By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
In the NFL the more you can do generally enhances a player’s ability to be on a team’s roster. In the case of Steve DeOssie and his son, Zak, it’s the more you can do times two.
Steve was a linebacker and long snapper who spent 12 years (1984-1995) in the league with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, New York Jets and New England Patriots.
His son, Zak, is now heading into his 10th season as the long snapper for the Giants. A countless number of the team’s fans have seen the two-time Pro Bowler perform his specialty over the years. His dad, however, isn’t one of them.
“Watching in the stadium or watching on TV, I don’t watch the snaps,” Steve said. “I get nervous and know how difficult it is and how nerve-racking it can be. It doesn’t faze him, and it didn’t faze me when I was doing it. But I get nervous. I try to enjoy the rest of the game.”
“Yeah, you know, we all have our quirky little things,” Zak said with a laugh. “We don’t like to admit that we’re superstitious, but we have certain traditions that we can’t give up. He sends me a text message before every single game and I’ve always been happy to receive it. It’s always the same. Good luck. Play hard. Love you. In all caps.
“He says he’s more nervous watching me play than when he played. That’s pretty funny, but now that I have a son that’s two years old, I can imagine it.”
While Steve may have long snapped when he was playing, he doesn’t feel it’s quite the same procedure as it is today.
“Back then it wasn’t a specialized thing,” he said. “It was, you find a player that could do it. But now guys have gotten so much better at it and they’ve refined it as an art. And the advent of trying to score on every opportunity especially when these coaches are coming up with unbelievable ways of trying to block these things, I’m not surprised that long snapper has become a specialized position.”
Even though Steve has gridiron experience, specialized or not, he has always left coaching his son to Zak’s coaches.
“Just being around the game at such a young age, a lot of people assume that my father was a Little League dad, sort of had me out back snapping into a tire. But little does everyone know he sort of just let me come into the game on my own,” Zak said. “I understood that we’re playing from a different vantage point, it comes naturally for us, but he allowed me to come into it on my own and I’m grateful for that.”
“I was at nearly every practice and definitely at every game, but I never coached him. I watched him,” Steve said. “If he wanted to know something or if he wanted a little help with something he’d ask me, but there wasn’t a lot of football conversations. It was a lot of other stuff, you know, just father-son stuff.
“I’m extremely proud of what he’s accomplished and the way he’s integrated himself with his teammates and the respect he has for the Giants and the respect the Giants have for him, all those things play into it. The Super Bowls, the Pro Bowls are all great. But he’s involved himself in the community and he’s involved himself in the organization, the local charities.
“He came into the league as a young man and over the last 10 years, he’s grown into just a good, solid person. He treats people the right way and works hard to achieve everything he has. His response to adversity is basically hard work and it’s paid off for him. He’s doing very well for himself on a lot of levels. Football’s just one of them.”
Steve and Zak DeOssie plan to tee it up this Father’s Day and play a round of golf. And it’s fair to say that they’ll both be keeping a close eye on the scorecard and not offer many, if any, mulligans. That’s because being competitive clearly runs in their bloodline.
“I remember one time (when he was 13 or 14 and) decided he was going to take me on an alpine slide up in the mountains where they get on basically a skinny, little cart and you go screaming down a hill on a concrete twisty-turny thing,” Steve said. “He thought that was the ultimate Father’s Day scenario where he could race me side by side on basically an oversized skateboard and go careening downhill at 90 miles per hour.”
“Yeah, when I was a kid, that was the coolest thing in the world,” Zak said. “My dad, at 280 pounds, was willing to go down it and race me. And when we’d go skiing, we’d race then and there. I think that was right about the time when I became a little more bold, and gravity took hold on him a little bit more, but we always competed. Always.”
Steve added, “He wants to beat me at golf; he wanted to beat me downhill on a rocket slide. It’s competitive in nature which is fine when I was 40 and he was 17. But it’s not fine now. I find I have to rely on my guile and experience to keep up to him. But it’s fantastic. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
“He’s my best friend. He was my best man in my wedding,” Zak said. “Now that I’m a dad, in so many levels, I lean on him in a lot of aspects in my life. When I have free time, I find myself just wanting to spend time with him. I just hope that I can have the same relationship with my son that I’ve had with my father over the years and be a great role model.
“It’s been a great, great experience, this whole NFL ride, for the both of us. When I won my second Super Bowl, he found me first and we grabbed each other, and in tears of joy I sort of rubbed it in and told him, ‘Now I have two rings,’ while screaming, laughing and crying. And he said, ‘No, the DeOssie’s have three rings.’ It was a jab back, but also very poignant and very, very special for the two of us.”