There were plenty of kids running around. When rosters include more than 40 men in their 20s and 30s, there are bound to be children in the locker room.
So when Scott Studwell thinks back to his 1984 season with the Minnesota Vikings, he’s hard-pressed to remember all the sons and daughters who were there.
He does remember Peyton Manning, then an 8-year-old ball boy whose father, Archie, was a backup quarterback. And Studwell recalls a couple of younger Manning brothers, about whom nothing really stands out.
Children were in and out of the locker room, and it wasn’t always easy to remember who was who.
But in hindsight, that was a pretty special year. Four of those kids are now NFL quarterbacks, and three will be in the same stadium this Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks host the New York Giants at Qwest Field.
Matt Hasselbeck and Eli Manning will start for opposing teams, while Matt’s younger brother, Tim, will serve as Manning’s backup for the Giants. Peyton Manning will undoubtedly be watching on television as his unbeaten Indianapolis Colts get ready for a Monday night matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In what is quickly becoming a nepotistic position – five quarterbacks with NFL bloodlines have started this season, including the Tampa Bay duo of Chris Simms and Brian Griese – the Mannings and Hasselbecks are still considered the first families of quarterbacking.
“That’s a pretty unique situation,” said Studwell, now the director of college scouting for the Vikings. “It’s a testament to the way they were raised. Being around dads who played football obviously had an impact on their lives.”
Archie Manning and Don Hasselbeck now boast three of the 32 NFL starters, as well as a primary backup. While the oldest Manning brother, Cooper, and the youngest Hasselbeck, Nathanael, did not make it, the fact that four of them did is pretty unlikely.
“People all the time say, ‘It’s crazy, you and your brother playing together in the NFL,’” Tim Hasselbeck said. “… But there’s a part of playing in the NFL that didn’t seem so weird because that’s what our father did for a living; the kids we grew up playing with, that’s what their dads did for a living.
“As a kid, you want to be an astronaut or a fireman or a pro athlete. But to us, being a professional football player did not seem like such a stretch.”
The fact that both families each have two sons playing quarterback has brought them closer together. Quarterback Archie Manning and tight end Don Hasselbeck were teammates with the 1984 Vikings, but didn’t keep in very close contact in subsequent years.
Then both former players had a son go through the similar experiences of being recruited, to being drafted and being NFL starters, and that formed a bond that brought them back together. The four parents have even attended NFL games together – including one playoff game in New England where Don and Betsy Hasselbeck got a few nasty stares for inviting Archie and Olivia Manning into their suite for a matchup with Peyton’s Colts.
But other than preseason games, the Manning brothers have never faced the Hasselbeck brothers on the field. This Sunday will mark the first time, although nobody is making a very big deal out of it.
“If we were going up against each other – if (Eli) was a linebacker and I was a tight end – I think it would be more of a (big) thing,” Matt Hasselbeck said. “With Eli – and Tim – we’ll never be on the field at the same time, so it’s not that big of a deal.”
Eli Manning, the youngest of three brothers, was just 3 years old when his father was Don Hasselbeck’s teammate, so he didn’t interact much with the Hasselbeck sons back then.
“I don’t really remember that situation,” Eli said Wednesday. “Over the years, I have watched them and kept up with them. I have met Matt before, but I don’t know him too well.”
Eli now knows Tim Hasselbeck very well, having become teammates with him when Tim signed with the Giants before this season. The two share a unique bond in that they’re trying to follow in the footsteps of older siblings who are already established NFL quarterbacks.
“There’s kind of a bond or a connection there,” Tim Hasselbeck said. “I don’t really know how to explain it.”
While Peyton Manning has been to five Pro Bowls, and Matt Hasselbeck one, the younger brothers are still playing in their siblings’ shadows.
“I am proud of Peyton,” Eli Manning said. “He is someone I look up to and have watched his whole career. I enjoy watching him play. I enjoy our conversations, and he has been real helpful to me.”
Big brother will probably be watching this weekend. But it’s someone else’s big brother who will be in the opposing locker room.