Many associate NFL players, and professional athletes in general, with a certain lifestyle. Spending endless amounts of money on trivial things, living irresponsibly, surrounding themselves with an endless cycle of beautiful women, leaving behind broken hearts and broken homes…the picture is not always flattering, but is fortunately sometimes accurate. Several NFL players have received attention lately for less than admirable deeds, from sexual assault to child abuse, and it has cast a bit of a shadow over the NFL. However, it is important to not let the bad overshadow the good, and instead turn our attention to the NFL’s positive role models.
While some NFL players may make bad decisions, there are an equal amount who constantly prove themselves to be wonderful men, husbands, and fathers. A life in the NFL is not always an easy one for players with families of their own, as they spend a lot of time travelling and away from home. It can be a struggle for a marriage and cause a lot of conflict. Despite the odds, some players have proven that it is possible to have a successful NFL career and a happy and stable home. Most of the players on this list are dedicated husbands and are all devoted fathers. When it comes to prioritizing, family always trumps football for these men, and that’s something to be admired.
Here is a list of ten NFL players who are undoubtedly family men.
10 Nate Burleson
While Nate Burleson may be all about football on the field, in his off time he’s all about his family – just look at his social media accounts! While other players may be posting countless shots of their wild partying and flock of bikini-clad woman, Burleson has picture after picture of his three children and wife Atoya. This dad is definitely not too cool for school, happily taking snaps of himself and his family wearing matching t-shirts for his daughter’s birthday party. Praising his wifey, his #BurlesonBoys, and #DaddysLilGirl, Burleson is all about his family.
9 Philip Rivers
While it’s usually the chaste Tim Tebow who springs to mind when discussing very religious NFL players, Philip Rivers is definitely a man of family and God. He married his wife Tiffany, who he had been with since junior high school in 2001, and to date the couple has a staggering seven children. He definitely prioritizes his family over his career when he needs to, making him a true family man – rather than missing the birth of his daughter Sarah, he chose to miss the AFC Pro Bowl game to welcome their sixth child into the world. A true class act, even when the press attacked his choice to have so many children by suggesting one couldn’t be a good parent to so many, Rivers responded with grace by crediting his wife for all her hard work.
8 Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning is one of the most recognizable names and faces in football today, yet if you saw his wife or children, you probably wouldn’t recognize them. Unlike some families with professional athletes who seem to constantly seek the spotlight, the Manning family is notoriously private. Peyton has been married to wife Ashley since 2001 and the couple have twins, Marshall and Mosley, born in 2011. The media rarely gets shots of the twins in their daily lives, and one of the few occurrences where the Manning family was on display occurred before the 2014-2015 season during a Broncos open practice. Apparently the rule that nobody touches the quarterback doesn’t apply to the Manning twins, who had fun rushing their dad and tackling him on the field. Manning’s privacy demonstrates his family orientation as he strives to provide the best environment for his kids to grow up in.
7 Stephen Gostkowski
New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski married his wife Hallie in 2008, and the couple have since had two children – sons Slayden Kyle and Gannon William. The Gostkowski clan always shows up to support dad, such as when both his sons showed up to horse around with dad at training camp, one a bit too young to walk, the other already donning a helmet and suiting up. Gostkowski talks tirelessly about his children, and in an interview he gave to the Boston Globe about his travel habits, he cited the Atlantis resort as his favorite vacation spot partially because it was fun for the kids.
6 Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is one of the greats, but despite racking up years in the NFL, he has maintained his wholesome, family-oriented status. He has three boys, Bowen, Baylen and Callen, and recently welcomed his fourth child and first daughter, Rylen. Even if you missed her on the sidelines, many likely remember wife Brittany from the Tide commercial the couple did together. Does this dad know his way around the laundry machine? Apparently, yes – he does his fair share of the household chores despite his busy NFL schedule. He also places a high priority on his family life, and during the busy season, structures his schedule around his children so that he gets to spend some quality time with them, doing normal family things like reading bedtime stories. This player is apparently a Saint both on and off the field, showing his fellow players what it is to be a good role model and family man.
