|IRVING FRYARBad memories|
Hindsight will be helpful
Fryar guides his son on pitfalls of NFL
Twenty-five years ago, Irving Fryar entered the NFL as the No. 1 overall draft choice, selected by the Patriots. Today, his son is fighting much longer odds, hoping to hook on with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent.
Fryar is like most fathers, proud of his oldest child, Londen, for pursuing one of his dreams - to play in the same league Fryar did for 17 seasons. Yet there is a certain caution in his mind-set, which comes from reflecting on the turbulence of his initial years in New England.
"This is an exciting time for us and our family, but at the same time, I know some of the things that I got tied into, that entangled me, the pain I felt, and I don't want that for him," Fryar said from his home in Jobstown, N.J. "Because of that, he might say I can be overbearing at times."
Actually, it is to the contrary. Londen, a cornerback out of Western Michigan University, feels fortunate to have such a great resource.
"I talk to him every day," said Londen Fryar last week, after participating in the Chiefs' first minicamp. "He's helped me train, but more than that, he's helped me with the off-the-field things, about what to expect from different people, how my lifestyle could change. He's been preparing me for those different types of things."
Based on first-hand experience, it's hard to imagine he could have a better teacher.
When Londen was born in 1986, his father was in his third season with the Patriots, which he now refers to as a dark period in his life. Although the Patriots had played in the Super Bowl and Fryar had dazzled as a speedy punt returner en route to the Pro Bowl, he was in the news for the wrong reasons - mainly, a domestic incident with his wife.
"The first five, six years of my career was not a happy time," said the 46-year-old Fryar, now the pastor of the New Jerusalem House of God in Mount Holly, N.J., which he founded six years ago. "I don't have a lot of happy memories I can share with you. It was a rough time.
"I was trying to find myself and become the man that I am now or at least trying to get on the right track, learn what my responsibilities were at that point in my life. I was making some mistakes, making bad decisions that were costing me. It's painful during those times, but if we learn from it, the outcome can be good."
Londen said he was too young to remember much about his father's career with the Patriots (1984-92), although some strong connections remain from that time. One of Fryar's closest friends is Michael Timpson, who played wide receiver in New England from 1989-94 and whom Londen still calls "Uncle."
When Londen asks his father about that time in his career, he hears stories about Steve Nelson, John Hannah, Pete Brock, and Andre Tippett, teammates who "loved on me when other folks thought I was unlovable," said Fryar. "They were my protectors." Fryar's closest friends included Roland James, Ronnie Lippett, Stanley Morgan, Stephen Starring, Tony Collins, Raymond Clayborn, Cedric James, and Bruce Armstrong.
"Londen was part of that, when the families would get together, playing with their kids," Fryar said. "He grew up with shoulder pads."
Londen remembers more about his father's career with the Dolphins (1993-95), Eagles (1996-98), and Redskins (1999-2000). Some of his earliest memories are of walking through the Miami locker room and seeing the likes of Dan Marino, Bryan Cox, and Bernie Parmalee.
"I think people look at pros as different, but being on the sideline, talking with the guys, the thing that stood out to me was how these were regular people," said Londen.
"I saw the atmosphere and how hard those guys worked, watched how they practiced, watched them train in the offseason to get themselves in shape, so I knew what type of hard work it took."
Londen now knows he has his work cut out with the Chiefs. Just as they entered the league differently, he and his father lined up at different positions; when Irving was at Nebraska, he was moved from defensive back to receiver, while Londen made the opposite switch, from receiver to cornerback, at Western Michigan.
"I like that, because people will not be able to compare us, so Londen can go make his own name for himself," Irving said. "Yes, his name is Fryar but he's doing his own thing."
Regardless of position, Londen said he's "honored to be associated with the name." For the father, it's a reminder of how fast the time has passed.
"When I think about Londen entering the NFL, one of the first thoughts I have is, 'Lord, please protect us and don't allow him to fall into the traps and to go through what I went through,' " Fryar said. "I still have emotional scars, psychological scars. There are very few physical scars, and while none of us are perfect, I carry that baggage with me and God helps me deal with it.
"I want to give my son all the information I can to help him avoid some of the disappointment I had as a result of being in the NFL.
"If given the right information, maybe some of the disappointments don't become disappointments."
UFL commissioner can't wait for kickoffA touchdown's worth of questions for Michael Huyghue, commissioner of the United Football League, which is scheduled to begin play in October:
What are some of the latest developments with getting the UFL off the ground?
"We have four teams, which are based in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York. We've hired four coaches - Dennis Green in San Francisco, Jim Fassel in Las Vegas, Jim Haslett in Orlando, and Ted Cottrell in New York - and we have a television contract with Versus, with games on Thursday and Friday nights. There has been tremendous interest from players and agents. We think there is a great opportunity for the league, because it's really going to address a lot of the gap players."
What has been the response you've received from the NFL?
"We've had cordial conversations with them. I've kept them updated from Day 1 of this process. Obviously, all of us come from the NFL [Huyghue worked for the Jaguars], so we grew up together in the league, working together. I've made it very clear that we want to work complementary to the NFL. I think they'll find that we're beneficial to them, as we're allowing players - at the end of our season - to go directly to the NFL."
If that's the case, what is the time frame for the season?
"It will start in October and end Nov. 27, Thanksgiving weekend."
On the television agreement with Versus, there was a rumor that Doug Flutie might be part of the broadcasting team. Is that correct?
"We're not ready to make an official announcement on that, but it would not be a bad guess. From a Boston perspective, we've also looked at the sports network out there and possibly putting some games on there. We're going to play a game in Hartford as well."
What might someone not know about the UFL that you think might surprise them?
"I think you're going to see some big-name people get in this. I think you're going to see players who are in transition that are big-time guys who get stuck because they ask for a lot of money, or Marvin Harrison types. And I think you'll see up-and-coming quarterbacks. When you look at Tom Brady and Matt Cassel, like your fans have experienced in Boston, it shows there are guys waiting in the wings and every time they get a chance, you hear success stories."
Word is you plan to introduce some new technology as well. Is that correct?
"Yes, we're going to have a GPS chip in the football that will allow us to know exactly where the ball is downed on the field, and whether it crosses the uprights. It won't be a lot of gimmicks, but I think it will enhance the quality of the game. We're going to show instant replay to the fans, so they can see the actual footage that the referee is looking at. We're going to mike the players and bring the fans into halftime and see a brief period of the halftime locker room. So from a fan perspective, we'd like to think of ourselves as the 'Ultimate Fun League.' "
These OTAs can be valuable get-togethersThe Patriots will have their first organized team activities of the offseason this week. OTAs have become an increasingly important part of teams' offseasons in recent years, as laying groundwork and introducing concepts in those sessions gives clubs a head start entering training camp.
For the Patriots, it is the first chance to see their players, new and old, together on the field. Veterans such as Fred Taylor and Joey Galloway, who prefer to work out on their own for most of the offseason, plan to participate in OTAs.
A few key points about OTAs:
Patriots senior adviser Floyd Reese, while working for ESPN, once called OTAs "the perfect time to evaluate the ability of a player. While rookie workouts focus on the individual, OTAs will be more group-involved. It is an opportunity for rookies to see what the NFL is all about. How a rookie practices, his involvement in meetings, and how much tape he watches will help coaches form an opinion about him. Unlike in the first minicamp, draft choices are forced to earn reps as well."
Mike Reiss can be reached at email@example.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.