp?”

Right then and there, I learned a valuable lesson in humility from a seven-year-old boy. It was a lesson I was forced to learn over and over in my first three NFL seasons when I threw just 31 passes.

Nevertheless, by that time, I had managed to outlast the five NFL quarterbacks who were ahead of me. With the Rams’ record at 1-2 to start the 1984 season, I took over for the injured Vince Ferragamo, earning my first start against the Cincinnati Bengals, and eventually led the team to nine more victories and a playoff berth.

The next season, I returned to the bench as a backup quarterback and learned the value of humility. I was compelled to remind myself that it was a good thing. It helped me appreciate what I did have, and it helped me to avoid dwelling on what I didn’t. Humility prevented me from complaining, which drains the spirit and also drains the unity of any group. Humility is what led me to persevere and be ready whenever opportunity presented itself. And it did present itself many times over the next eight years of my professional football career.

Humility is having an accurate view of yourself because you have an accurate view of God. We are not defined by our title, by our accomplishments and failures, or by comparison to other people, but by how He sees us. God thought enough of us to create us in His image. And even after sin spoiled everything, He still sees each of us flawed people with infinite worth — enough to sacrifice His Son so that He could forgive and adopt us.

Jesus came to serve, not to be served; He is the very model of humility. He will help you handle life’s ups and downs.  More importantly, His humility in you will help you love and lead your family in all situations.

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