5 Tony Gonzalez
Tight end Tony Gonzalez recently retired after a long, successful NFL career, and is currently putting his football knowledge to use as an analyst for The NFL Today. Now that he is no longer part of an NFL team, his focus is wholly on Team Gonzalez – his wife and children. Gonzalez is now married to long time girlfriend October and has three children – Nikko from a previous relationship, and daughter Malia and son River with October. Gonzalez played an accommodating dad when he allowed his son Nikko to feature their family life on the Cartoon Network show My Dad’s a Pro and has always shown devotion to his children. When asked about juggling family and football, Gonzalez stressed that “you got to keep them at the top” [of your priorities].
4 Charles Tillman
Charles Tillman, cornerback for the Chicago Bears, is a devoted father and husband. He and wife Jackie have four children, though they have had their fair share of struggles. He was completely and wholly dedicated to his daughter Tiana when she had medical issues, cardiomyopathy in particular. He refused to take no for an answer and fought for his daughter, going so far as to petition the FDA to allow Tiana to be kept alive via a heart pump until she would be able to get a transplant. The experience caused Tillman to establish the Cornerstone Foundation, which seeks to help the chronically ill children of other Chicago families. Tillman got a lot of flack for his decision to potentially miss a game in order to be at the birth of his daughter – while his decision ended up being irrelevant as his wife went into labor on a Monday rather than a football Sunday, his priorities are definitely family first.
3 Jabari Greer
Former cornerback Jabari Greer has played for the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints, but he has always been a family man through and through and worked hard to provide for his wife Katrina and sons Jeshian and Elias. He’s admitted that a lot of the everyday parenting falls on his wife when he’s on the road, but he places high priority on his marriage, making sure to have a weekly date night in place with his wife. While having a father in the NFL is far from ordinary, the Greer home is probably a little more traditional than many thing – according to Greer, they have movie Mondays, taco Tuesdays, pizza Thursdays, and always ice cream after church. During the season, despite being busy from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with football most days, he made sure to help bathe and tuck in his sons at night. In an interview with the New Orleans Advocate, Greer said that “ultimately my family provides me with fulfilment that the league could never provide me with.” Now that he’s newly retired, a lot more family outings are likely on the schedule.
2 Matt Hasselbeck
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck comes from a big football family – his brother Tim Hasselbeck is a retired quarterback, and their father Don Hasselbeck was a tight end in the NFL. Matt is married to his college sweetheart Sarah; the pair wed in 2000 and have three children, Henry, Annabelle, and Mallory. Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett spoke about what he learnt from Matt during their time as team mates, stating that Matt was extremely skilled at communicating with his kids, “Careful with his words and sensitive to their needs.” Hasselbeck has managed to balance his work life and family life impeccably and their little brood always appears as a happy family unit.
1 Devon Still
The media has been focusing a lot on the good example Devon Still is providing for NFL fathers during his daughter Leah’s struggle with cancer. An unfocused Still wasn’t giving his full effort at football, as his mind was elsewhere, and the Cincinnati Bengals consequently cut him. They quickly, however, signed him to the practice squad. The practice squad’s generous weekly salary and medical insurance meant that Still could provide for his daughter during her fight, and also meant he could be by her side far more often than if he had been constantly travelling with the team. With efforts such as the cheerleaders offering support through their uniforms and the Bengals donating proceeds from Still’s jersey sales to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, to name merely a few of the initiatives people have taken, Still hopefully feels the support that the NFL is giving to him and his daughter. Though fulfilling his duties for the Bengals as he's been promoted to the active roster, Still has entirely re-arranged his priorities to place Leah as the first and foremost in his life, with football a very far second. He is showing himself to be a devoted, dedicated, and wonderful father.`