Whether one grows up while their dad is playing in the NFL or after their dad’s NFL playing career is over, they get used to one or both of two things:
Tough love, and time away.
“It was rough because it was a lot of tough love,” said Blanton, whose father Jerry played linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs for seven seasons. “Now looking back, seeing where I’m at, he knew what it took to get here. Growing up, I didn’t understand that a lot of times, like, ‘Why is he like this? Why is he like this? ‘ But it was very, very beneficial and I’m grateful for it, to have that.”
Blanton was born in November 1995, 10 years after his father’s final season, so he learned about his dad’s NFL experience through stories. The standard was always clear, too, as Blanton became a standout two-sport athlete at Blue Springs (Missouri) South High School.
Kendall credits Jerry’s tough love for making him a coachable player, recalling the feedback Jerry would provide him in high school as his toughest critic.
“I remember growing up, I could have a great game in whatever sport I’m playing, and he’s gonna say, if I was playing basketball, ‘You missed two free throws. Y’all would’ve won by 20 if you would ‘ve made those free throws,'” Blanton said. “Or when I used to play defensive end, ‘If you would’ve got your hands inside on this, you could’ve had three sacks.’ Things like that. I was like, ‘Man, am I good?’ But it just pushed me to continue to work hard and really never settle.”
Jefferson, meanwhile, was born in July 1996, more specifically the summer before his father Shawn’s sixth NFL season. With Shawn going on to play a total of 13 years, all Van knew for the first seven years of his life was his dad being gone a lot.
“My dad wasn’t home a lot, but it was good, it was a good learning experience, my dad being in the league and now coaching in the league, I learned a lot growing up,” Van said. “I knew seeing him play in the NFL, that was something I wanted to do too. He kind of set the foundation for me.”
While Van may have missed out on a lot of father-son time as a kid because of Shawn’s playing career, Shawn made up for it when Van got older and set a goal for himself.
“He always used to say, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ And I always used to say, ‘Be a football player,'” Van said. “That was when I was a kid. But as I got older, I told him what my goal was, and then my dad told me later on in life, ‘Once you told me what your goal was, I put everything in my heart to make sure you got to that goal.’ So that’s just something that always stood out to me, because he was just so adamant about me pursuing my goal and getting me to this level. enough for that.”
Rams rookie defensive backs Lake and Yeast also had fathers who set that foundational example.
Like Jefferson, Lake had a father who both played and later coached in the NFL, and that inspired him along his own football journey.
“It was something that I really thought was important, to kind of follow in his footsteps,” Lake said. “Obviously, I wanted to make my own legacy and stuff like that, but why not try and do what he did? He laid the groundwork for me, so it was awesome.”
Playing safety and cornerback during a career that spanned 1989-2001, Carnell Lake earned a spot on the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team, was a First-Team All-Pro in 1997 and a five-time Pro Bowler. True to those words, Quentin is now a defensive back in the NFL, too.
Quentin was born in January 1999, ahead of what would end up being Carnell’s second-to-last NFL season (Carnell missed the entire 2000 season with a foot injury), so his clearest memories are from his dad’s coaching days.
He remembers attending a Steelers practice while his dad was their defensive backs coach once and getting the chance to talk to All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu and other Pittsburgh players.
“I ended up being able to break down the practice at the end, so that was kind of a memorable moment for me,” Lake said.
Yeast likewise was around the game at a young age.
Born in May 1999, he was just an infant when his dad, Craig, began his NFL career. Craig played two seasons for the Bengals (1999 and 2000) then one season for the Jets (2001).
Russ was aware his dad played in the NFL, recalling when he would be at the facility during training camp as a 3-year-old running around with the players.
“I’ve always been around professional athletes and professional football, so kind of been schooled up on it from an early age,” Russ said.
While the pictures from that young age aren’t too clear beyond that training camp memories, what did stick with Russ was how relatable the players in the locker room were.
“I would say the most defining thing is just knowing what type of people was in the locker room. They’re dudes just like us, too,” Russ said. “It always made it feel like my dream to play in the NFL was actually achievable and possible, having been around those guys before.”
However, some learnings came after their fathers’ playing careers ended, too.