Fatherhood a ‘blessing’ for these Bills. Bills players and Rex Ryan reflect on being a father.
Being a father comes with great responsibility.
It’s a powerful position, because dads can do so much to help shape their children into successful adults.
Bills cornerback and first-time dad Stephon Gilmore is seeing, firsthand, fatherhood in its purest form.
Last April, Gilmore and his college sweetheart and wife, Gabrielle, gave birth to a son, Stephon Sebastian Gilmore.
“It’s been a challenge, but the first time I laid eyes on my son it was a blessing,” Gilmore said. “I always wanted a son. No sleep, obviously, but I have enjoyed every moment with him.”
Being a father isn’t easy, especially when you have a newborn.
“The hardest thing for me is when he cries right now,” Gilmore said. “I can’t really do anything because (Gabrielle) has to feed him. When he cries at night most of the time he is hungry or maybe he needs his diaper changed. It’s just time management and sleep; you have to sleep when he sleeps.”
For Gilmore, this Father’s Day is going to be slightly different than the rest.
“It will be fun we will probably do something special because it’s my first father’s day,” Gilmore said. “My dad was a good father for me, so I want to make sure I am going to be a good father for him so it’s going to be a special day.”
Gilmore wants to teach his son about sports, life, and give him opportunities he did not have as a child.
“I want to give him the opportunity to travel and make sure he always has what’s he needs in life,” Gilmore said. “I didn’t have that opportunity growing up and I want him to have what he needs and not actually spoil him but give him an opportunity to be successful in life.”
Bills running back Fred Jackson knows a thing or two … or four about fatherhood. As a dad of four kids (Braeden, 8; Kaelen, 6; Jaeden, 5, and Maecan 21 months), it is something he cherishes.
“It means the world,” Jackson said. “It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Anytime you get to have little ones that you can share with, it’s awesome. My son is my biggest fan. To see him watch me play football and have as much pride as he does watching me, it means the world.”
Jackson knows that at times being a father requires difficult decisions to be made.
“The hardest part about being a father is making the difficult choices that are not always the most popular choice,” Jackson said. “Sometimes they want to do stuff and you just tell them they can’t do it because they are not old enough, or it’s not safe for them and you just see them give you those big, brown eyes, those puppy dog eyes, but you have to stick to it. It’s going to be worth it in the end when they grow up and they make those same choices for their kids.”
If there is one thing that Jackson wants his children to know it is to treat is treat everybody the same way.
“Be friends with everybody if there is somebody you see that isn’t having a great day or feels like an outcast reach out to that person because you never know how much that means to that person and what it may do for their lives,” Jackson said. “I tell them at school if you see anyone being treated a different way or not being treated fairly, be the voice to step up and if you do that other people will follow.”
‘Be True to Yourself’
From a young age, Rex Ryan aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a professional football coach.
“When we were young we used to have those little Hutch helmets running around,” Ryan said. “You’re not supposed to tackle and we were tackling each other all the time playing against my older brother (Jim) and my twin brother (Rob) and me.
Rex’s father, Buddy Ryan, coached in the NFL from 1961 until he retired in 1995. Buddy was an assistant on three different teams to make the Super Bowl, earning two Lombardi Trophies, (New York Jets, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings.) He built his reputation as a defensive specialist and was largely credited with implementing the 46 defense.
“I don’t think anybody has had a bigger impact on my life than my dad, not only the way I obviously have followed him into the family business so to speak but just the way he was as a dad. I try to I take that example that he was to me into my own relationship with my own children,” Ryan said. “He made you feel like there was nothing more important than you as a son and I hope my son feels the same way about me.”
Ryan took more than football knowledge from his father. Buddy would always give his sons this simple bit of advice: "Be true to yourself, be yourself."
“That’s good enough," Ryan said. "And don't be a phony. It’s been great for me, because, hey, I know I can’t be my dad. I’m not near as tough as him. My dad fought in the Korean War. He was a master sergeant at 18 years old, leading men into a battle for their lives. If I grew up that way, I probably would be a little different, but I am happy with who I am. I love that fact I get compared to my dad; that’s a great compliment. But I’m not my dad. I’m just me.”
Ryan and his wife, Michelle have two sons together, Payton and Seth. Ryan wants his sons “to be a little better” than he is “in whatever that is.”
“One wants to get into coaching and I would love to see that,” the coach said. “I would love to see him be a third generation coach but you have to earn your way to get there. It’s not going to be handed to you and he knows it, work ethic all that. I wanted him to go to a program where he can be around great coaches, which he is at Clemson so that’s great.
Then Ryan added, with a laugh, “My oldest son is super smart, wicked smart, so I don’t communicate well with him.”