Former Jets receiver Al Toon was proud on draft day, when the Saints called his son’s name.
Not just because his son Nick had made it to the NFL, but because his son made his own decisions and forged his own way.
“We actually instill in all of our kids independence, and to be independent thinkers and to make their own decisions,” Al Toon told Sheldon Mickles of the Baton Rouge Advocate. “It was an honor to have him follow in our footsteps, both my wife and I, going to the University of Wisconsin and being a Badger.
“He made the decision on his own, and he was pretty excited about the opportunity.”
Nick, a fourth-round pick by the Saints, doesn’t remember that much of his dad’s career. Al Toon was a three-time Pro Bowler, before concussions cut his career short after eight years. Nick was 4 years old when that happened.
“I remember a little bit of it,” Nick Toon said. “When I was little, that was my dad’s job, but I didn’t know any different. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how cool that was.”
Despite the spotlight, Al Toon tried to steer his son toward other sports, and didn’t allow Nick to play organized football until he was in junior high.
“I felt I had to be very careful because I didn’t want him to feel like I was pushing him into the game,” said Al Toon. “I didn’t hang my (memorabilia) up because I didn’t want him to get the sublime message that it’s all about football. I wanted him to develop that passion and desire for football.”
That the son has found his own level of success, and still thinks that his dad is in any way “cool,” is about all the gift any father can receive.