Every family has the black sheep that doesn’t quite fit in. Well, there’s also a sports equivalent of that. Though it doesn’t happen as often as you’d think, some athlete's children decide to follow in their parent’s footsteps and work towards becoming a great pro player. Some children do well for themselves and others have even surpassed their parent. But there are those unfortunate ones who are born to a superstar parent. Being constantly surrounded by their father’s greatness their entire lives not only creates an impossibly high bar for them to reach but also forces them in their shadow.
Be it soccer, football, baseball, basketball, hockey or any other sport, there are athlete’s who’ve accomplished greatness. Some of them are doing things that’ll probably never be seen again. All that leaves for their children is a legacy they’ll never be able to follow. As hard as they try, the one thing hanging over their heads will be their heritage. Now, that doesn’t mean that having a parent that was once a great pro athletes means they’re doomed to fail. Others have flourished in the same position. But the uncanny amount of pressure is enough to stymie even the most promising prospects development early on.
So then why even become a pro athlete? Why not move onto something else? Well no matter how bad or how ordinary they might be, athletes strive off a passion to play. It’s that passion that drives them to get better even when they’re at their peaks. Being a great athlete doesn’t guarantee their children will be the same way, but that also works the other way around. Success is a mixture of hard work, genetics and sometimes plain old luck. You can have one of these things going for you but it in no way guarantees success at the pro level.
15 Kerry Earnhardt
The son of American race car driver great Dale Earnhardt, Kerry Earnhardt had a decent career but failed to come anywhere close to the legacy his father left behind. In his 27 year career, Dale – dubbed “The Intimidator” – won 76 races and seven Winston Cup championships. He was one of the sport’s biggest stars and helped it grow into the behemoth it is today. That’s a tough act to follow for any son. While Kerry had a somewhat respectable career, he failed to do anything great in his career and is overshadowed by the success of his half-brother Dale Earnhardt Jr.
14 Matt Simms
Phil Simms is one of the greatest quarterbacks in New York Giants history, having delivered the franchise their first Super Bowl win and putting together one of the most consistent passing performances in the process. While not considered to be a Hall of Famer, Phil is seen as one of the better quarterbacks of his generation. His two sons Matt and Chris have not come close to living up to the hype of being the children of a Super Bowl MVP. Matt went undrafted in 2012 after he failed to stand out in college. At this point in his career, he isn’t even considered to be a backup quarterback and is currently struggling to make the Buffalo Bills as the team’s third option.
13 Ryan Ripken
In a career that lasted 21 years, Cal Ripken Jr. is regarded as one of the best to ever play the game of baseball. His father was a renowned coach for the Baltimore Orioles. Cal was a star on the field and separated himself from his old man and created his own definitive legacy. Now, his son Ryan looks to do the same. Last year, he was taken by the Washington Nationals in the 15th round. Prior to that he was a 20th round pick by the Orioles in 2012. He’s yet to crack the pros and while he could live up to the high expectations that surround him as he matures, he just isn’t anywhere near his father right now.
12 Tony Gwynn Jr.
A third round pick in 1981, Tony Gwynn had a career that lasted almost 20 years and ended in the Hall of Fame. The righfielder spent his entire career with the San Diego Padres and was a 15-time All-Star. His career accolades include five Golden Glove awards and eight National League batting championships. While Gwynn had a memorable career, his son Tony Gwynn Jr. has struggled to separate himself from the competition despite having been in the league for nearly a decade. A second round pick in 2003, Gwynn Jr. has struggled to stay with one team and is currently on his fifth. He’s failed to really make an impact wherever he’s landed and currently bats a .238 average.
11 Jarrett Payton
With a franchise as storied as the Chicago Bears, there are bound to be certain players that are considered to be cornerstones in the franchise history. Walter Payton is one of those players. He established himself as one of the NFL’s best over a 12 year career and for a time was the league’s all-time leading rusher. So when his son Jarrett looked to follow in his footsteps, the expectations were lofty. An undrafted free agent, Jarrett started his career off at a disposition. His only NFL experience came in a short one year stint with the Tennessee Titans in 2005. He went on to play in NFL Europe, the CFL and Arena League but never did end up being anything close to the player his father was.
10 Matt Singletary
Another legendary Chicago Bear from the legendary '85 team, Mike Singletary served as the heart of Chicago’s defense during his time in the windy city. Known as a physical no-nonsense player on the field, Singletary commanded the defense and struck fear in to the hearts of opposing defenders. His son Matt was unsuccessful in doing the same. His collegiate career doing little to inspire confidence, as Matt went undrafted in 2012. He was pegged as a DE/OLB prospect with a high motor and some upside but failed to catch on in the NFL. He was never offered a contract and seeing as it’s been three years since his last tryout, it’s safe to say that he’ll probably never get a chance at continuing the Singletary name in the NFL.
