Buffalo waived him in short time, but the just-midwifed USFL provided a soft landing, and against the Denver Gold at Mile High Stadium in March 1983, Dab recorded one of the first sacks in the history of that short-lived league. What else does he remember about that game? "Gomer Pyle sang the national anthem," he says. "Did a great job too."
Forced out of football eventually by a back injury, Dab returned to Browns Ferry. There he bought a car, fixed it up—he and his sons are handy that way—and sold it for $150 profit. "I thought, Man, that was easy. No one yelled at me, and I didn't get hit in the head." So he opened a small used car lot.
Newly married by this point, Dab purchased and settled into a spread three miles up Browns Ferry Road from that wreck of a barn. Here his vast yard backed up to the Black River, and he built a gazebo and a wooden walkway out onto the water. Eventually he planted three pine seedlings and named one after each of his sons, Robert Jr., Clifton and Kwame. The trees grew faster than the boys, but just barely.
Meanwhile, around the time Dab was settling down with his family, Jumpy was starting to blow up. Despite the brothers' sometimes contentious relationship ("Me and him would fight every day," recalls Jumpy, "that's how I learned my moves"), Dab made sure his sibling stayed in school.
Make that schools. Jumpy matriculated at three different small colleges before settling on Wichita State, which had offered him a basketball scholarship. Already on the team—"and playing my position!" says Jumpy—were forwards and future NBA first-round draft picks Antoine Carr, Cliff Levingston and Xavier McDaniel. So he switched to football. And there, Saints coach Bum Phillips liked what he saw. New Orleans took Jumpy in the second round of the 1984 draft, and he played 13 seasons, piling up 257 tackles, 62 sacks and a pair of beefy Super Bowl rings—bling that he would later dangle in front of his campers.
"I came up the same way y'all came up," he is now reminding his adolescent charges at the football camp, before imploring them, "Don't be a knucklehead. I used to be a knucklehead."
A jovial TV reporter from Myrtle Beach appears, asking for comment on the possibility that three of Jumpy's nephews might be playing in the NFL next season. "If all three of 'em make it, I might come out of retirement," he deadpans. "I'll probably want to chase down the Redskins' quarterback, Three G"—he mangles Robert Griffin III's nickname on purpose, for comic effect—"just to test my speed again."
The sportscaster laughs, but there's a trace of uncertainty there, as if he's thinking, Good God, he might be serious.
For every Geathers to make it in the NFL, there's another one on the outside looking in, unwilling to let go of the dream. Also working the camp on this May afternoon are Jumpy's sons, 26-year-old Jeremy and 25-year-old Jarvis. Jeremy, a former sack-artist end at UNLV, has bounced around between Arena Football, the NFL and the CFL, where he is currently a Toronto Argonaut. Jarvis had 11 sacks as a senior tackle at Central Florida in 2009, but he tore a quad muscle getting ready for the Knights' pro day and ended up playing Arena ball.
Clayton Geathers Jr., on the other hand, looks like the real deal. The son of Jumpy and Dab's younger brother Clayton, he'll be a third-year starter at safety for Central Florida this fall. With 53 tackles in his last four games as a sophomore, he is the epitome of a rising junior.