Posted: Wednesday April 19, 2006 11:32AM; Updated: Wednesday April 19, 2006 6:15PM
Susie and Rob Carpenter helped prepare their son Bobby for an NFL career.
Former Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter was a busy man during his first three days at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He interviewed with 26 teams, nearly twice as many as his agent had told him to expect, and he never let that steady stream of 15-minute chats wear him down. However, keeping track of all the coaches, executives and scouts who asked Carpenter to say hello to his father, Rob, was another story. By the end of the first day, Carpenter was scribbling names on the back of his hands just so he could relay those greetings to his old man.
All those messages left Carpenter a little surprised. He never knew that his father, who played 10 years in the NFL, was so popular. Rob didn't brag about his playing days, and he rarely attended team reunions. He didn't want his oldest son growing up in his shadow, and today Rob is just as happy to stay in the background while Bobby -- who's projected as a late first-round pick in this year's NFL draft -- prepares for his own pro career. Rob had his moment. Now he's content to let his oldest son find the best way to deal with his own time in the league.
I raise this topic today because such self-restraint from a father with an NFL résumé is refreshing to see. Recently we've seen other dads who enjoyed pro football careers take different paths in dealing with their children. Two years ago we watched Archie Manning play a key role in engineering a controversial draft-day trade that sent his son Eli from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants. Before last season even kicked off, Kellen Winslow Sr. had publicly berated the Cleveland media for the way they treated his son Kellen after the tight end had ended his second season with a motorcycle crash that caused a severe knee injury. In each case, both men were protecting their sons from the kinds of painful experiences that come with high-profile careers. The reality, however, is that they can only shield their children from so much.
This year the Carpenters will become the next father-son combo with NFL ties, and Rob seems to have a better grasp of this concept. Yes, he did some background checks on Bobby's choice of agent (Jimmy Sexton also represents the same man who coached Rob with the New York Giants, BillParcells). He also attended Bobby's pro day in Columbus, where he ran into several of the same executives and scouts who had asked about him at the combine. Other than that, Rob continually has told his son that he can't tell him much about what the draft experience is like these days. It was a whole different world when Rob left Miami (Ohio) and became the Houston Oilers' third-round pick in the 1977 draft. It was better that his boy learned about the process on his own.