Friday, August 12, 2005

When Being a Dad Is a Pretty Cool Thing




(Pictured above: Leo Brady at Loras College; also, Leo with Loras Duhawks teammate Michael McHugh)


My youngest child is hardly a "child." He's 20 years old. He's about 6' 3" tall and weighs about 215-220 pounds. His name is Leo J. Brady, and this fall he'll begin his junior year at Loras College, a small Division III school in Dubuque, Iowa, on the banks of the Mississippi River. Leo majors in Communication, and from all accounts he's doing pretty well there academically. He's a hard worker, and a fine all-around human being, and when college is over he'll have a student loan to repay. So, for someone so young, he's certainly achieved a lot and accepted a ton of responsibility. And did I mention that Leo is the starting tight end on the Loras Duhawks football team? Well, he is. After a good high school career at Chicago's St. Patrick High School, and being cited in a few Chicago-area newspapers as an "honorable mention" football player, Leo moved on to Loras. It has a modest athletic program, but it's a place where Leo can learn, but also play his preferred position without worrying about why he's not three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier (like all the behemoths at Division I powerhouses).

As a huge all-around sports fan, Leo's ultimate hope is to parlay his interests and his college experience into a career as either a coach or a sports media hound. I have no doubt that eventually he will do what he wants to do. Leo is passionate, friendly, sincere, genuine in all ways, loves to laugh (Will Ferrell and Seinfeld are comedy idols), digs cool music (The Doors, for example), and even expresses a fancy for public speaking, which seems to be a pretty rare trait.

Leo's also a pretty resourceful guy. In the middle of his second semester of sophomore year, Leo used his brains and wrote letters to several NFL teams, approaching them about summer internships. Since Peyton Manning is one of Leo's sports idols, he was hoping the Indianapolis Colts would respond. Well, they did, but only to thank him for his interest, etc. But lo and behold, he eventually received an encouraging reply from the Miami Dolphins. They were looking for young people to assist in support areas of their operation, including a summer camp for kids, concessions, security, and the like, as the organization embarked on a new era under the guidance of new head coach Nick Saban.

A decent fellow named Frank Losito contacted Leo, and invited him down to Davie, Fla., a Miami suburb, to interview for such a position. In early May, at his own expense, Leo flew down to Florida. He met Mr. Losito, learned what the opportunity was all about, then flew back the same day. Three weeks later he was told that, if he wanted to come work for the Dolphins during summer training camp, the job was his. The Dolphins, however, were not offering room and board of any kind, explaining to Leo that most of the kids taking such jobs usually lived fairly nearby. The Dolphins also weren't paying much: For every four-hour shift Leo worked, he'd be paid the princely sum of $6.25/hr. More than 200 resumes had been submitted for these choice jobs, and only 11 positions were offered.

Clearly some decisions had to be made here. Leo lives in Chicago with his mother. Finances are often difficult. But this was too cool an opportunity to pass up, especially for a young man with career aspirations in the sports field. Leo's Mom helped him out with the preparations. So did his sister, Jessica, who contributed to the financial effort. But the crunch-time issues at hand involved where Leo would stay in Davie, and how he would get around without a car.

For once in recent years, I had a chance to do a really Dad-like thing. I used the power of the Web, and located a Davie-based business hotel in the Extended Stay chain. A few phone calls later, and through the additional power of a credit card, I had Leo booked in for his stay, from July 18-Aug. 12. After arriving in Florida, he found co-workers willing to give him rides back and forth between the hotel and the Dolphins camp. His hotel had a refrigerator and stove and microwave, a queen-size bed, TV with cable, and even a computer hookup. He further learned that, with his hotel reservation, he was accorded free access to the nearby Bally Health Club, where he could swim and work out with weights to stay in shape for his forthcoming football season.

Leo's first day with the Dolphins was amazing. The first human being he saw as he walked through the doors was none other than Dan Marino. He then joined the other interns for orientation, a process that included the team snipping a lock of hair for a drug test, as well as stern words about how all employees are never to talk to the press. Eventually, Leo got his assignments, which included working at Pro Player Stadium during a Dolphins fanfest, coaching kids in the team's summer camp, and also working security during team practices, a gig that afforded him the opportunity to watch a pro football training camp close-up, to exchange pleasantries with coaches and players, and to get to know other team employees like former Dolphins, Redskins and Falcons linebacker Twan Russell, who works in community relations.

On Aug. 12, Leo returns to Chicago, then has to drive out the next morning to Dubuque to begin his own football camp and to ready himself for another school year. For a kid who's had some tough family breaks--primarily his parents' separation and the resultant financial upheaval that caused--Leo continues to amaze me. He's upbeat, courageous, and he follows his heart, and, as this story exhibits, he knows how to use his head as well. Maybe best of all, his modest dream has united his parents and siblings in a worthy common cause, and has given us all something really cool to cheer for.

Now let's hope that Leo can get through the coming football season unscathed. He's had knee problems in the past that have required surgery, but in the recent era he's stayed healthy. So far, there's no reason why he shouldn't be a main cog in the Loras Duhawks' offense this year. (Loras, by the way, is also the alma mater of TV sportscaster Greg Gumbel.)

So stay healthy, Leo. Study hard. And catch a few TD passes for the old man. I love you.

1 comment:

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