My two-and-a-half year old son loves football. We’re not entirely sure where it came from, because we aren’t diehard fans. You won’t find any NFL jerseys in our closet, but you will see some NDSU apparel.
So my son’s love of the sport is something of a mystery, but we’re enjoying watching it bloom along with his burgeoning personality. Most nights after supper, we play football in our basement, with my son directing the action: “Run, Mommy, go get a touchdown!” or “You catch me, Daddy, but don’t tackle me!”
Witnessing my son’s love of the sport makes me both excited (and a little scared, if I’m being honest) for the future and the time when he will be able to start playing the sport with an organization. My husband and I have discussed our fears about the potential for injury, both short- and long-term, should he start playing more seriously.
Only recently have I started considering a more important aspect to the game than just the risk of injury: which players will he look up to? When I was growing up, I remember the boys in my class playing football at recess and talking about playing like Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders.
When the time comes for my son to play football at recess with his friends, I hope he says he wants to play like Carson Wentz.
Because I hope he wants to be like Wentz.
In a world full of players like Johnny Manziel, Wentz is the ideal person for young boys (and girls) to look up to. Watching Wentz’s story unfold in the national spotlight has been interesting, to say the least. Yes, Wentz is putting Bismarck, North Dakota, NDSU and FCS football on the map.
But more importantly, Wentz is putting character, authenticity and humility back into a sport that has been, of late, mired in controversy. Days ago, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and former Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Manziel was indicted by a grand jury on a misdemeanor charge regarding a domestic violence complaint from an ex-girlfriend.
On Sunday, The Forum published an article about Wentz with the headline: “Jesus is the quarterback of Carson Wentz’s level-headed, NFL-bound life”. Wentz speaks unabashedly about his faith (in this article and many others), describing how it has always been a priority in his life.
“I think my faith throughout college made me patient as I waited my turn. It got me through my injury without a doubt. And throughout this process, it helped me to not let this thing blow up and get caught up in it all,” Wentz said in the article. He recalled spending lunch hours talking about religion with then-teammate Dante Perez, who remarked that in Wentz he saw “a genuine heart as a person. His character, that’s what stood out to me.”
Days later, Wentz stole the national spotlight again for an article he penned regarding football in North Dakota, saying here “we don’t care for flash or dazzle. That’s not our game. We don’t do things the fanciest way. We do them the right way.” Wentz credits the NDSU football program with instilling in him and his teammates the importance of fierce dedication and effort off the field.
NFL pundits everywhere are lauding Wentz not just for his obvious talents but for his depth of character, his laser-like focus and his dogged determination. ESPN The Magazine featured Wentz on the cover of its April 25 NFL Draft issue with a story that ran the gamut from talking about Wentz’s NFL prospects to his love of hunting to his loyalty.
When Wentz broke his wrist midway through last season, several agents courting him suggested he withdraw from school the way UCLA linebacker Myles Jack did after a season-ending knee injury. Wentz asked Ryan Tollner, the agent he eventually signed with, what he thought. Tollner was blunt: It sounded like a horrible idea. As a quarterback, NFL teams are looking at you, trying to measure what kind of leader you are. What kind of leader bails on his team?
“Exactly,” Wentz told Tollner. “I just wanted to see what you’d say. I would never leave my team.”
This is exactly the kind of man I want my son to grow up to be. I want him to care more about the person he is being rather than what he is doing. I want my son to aspire to be like Wentz, whose talent is only amplified by the indelible values he demonstrates on a daily basis.
It makes no difference to me if Wentz is selected in the first round of the draft or the 15th. What matters to me, as a parent, is that he will be stepping onto a national stage and giving so many kids, like my son, the opportunity to emulate a man of true character.
Featured Image taken by Marcus Eriksson for ESPN The Magazine.