ALLEN PARK, Mich. — It was hard for Matthew Stafford at first — something all parents of twins can relate to. As the new father of twin girls, Chandler and Sawyer, it took Stafford a little while to tell the two of them apart.
He’s still not perfect on identifying Chandler and Sawyer in pictures, but he’s learning. And learning is the process, in almost everything, for any first-time father. Across the NFL, players become parents for the first time every year.
“I imagine it’ll be a lot different than the past Father’s Days,” Stafford said. “Obviously still going to celebrate my dad, but it’s cool to be on the other side of it. Looking forward to a bunch more of them.”
New fathers will often appreciate the many lessons from their own dads while growing up. During the past week, some Detroit Lions players shared what they learned from their fathers.
The lesson he learned from his father, John: “Just hard work. My dad was a coach, coached me in almost every sport I played for a long time, so just the importance of practice and repetition and hard work.
The lesson he didn’t get until he became a father: “Your whole perspective changes. Obviously having two little girls is a big adjustment for me and a whole lot of fun.”
The lesson he learned from his father, Marvin: “It’s just the hard-work aspect and the humbleness aspect. He’s a very loving guy, very accepting, so he just liked to help everybody. You would never see him, if you asked my wife has she ever seen my dad frown or not smile, she would say no and I’ve known her for over 12 years. I think that, just being around him, the steady, humble attitude no matter what goes on, I think that’s what’s helped me in my journey, ups and downs, I’ve always kind of remained the same guy. Typically a lot of people, when something happens, they automatically turn to saying stuff or being mad. That’s not in my character and I got that from him.”
The lesson he didn’t get until he became a father: “Just like my dad in terms of how loving he was and constantly playing and constantly being there and never really saying no. He really never said no to me unless I did something bad or whatever. Just always being there to play, always being there to wrestle, those are the kinds of things that kids don’t forget. They definitely come to me or like, ‘Hey, your mom said no,’ but I’ll kind of look at them like [yep]. Or she said they can’t have any candy and I’ll just throw one over there. But I am the disciplinarian and if they don’t listen, they know who is going to talk to them and that’s me. But on the little stuff, like say you can’t have no candy or can’t do this, go do it.”
The lesson he learned from his father, Glover: “I learned a lot of stuff from my dad but his work ethic is unwavering. His love for his kids is unwavering. Being that hard of a worker, to provide, to do whatever you can for your family, is pretty impressive.”
What he took from his dad when he became a father: “It changed the perspective of everything that you do, at least for me. When I come out here to work, I don’t just think about me. I’m not thinking about catching a ball for me and this and that. Every time I catch a ball, it’s like these catches are for my family. When you catch an interception or make a big play or play well, it’s like, yeah, you get the praise and this and that, but if I wasn’t doing that, I wouldn’t have a job. If I don’t have a job, how do I provide for my family? I have to find another job, you know what I’m saying. To me, it’s like the work that I do, that’s what it’s for and who it’s for. For me, to be able to see them running around happy and having a good time and sleep and I get up and go to work, it’s just motivation and inspiring to me.”
The lesson he took from his father, Edward: “Big time, both my parents, but I have great appreciation for my dad for his work ethic. His family first and how involved he is with me. I’ve got three brothers and he worked a lot, both my parents did. We’re talking about my dad, he worked at the Sunoco refinery, night shifts, 12-hour shifts through the night and you could still count on him for anything. He’d go days not sleeping. … The thing I appreciate the most is the example he set as a father for us. I have total great appreciation and expectation as a father myself now. Just watching him and how he raised us. He would work through the nights. I remember as a kid he would work all night and then get home Christmas morning and he hasn’t been asleep yet and yet he’d stay up all morning with us into the afternoon until he got a chance to get a quick nap before he headed back off to work.”
What lesson from his dad he uses with his kids now: “The biggest thing that I lean on is patience. I try to be real patient as a dad, which he was with us. We caused a lot of havoc, me and my three brothers, super competitive, hell would break loose sometimes at our house. Just knowing how my dad was, real patient, just taking things as it comes. That’s really helped. He set a great example as a father I could live up to. As I became a father and a father of two, I start thinking of how would my dad do this.”
The lesson he took from his father, John: “Hard work pays off. One thing growing up, hard work can beat talent, but if you’re talented and you work hard, there’s no one that can beat you. He just kind of showed me at a young age and mainly in high school as far as kicking, we’d go out in Florida and kick whether it was raining, lightning, whatever. We had a routine and worked hard at it. We would go out and kick no matter what and worked at it.”
What lesson he learned when he became a dad: “I’m still learning. As a parent your priorities change where first and foremost it’s your kids, then your wife, then yourself. But it’s a lot of fun and they keep you busy. They are so young, I’m going to let them decide what they want to do and I’m not going to let them quit if they start something. They’ll be able to do whatever they want. I’m still figuring it out.”