They fed their little boys so they could become big boys. They drove them to practice. They cheered the loudest on game day.
And their sons, made millionaires this weekend in the NFL Draft, demonstrated their appreciation with more than a “Hi, Mom.”
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the last pick of the first round surprised his mother, a breast cancer survivor, with a pink Cadillac in anticipation of his payday and Mother’s Day. Purple might have been an appropriate color, too, given his destination. New Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who won $100,000 from Adidas for running the fastest forty at the combine, bought mom a new Mercedes long before Draft Day.
Others expressed filial affection in less expensive ways.
Safety Deone Buchanan cried in his mother’s arms hearing that Arizona had selected him in the first round. New Browns QB Johnny Manziel walked the red carpet with his mom in matching Cowboy blue. “I’m glad to be a part of the organization and get to work and play some football,” first pick Jadeveon Clowney reacted upon his selection by the Texans. “I’m just glad I can take care of my mom.”
Greg Robinson played breadwinner before the Rams selected him with the second pick on Thursday. After Hurricane Katrina displaced his family, but before the grave claimed his father, Greg Robinson’s dad elicited a promise from his son to take care of his mom. The pressing need to support his family–including several older brothers emerging from prison and two younger siblings ready for college–surely factored into the tackle’s decision to leave Auburn two years early. When Robinson’s mom, a nurse’s assistant who couldn’t afford to travel to watch her son play in the National Championship Game, accompanied him to Radio City Music Hall, the trip marked her first experience on an airplane.
Perhaps the most touching story of a son’s love for his mother came from Oregon State receiver Josh Huff, reunited on Draft Day with former coach Chip Kelley on the Philadelphia Eagles. The third-round draft pick hasn’t seen his mother since 2012, when she forgot to pick him up at the airport and later jumped the curb in her car as he watched from a driveway as she drove fast and erratically. In 2009, Huff’s mother, upset about him going to a Ladies’ Night Dance at his high school with his girlfriend, swung a two-by-four at his head as he attempted to depart.
A year later, she received a prison sentence for belting another man with a lead pipe. A subsequent failed drug test sent her back to the penitentiary. Growing up in Houston, Huff learned that his mother loved cocaine more than him. But he kept loving his mom. Charlotte Simpson surely learned of her son’s good fortune from prison. But it’s not news that she’s likely to hear from her son, who refuses to visit her or even open her letters until she shows that she has made a change. He loves his mom but believes tough love may be the kind of love she now needs.
Relying on his dad, and Chip Kelly at Oregon, for support, Huff found a family in football. He opened up to his teammates about his home situation and they opened up their homes to him. He told The Oregonian that, along with his longtime girlfriend’s mom, he has come to rely on the moms of Ducks teammates Chance Allen, Tony Washington, Hroniss Grasu, and De’Anthony Thomas.
“God places people in your life for a reason, and those people were meant to be placed in my life for that motherly love, and I’m going with it,” Huff explained to the paper. “I love them like they are my own mom.”
Football, like family, works as a team endeavor. In family, like football, there’s usually someone there to lend a lifting hand after you’ve been knocked down. Teammates and relatives stay strong when the going gets tough. And when a person responsible for a role can no longer fill it, somebody unexpected steps up.
After life has knocked them in the mud and put them down on the scoreboard, scores of football moms this Mother’s Day live their lives in the lead for once.