NFL draft prospects follow in footsteps of famous fathers

ByAlaina Getzenberg ESPN logo
Friday, March 1, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS -- Toward the end of Brenden Rice's media session at the NFL combine, he received a question from a familiar face.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams joined the scrum and asked his college teammate a familiar question.

"How does it feel to be Jerry Rice's son?"

Rice, with a big smile across his face, responded, "Man, it feels even better to be a teammate of Caleb Williams."

The pressure, opportunities and recognition that come with following a family member's success in the NFL was visible throughout the morning Friday as the quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs spoke with the media. For Rice, the advice he receives from dad, who is in the Hall of the Fame, is to be aware of what the name brings but not to put too much thought into it to avoid letting it be a distraction.

"Well, [my dad] always says, 'Yeah, you got a last name, so you got a target on your back. So, make sure you stay in the moment. Don't make the moment too big and don't overthink and you'll be just fine,'" Rice said.

Southern Miss running back Frank Gore Jr. takes on a similar mindset. Although his father's playing career came to an end in 2020, Gore Sr. is now with theSan Francisco 49ersstaff as a football personnel adviser. The Gores have seen each other as they pass in hallways throughout the combine week and have spoken on the phone.

Gore said that having the same name as his father, who rushed for 16,000 yards, playing for five teams, is meaningful and something to build on.

"I'm not going to shy away from my name. I am who I am," Gore Jr. said. "It's a blessing to have this name. So, I won't say I'm not happy to have this name. He had this name; he made it what it is. So now I have the responsibility to take it further."

Rice receiver Luke McCaffrey, whose NFL lineage includes brotherChristian McCaffreyand their father, Ed McCaffrey, echoed Gore's sentiment.

"I have a quote that I love. It's: 'They're the biggest blessing I ever had that I never earned,'" Luke McCaffrey said. "I was blessed to have my heroes as my three brothers, as my mom and my dad. To kind of have those people, those influences in your life, especially at an early age, and then actually grow up, has been nothing but a blessing, has shaped me in so many different ways."

Another draft prospect who has big shoes to fill is Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who is expected to go high in next month's draft but did not speak Friday during his scheduled session.

Many connections will be made between the young athletes and the family members who came before them, but Rice and Gore gave examples of what sets them apart.

"Size, man. Size and speed. We joke all the time. I'm bigger and faster," Rice said.

Although Gore Jr. noted the similarities as a runner between himself and his father, he also noted differences.

"More agile," Gore Jr. said. "A little bit more lateral movement. He's more of a thumper."

When it comes to potentially playing on the same teams as their fathers, all were open to the possibility, but even Rice said his dad would be just fine if he played for one of his former rivals, even theDallas Cowboys.

"He's like, 'Man, I'm going to cheer you on no matter what,'" Rice said. "It doesn't matter where you are."

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