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.''