We recently celebrated my daughter Reagan's first birthday, and had my whole family celebrating the occasion. It was great having them all around.
My wife and I having a child is something that we've dreamed about, and it was pretty cool to see the generations of my family all right there with us. It's a beautiful thing to have a support system.
My dad has been that for me throughout my whole life, regardless of what was going on.
My parents divorced when I was eight years old, but he was still there every step of the way. He went to all of my games, all of my school events. He was there when I graduated, when I signed to go to college, and went to all my college games. He was there when on Draft Day.
And he was there when my daughter was born.
That's one of the beautiful things about my situation and relationship with him. He's been a constant source of support and encouragement. No matter what the situation may have been, he always made sure that he was there for me. He never let circumstances dictate his behavior, and that's one of the many lessons he taught me.
I often tell the story from when I was just getting into football. I thought about quitting because I didn't like the contact I was taking from the older kids on the field. But my dad didn't want me to give up so easily.
My dad always took advantage of those opportunities to teach me, not just about the game of football, but about life, any time it was applicable.
He wanted to teach me not to give up on things, and not to give up on myself -- not just in football or sports, but in general. He wanted me to realize that instead of giving up, I should focus in and try as hard as I could.
It was a huge moment, not only in my football life, but in my growth as a man.
That's a big part of who I am: a man who is continuously striving to be better, continuing to persevere when times are tough, and trying to make the best out of whatever situation I'm in. That's not only what I was always taught -- it's what I always saw my father do. That's how he's lived his life.
My dad loved football, but he didn't force me into athletics the way a lot of parents do. He just always wanted me to do what I wanted to do. It just so happened that was always sports.
He used to play in flag football tournaments, and I remember going out and watching him play. He always thought he was Barry Sanders or something and he'd shake himself down to the ground. That's probably the most vivid memory I have of him playing. He would try and shake a defender so much that he shook himself right down to the ground.
He was athletic, but he didn't have it like that.
As I grew up in the game, he'd watch me play, and use his general knowledge and say certain things to help me see or play the game differently. He videotaped every single game, and as soon as we got home, we'd go over the film. He'd give me tips. "You should cutback on this play," or "You should hit that hole harder on this play."
He was always there to help me see the game in a different way if I needed it. But it was something that I wanted to do, not something he was pushing me to do. I enjoyed the opportunity to bond with him, and get tips and pointers to help me grow as a player.
I definitely always appreciated that.
He always said he had an eye for talent. That's the leg that he stands on to this day.
When I was playing outside in the neighborhood, he would watch me out the window, and he noticed that I was the fastest kid in the neighborhood. So when I was eight years old, he entered me in the Mayor's Track Meet at Kezar Stadium. That was the big event in San Francisco to start the year off in track and field, and it basically determined the fastest kid in San Francisco.
I'd never run an organized track meet in my life, so I wasn't on a team or anything like all these other kids. I was running unattached, but I competed. I won the semi-final in the 100, and then won the finals.
I was just running and competing. I liked to race. I liked to compete. But I had no idea what it meant to win that. I remember at the end of it, all of these track coaches were coming up to me, and trying to get me to sign up for their team. It was a surprise. It was like a frenzy.
Going into that, I had no idea what I was capable of.
But my dad knew from the beginning that I had a gift.
What's amazing to me now are the sacrifices my mom and dad made to help me be successful.
For most of my life, I went to public school, but when I went to high school, an opportunity presented itself for me to go to private school. We needed to find a way to pay for it.
Going to private school for high school was huge for me because in my district, the public high school system wasn't good, and the athletics at those schools weren't good, either. My parents knew that wasn't going to be a place where I could maximize my opportunities both in the classroom and in athletics.
They pushed me to go to a private, all-boys catholic high school: Riordan.
I was able to get a partial academic scholarship to cover some of the expense, but the rest of the money, my parents had to come up with. They did their part, and made all the sacrifices necessary to make sure I was able to go to Riordan. I watched both my mother and my father get multiple jobs just to make that happen for me.
I later found out that my dad was selling things on eBay, giving blood, doing anything else he could possibly do to cover those expenses and put me in position to be the best that I could possibly be. That's something I'll always hold close to my heart, the sacrifices that my mom and dad made to put me in this position.
My dad laid a nice model for me to follow as far as the unconditional love you need to have to be a father and the sacrifices you have to make.
I always appreciated the sacrifices that he and my mom made for me, but as I got older and started to understand some of the things that were done for me to live this life and live out my dreams, I can't help but feel an even greater appreciation.
Now that I'm a father, that appreciation is amplified even more. It's helped me to understand why he did the things that he did for me. It's an understanding that comes with maturity, growth and the experience of being a father. It allows you to better appreciate and really be grateful for the things that your parents have done for you.
Both of my parents showed me the way.
I'll never be able to do enough to repay my dad for all the hard work and sacrifices he made for me. But recently, the stars kind of aligned to allow me to do something special for him. It represents a small token of appreciation.
Ever since I entered the league, I've wanted to buy him a car.
In the past, I've helped him get other cars, and anything else he needed, I made sure I did things to help. This time, it was a point of emphasis for me to make sure I bought it outright for him, and gave him the opportunity to drive a car that he really wanted.
The timing worked out for that to happen a few months ago, and it was great to be able to put a plan into action that not only got him a nice car, but also relieved him of all the related financial responsibilities.
One thing about my dad is that he tends to change his mind a million times about things he wants and likes. The hardest part of getting the car was figuring out what he was comfortable with, and what he wanted. I knew that because it was coming from me, he'd love anything I got him, but I still wanted to see him in something special that he really wanted for himself.
It was something that we'd talked and joked about for a while. He'd make mention of this car or that car that he'd wanted, but I'd always pretend I didn't hear him, or like I just shrugged it off.
But I always kept it in the back of my mind.
When his car started having trouble and he was going back and forth with the mechanic, putting money into it, I decided it was about time to get him something nice. I didn't want him to waste any more money on that other car. But when he'd call me to update me about it, just to throw him off the scent, I would say things about giving him money to help him fix that car or setting up a deal with people I knew to get him a new car.
Because of what I was saying, I was pretty sure he had no idea that I was going to buy him a car outright. I really set him up too. I drove around in the car I got him, taking pictures of it and texting them to him, and talking about it like it was going to be mine.
Picture that for a second. He's calling to update me about his car troubles. I'm sitting there giggling, teasing him in his mind, sending him pictures of "my new car."
By the time I went to pick him up at the airport in it a few days later, he was completely convinced it was my car. When he got in it, he was all complimenting it, saying, "Man, that's a sweet ride," and telling me how excited he was for me.
I had him.
And that made it easier to keep a straight face the whole ride home. We talked about whatever, and by the time we got to the house, I knew everything was all good. He liked the car, and he'd be happy to have it.
Once we pulled into the driveway, I said, “Hey, can you grab the information out of the glove for me?" He grabbed it. I asked him to read off the VIN number. That was when he saw his name on the paperwork.
I posted the video to Instagram. The rest was history.