9 Nate Montana
It wasn’t a lack of talent that derailed Nate Montana’s development as a quarterback. The son of Hall of Farmer Joe Montana was derailed by a couple of run-ins with the law involving drinking under the influence. He went undrafted in 2013 and while his father himself wasn’t a high draft pick when he entered the NFL, at least he got drafted. Nate’s off-field issues cost him playing time and potentially hurt his chances at the pros. He was a career back-up in college and while that usually doesn’t translate to NFL success, playing for three different schools sure doesn’t help the situation.
8 Duron Carter
The same year Nate Montana was eligible for the NFL draft, Duron Carter – son of NFL legend Cris Carter – was having his own issues getting a shot at entering the league. Like his father early on in his career, Duron has been troubled by some issues. But Duron’s problems don’t come from off the field mishaps. Instead his academics were what kept him back. Unable to make it onto an NFL roster, Duron went undrafted and headed over to the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. Cracking the starting lineup in Montreal, Duron had two solid seasons at receiver. Earlier this year he signed on with the Colts but sits behind veterans Andre Johnson, TY Hilton and rookie Phillip Dorsett on the depth chart. He’s a long shot to make the team but if he’s inherited any of his father’s playmaking ability, he might have a shot.
7 Anthony Dorsett
Instead of trying to duplicate his father’s success at his position, Anthony Dorsett chose a different route going defense instead. His father, Cowboys great Tony Dorsett, was a speedy runner who played a key role on the team during his decade long career in Big D. His son Anthony entered the league as a safety but never managed to crack the starting lineup. Having played for the Titans and Raiders, Anthony’s lone season as a starter came with the Raiders in 2001. He served as a special teams player for the majority of his time in the league and retired after eight seasons.
6 Chris Simms
Like his brother Matt, Chris Simms failed to live up to the lofty expectations that followed him during his professional career. Unlike his younger brother, Chris was drafted. He was a third round pick by the Buccaneers in 2003 and was expected to be Tampa’s QB of the future. But injuries – one being a busted spleen that almost proved fatal – and clashes with head coach Jon Gruden kept him on the bench as a backup. He tried to rectify his career with the Broncos and Titans later on, but was unable to impress coaches enough for him to earn any playing time.
5 Kellen Winslow Jr.
Kellen Winslow Sr. served as one of the earliest examples of the athletic, powerful pass catching tight end that seems to be in high demand in the NFL today. His son, Kellen Winslow Jr. had the chance to set the trend when he was drafted sixth overall by the Browns in 2004. But once again the son was unable to step out of the father’s shadow. It’s hard to live up to the legacy of a man that once blocked a field goal and ran all over the opposing defense in a game that would come to be known as “The Epic in Miami.” While his numbers were decent, Winslow Jr. never lived up to the expectations of being as prolific as his father.
4 Diego Sinagra
Being the son of one of the greatest soccer players of all time isn’t something that’s easy to grow up with. Diego Sinagra was the result of an affair between the great Diego Maradona and an Italian woman and has had a strained relationship with his father. His career stared out with promise as a member of the Napoli Youth squad, but soon after being transferred to Genoa it was evident that he couldn’t keep up with the level of play at the professional level. He lasted eight years in Italy bouncing off different teams and last played for Serie D team Arzanese.
3 Jerry Rice Jr.
Jerry Rice was known for his intense work ethic, great hands and big play ability. He is hands down the greatest receiver to ever play in the NFL. But his son Jerry Rice Jr. is still struggling to make an NFL roster after going undrafted last year. Rice Jr signed with the Redskins after trying out with the Ravens and 49ers. Considered a long shot to make the team, he was waived shortly after. Still a free agent, he might not get another opportunity in a league that’s full of capable and talented pass catchers.
2 Marcus Jordan
With a player as talented as Michael Jordan, it’d be strange for him to have not passed any of his on the court skill to his children. But we’ll never really know for sure if he did, Marcus Jordan isn’t an example of someone who couldn’t succeed but rather someone who was busy living off his father’s name, unable to handle himself as a young athlete should. Of the many public mistakes he’s made – including being arrested in a parking lot, costing his school an Adidas deal and he and his brother blowing $50,000 of their father’s money in Vegas – Jordan proved that his mindset wasn’t focused on basketball but instead on living off his name. He never even finished his collegiate career and we’ll never know how good he could’ve been because of a plethora of stupid, immature decisions.
1 Trevor Gretzky
When your father is the great Wayne Gretzky, it’s safe to say that you’ll be living with an unbearable amount of pressure for pretty much your entire life. After all, how do you live up to someone who went by “The Great One” for the majority of their career? For Trevor Gretzky, the answer is simple. You don’t. Instead of going for a career on the ice, Trevor has opted to make his name in baseball. But regardless of the sport, the name on that jersey remains the same and expectations will stay high. Now in the minor leagues, Trevor is making some strides to becoming a pro. Though he’s still a long shot, he’s been able to carry himself well. But no amount of success he has now or in the future will ever allow him to step out of his father’s enormous shadow, or even his sister's for that matter.