The Stingley family carry a legacy of footballing beauty and brutality

A prayer is said each time Derek Stingley Jr. enters the football field.

A prayer is said every time Stingley, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, leaves the field.

“That’s how we do it,” said Derek Stingley Sr., the father of the former star LSU cornerback, who just became the Texans’ biggest investment in a defenseman since Jadeveon Clowney was signed. taken at No. 1 in 2014.

There was never a specific moment when Stingley as a child learned of what had happened to his grandfather, Darryl Stingley.

The head-on collision with Oakland Raiders safety Jack “The Assassin” Tatum in a preseason game against the New England Patriots on August 12, 1978. The blow that broke a receiver’s neck 26 years wide and turned Darryl Stingley into a quadriplegic.

“It was part of his daily life because his grandfather was already in a wheelchair,” Stingley Sr. said Friday at NRG Stadium.

But the repeated prayers are an acknowledgment of the beauty and violence inherent in America’s most popular sport.

A fast and dangerous game that more than ever needs to be played the right way, which is why Stingley’s father has long emphasized the right way to tackle.

“You can have guys who can be aggressive and they want to feel that way,” Stingley Sr said. out of the field.”

A sport that forever changed the life of Stingley’s grandfather more than four decades ago and has now positioned a 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as the centerpiece of the Texans’ rebuild .

“Every time I play there, you don’t want to play thinking about injuries or playing with fear because then something could happen if you’re out there like that,” Stingley said. “Really, I just go out there and play, have fun and do what I do.”

Stingley Sr. was 7 when a pass was thrown too far to the left and a tight body suddenly hit the ground after Tatum’s kick. A “special” father-son relationship remained. But what started as an active world in between — riding a bike, playing softball, enjoying the outdoors — quickly turned into a kid who had to reach out and scratch his dad’s head when it itched.

“For us, it was part of everyday life,” Stingley Sr. said. “It got to the point where if I woke up in the morning, went to the kitchen and got a glass of water, I’d stop dead and go back to my dad. It was natural for us to think that way and to be that way. We never considered it a nuisance or anything like that.

Stingley Sr. could have avoided the sport. Instead, he spent three years as an outfielder in the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league system, played in the Arena Football League for nearly a decade, and held several football coaching positions. .

“My mum must have told me at the time, ‘This is a freak accident. It’s a one in a million chance something like this could happen,'” Stingley Sr said. sing the same tune. “Listen, go out and play football. Don’t be afraid of it. What happened to me was just an anomaly. ”

Stingley Jr. stood out on the court even more than his father. The newest Texan always played ‘up’ as a kid, taking on 11 and 12 year olds when he was still 8 years old. His first practice at LSU only created more local and national hype.

“Believe it or not, we saw him – we saw him as family – because he was always special,” said Stingley Sr. “He was completely different from most kids his age. . We did this (played) on purpose because it was not necessary to play it with children his age.

There are obvious personality similarities and ties between the new Texas cornerback and the former Patriots wide receiver.

Darryl Stingley died in 2007.

“His personality is more like my dad’s,” Stingley Sr. said. comfortable talking a bit. … In my opinion, I think Derek is better at the age of 20 than me and, really in my mind, my dad too.

But the details of the life-changing 1978 hit were rarely discussed, if at all, and Stingley Sr. regularly reminds his son that he has to move with the speed of the modern game and can’t take the field. fearing injury.

“There was no real impact on Derek’s decision to play football because of what happened to my dad,” Stingley Sr said. “And there was no real impact on my decision, because my mom and dad were like, ‘Hey, go out and do it. Play it. It’s a good sport. We’re good at it. You’re an athlete. You can do it – it can be something you can do for a living.”

A prayer is said before taking the field.

A prayer is said when leaving the field.

The Stingley family continues to play football, a violent sport but also a beautiful and redeeming game.

Forty-four years after the sudden end of Darryl Stingley’s career, his grandson’s life in the NFL is just beginning in Houston.

“He would be ecstatic, over the moon. I think he would be proud,” Stingley Sr. said, remembering his father. “This moment for us as a family, the way we feel, it would be 100 times over from him. Just to know that his grandson carried on the legacy of our name in a sport that essentially took away his livelihood, but at the same time, something he truly loved and cared about.

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