In 1996 a young brash, load mouth kid from the Los Angeles, California became the number one overall draft pick in the NFL draft that year. Keyshawn Johnson, the unforgettable wide receiver out of the University of Southern California was selected by the New York Jets and immediately became a polarizing figure in not just pro football, but in all of pro sports. He followed a much maligned rookie season with the release of his critically acclaimed book “Just Give Me the Damn Ball!: Fast Times and Hard Knocks of an NFL Rookie”, where he was critical of teammates and coaching staff to name a few. Media pundits labeled him selfish, arrogant, a cancer to the locker room, and many others doubted if he would have a long and prosperous NFL career.
After playing 11 seasons with 4 different NFL teams, he officially retired from the game in 2006 with a Super Bowl ring and selected as a Pro Bowler 3 separate times (All Star in the NFL for those who don’t know). He became a fixture on ESPN’s NFL Countdown between 2007 and 2015 as a trusted analyst for the network. Over that time Johnson has also become an astute business owner, and continues to find opportunities to invest in new ventures.
Fast forward 11 years later and Keyshawn is back in the news but for a different reason.
His son Keyshawn Johnson Jr., one of Johnson’s 4 kids, was put on an extended leave of absence from the University of Nebraska Football team following a marijuana possession citation in a dorm room this month.
Many parents, especially notable figures, would do all they can to keep a story like this quiet, Keyshawn took the opportunity to make it a teachable moment for his son.
“You’re in college now,” Keyshawn Sr. told the Omaha World-Herald. “You’re an adult. You’re not a kid. You take a look at it from afar and let me know how important it is to you.”
Keyshawn Sr. went on to add,“One thing you will not do as my son is you will not embarrass Nebraska, you will not embarrass Mike Riley and you will not embarrass this family. If you mature and you’re ready to resume your football career and academic goals, then Nebraska will be ready to embrace you.”
Keyshawn, the infamous, self proclaimed, one man savour to the New York Jets 20 years ago has grown up and became a remarkable man and father.
In a day in which fathers (especially black ones) have been accused of not being present for their kids and not being good role models if they are present, its refreshing to see a father in the public eye holding him accountable for his actions not letting his son off easy, especially given the status Keyshawn holds.
Keyshawn, the infamous, self proclaimed, one man savour to the New York Jets 20 years ago has grown up and became a remarkable man and father. His current actions have put fathers and mothers on notice. How would we respond? A move like pulling your son from his school’s football team for any given time could affect his future NFL aspirations.
But Keyshawn knows his son will be a better man for it. Its effective parenting 101, and I have absolutely no problem or issues with the way he handled it.
Here’s why this is effective parenting 101:
1.Keyshawn made no excuse for his son’s actions. “Boys will be boys”, “It’s just the college life”, “Kids will make mistakes”. Keyshawn never said any of that to belittle the story with the media or make light of the issue with everyone else watching in the public eye. The life lesson for his son was more important that his personal reputation.
2.He had no issue with the punishment handed out. Its not clear whether Keyshawn pulled his son out of school for 6 months or if it was enforced by the school. Regardless, Keyshawn Sr. never asked the school to cut back the extended leave time with it being a first time offence, but he did let them know he was going to help enforce it.
3.He identified for his son how serious the issue was. The most powerful and significant sound bite from Keyshawn Sr. is when he says to his son, “You will not embarrass Nebraska, you will not embarrass Mike Riley and you will not embarrass this family.” No matter how much remorse his son feels after the citation, Keyshawn Sr. reminds him of how serious this issue is by releasing off the many people that were affected by his decision.
4.He’s given his son the opportunity to make things right. “If you mature and you’re ready to resume your football career and academic goals, then Nebraska will be ready to embrace you.” A good father always give their kids the opportunity to make things right. The whole idea of discipline is to help our children make better choices the second time around and in the future.
In his early days of playing at USC and throughout his NFL career, I was never a Keyshawn Johnson fan for the many reasons I stated at the beginning of this article. But I am now. I applaud his willingness to actually be a parent when it isn’t always easy to do so in this current culture. He cared enough about teaching his son important life principles that will help him grow into manhood now, and will be an asset for life after football.