Moms of NFL draftees enjoy the moment
NEW YORK -- For every player selected in first round of the NFL draft, Thursday night marked an irrevocable turning point. Each young man will soon be rewarded with a rich contract, head to live in a new city and face many new temptations.
For many of these boys-turned-men-overnight, their moms may become increasingly important sources of guidance and stability.
Perhaps no NFL mother-to-be knows that story better than Anita Jordan, the mother of new Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan.
She has already experienced football life through her husband, Steve Jordan, a former Vikings tight end and six-time Pro Bowler. She worked hard to shield Cameron from the celebrity that surrounded Steve.
"His friends' idea of him will change," she said. "Everyone will come at him asking for money, and you can't do that.
Anita was unable to see Cameron's big draft moment in person, as she could not travel to Radio City Music Hall in New York because of her battle with Epstein-Barr virus. She enjoyed the draft back home in Arizona, with 120 friends.
To keep Cameron grounded, the Jordans gave him only $200 a month in spending money during college and encouraged him to get a job if he wanted more. Cameron did just that, working part time as a bouncer.
"Our ultimate goal was to keep him focused on academics," said Anita, a self-proclaimed disciplinarian in contrast to Steve, a "softhearted softie."
Family came first, with Anita working hard to make sure NFL stardom didn't impact Cameron's perceptions of his dad.
"I didn't make football or my husband a huge thing, so when he came home, he was just Daddy," she said.
On the other end of the spectrum is Vicki Watkins, the mother of new Eagles guard Danny Watkins. The Watkins family is from a small town in British Columbia, and until this week, Vicki had never been to New York City.
"I'm just excited to be in a city with a Victoria's Secret and a Macy's for the first time," she said.
Besides her unfamiliarity with American retail, Vicki is also not particularly into football. Until this week, she had little idea of the monumental popularity of the NFL in the U.S.
But she too is certain she has prepared her son for life on the big stage, instilling sound values to help him resist the temptations from the fame and fortune of NFL life. She gushed about Danny, a former firefighter who entered the draft at the advanced football age of 26.
"He's a good-hearted kid who would help anybody out and wears his heart on his sleeve," Vicki said. "Whether it's football or not, personally, he's just a great, happy-go-lucky kid."
She described herself as "emotional" watching the reception Danny got in New York. She vowed to attend more football games and learn a little more about the sport and to remain a grounded part of Danny's life in this next phase.
If Anita and Vicki need advice on shepherding their sons through the league, there is no one better to consult with than the NFL's mother hen, Wilma McNabb, president of the Professional Football Players Mothers Association. Wilma is the mom of star quarterback Donovan McNabb and has seen it all: the massive contracts; the exultation; the devastation stemming from victory and defeat; and the extreme pressures of playing behind center for ravenous fans in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
"It's amazing," Wilma said. "In Donovan's case, he went from driving a used car to being able to buy a house like that."
Above all, Wilma advises new NFL mothers not to underestimate their role in their sons' lives.
"It's what kind of relationship you have with your son in the first place," she said. "Be the mother, not the friend. You need to be the biggest critic. Keep him focused and grounded."