Chips off the old block It is easy to see why the names of several '09 Aggies sound familiar. They are sons of former NFL and NBA players, some of whom also donned maroon
By BRENT ZWERNEMAN College Station Bureau
Aug. 24, 2009, 11:07PM A FAMILY AFFAIR
Sons of former pro athletes playing for A&M and Texas: Texas A&M
DL Spencer Nealy Former NBA player Ed Nealy
C Kevin Matthews Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews
WR Jeff Fuller Former 49ers and A&M safety Jeff Fuller
DL Wells Childress Former Oilers/Cowboys DL and A&M great Ray Childress Texas
TE Josh Marshall Former Jets DT and A&M DE Tank Marshall
RB Tre’ Newton Former Cowboys/Panthers OL Nate Newton
QB Garrett Gilbert Former Seahawks/Bills/Chargers QB Gale Gilbert
COLLEGE STATION — In early 1990, then-Chicago Bulls reserve Ed Nealy cracked wise in Sports Illustrated that his wife needed to keep their soon-to-be-born baby away from him for the first five years. “You know how bad my hands are,” Nealy kidded.
Nearly two decades later, Nealy’s (no) bouncing baby boy, Spencer, is a freshman at Texas A&M — and wearing an Aggies football uniform. DeAnn Nealy apparently did her job. For that, A&M coach Mike Sherman is grateful.
“In (one) of Phil Jackson’s books, he describes Ed, and it’s almost like he’s describing Spencer,” Sherman said. “It’s almost the same guy. He said he’ll give you great effort — that you can depend on him.”
Spencer, a defensive lineman from San Antonio whose dad also played for the Spurs, is just one of the chips off the ol’ pro block on the A&M roster.
Starting center Kevin Matthews is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, an Oilers standout. Starting receiver Jeff Fuller is the son of a former A&M and San Francisco 49ers standout by the same name. Freshman defensive lineman Wells Childress is the son of former NFL All-Pro Ray Childress, an Oilers star who also played at A&M. Sherman sees the fathers in the sons.
“Wells has a very quiet demeanor; he just goes about his business and does his work,” Sherman said, adding such an approach reminds him greatly of Ray, a two-time All-American at A&M. “I think there are some genetic transferences to the sons.”
More pro lineage appears on the way to Aggieland in the coming year: Kevin Matthews’ highly-touted younger brother, Jake, has pledged to the Aggies. And Joseph Cheek of Seguin, son of former A&M and NFL lineman Louis Cheek, also said he plans to ink with A&M. Advice is free
Being the son of a former professional athlete doesn’t guarantee success — but it helps. Fuller, the Aggies’ top receiver, said his father, a former NFL safety, has long taught him how best to handle defensive backs.
“The main thing he reminds me of is to play low and use stiff arms and things like that,” the younger Fuller said. “To get on the safeties’ toes — and try to make eye contact with them. That psyches them out a little bit.”
Added Sherman about Fuller, “I know his daddy pretty well, so I didn’t have any doubts that there would be a lot of pressure put on him from the home front.”
Sometimes, the offspring sound like grizzled NFL veterans — especially when their gigs come into question following a poor showing.
“You see the stuff the media writes,” Kevin Matthews said this camp. “Everybody hates on the offensive line. At first, it gets at you, and you want to find the guy who wrote about it.”
For its part, rival Texas has its share of NFL sons: Josh Marshall, son of Tank; Tre Newton, son of Nate; and Garrett Gilbert, son of Gale. Tales never get old
Because Spencer Nealy and Wells Childress are newcomers who haven’t yet played a down, Sherman doesn’t allow them to speak to the media.
But after he was named the San Antonio Express-News’ area defensive player of the year last season, Spencer told the paper he’s heard about his dad once bragging that he and Michael Jordan combined to score 72 points in an NBA game. Jordan scored 69.
“He’s always told us stories, and that’s one of his favorites,” Spencer said. “I’ve heard them all by now, but they never get old. “Not too much.” [email protected] A&M's roster filled with sons of former NFL, NBA players | Texas A&M college | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle