A father and son become the first accomplish something that no other men in the history of the planet had recorded. Emery Moorehead and his son, Aaron where the first and are one of just two father and son pairs to play in and win a Super Bowl - the National Football League championship - Emery as a tight end for the 1985 Chicago Bears and Aaron as a wide receiver for the 2007 Indianapolis Colts. Their story meanders through a lifetime of fathers and sons, and the dedicated fraternity that envelops the game of football.
The father toils daily - working and sweating as a garbage man just off the streets of Chicago. The son grows up playing football, basketball, baseball in the park with his friends, learning to play with joy, wearing blue jeans and a smile. The son plays high school football and impresses the coach with his work ethic and dedication. The father doesn't spend much time watching his son play - he has work to do.
Then one day, there's an accident with the garbage truck and Emery Matthew Moorehead is killed. Suddenly the son, Emery Matthew Moorehead, Jr. realizes it's time to grow up.
"Man, it was tough when my dad died," Moorehead said. "I had to decide what to do next - where to go to college - so I could make a living."
Emery Moorehead had 40 career receptions at CU before being drafted by the New York Giants in 1977.
"I would tell the boys, do it right or you don't play," Coach Lazier said.
The son is the quarterback, and Shawn Lazier throws to Emery Moorehead. The son goes on to play at Michigan State and the father helps a now-fatherless young man get to college.
"Emery was a tough kid, an excellent boy and a really good blocker," Coach Lazier said. "He was a hard worker and a great player. He played with my son and they had a really good team. He had a tough go when his dad died."
Moorehead knew he had to get a scholarship - that football would help him get to college.
"I worked really hard my senior year," Moorehead said. "At the end of the season, I went to Coach Lazier and he gave me a shoebox with the recruiting letters that had come for me. That's how coach handled recruiting - nothing until the end of your high school career."
One of the letters in Moorehead's shoebox is from Colorado State University. Early that summer, he met a girl at work who went to CSU. She tells him Colorado is wonderful. Moorehead decides that's where he wants to go and talks it over with Coach Lazier.
Mr. Do Right remembers a coaching clinic he had gone to where he met the head coach and athletic director at the University of Colorado.
"Coach Lazier knew Eddie Crowder, so he sent me to Boulder," Moorehead said. "It was beautiful. The Buffs were #3 in the country that year - so I decided to go to Colorado."
Moorehead captains the 1976 Colorado Buffaloes, now coached by Bill Mallory. The Buffs win the Big 8 Championship and go to the Orange Bowl. At CU, Moorehead plays wingback and averages 18.8 yards with 40 career receptions, which is still the fourth highest average in school history for a player with 35 or more catches.
"We had some great teams at CU," Moorehead said. "My senior year, we crushed Oklahoma and I will never forget playing in the Orange Bowl."
Emery Moorehead enjoyed a 12-year NFL career with the New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears
Photo Courtesy: Chicago Bears
Emery Moorehead enjoyed a 12-year NFL career with the New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears
"When I was growing up in Illinois, Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus were my heroes," Moorehead said. "Then to find myself on the Bears was great. When I started playing, one of the vets told me I could make a lot of money in December because it gets so cold, and some guys don't like to play in the cold. He said not to let the elements get to me, and I never forgot that."
Moorehead is part of the 1984 Bears football team and his coach, Mike Ditka, is on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Iron Mike plays tight end for the 1963 Bears, a team that wins the NFL championship. In 1972, Ditka is a member of the Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys. He becomes the Chicago Bears head coach in 1982. The Chicago offense features quarterback Jim McMahon, running back Walter (Sweetness) Payton, wide receiver Willie Gault and tight end Emery Moorehead.
"Coach Ditka taught me a lot about the tight end position, and I was lucky to play with a team full of talented players," Moorehead said.
The Bears make it to the 1984 National Football Conference championship game, but the San Francisco 49ers take it to 'em, 23-0.
"That was a hard loss," Moorehead said. "We knew we had a great team, but the 49ers were better that day. Coach Ditka told us never to forget how we felt and that we'd have a chance to play them again in a year. We knew we'd be back - this time to win it all."
As the 1985 season starts, the son is in kindergarten and a star in his own right, at least on the playground. The other students know Aaron Matthew Moorehead's dad is a football player for the Bears. They make posters to wish the dad good luck and the son is proud.
The excellence of 1984 sets the stage for the accomplished and hungry Chicago Bears. The 1985 Bears destroy each opponent and they're sitting on 12-0. Then the schedule serves up the Miami Dolphins, the only team in history to record a perfect season, but the Bears know they have a team destined for greatness as well. The Dolphins beat Chicago, but it doesn't slow the Bears down. The fans are crazy for The Doomsday Defense, Sweetness, The Super Bowl Shuffle and The Fridge. The tight end is Emery Moorehead.
"Emery was a great football player," quarterback Jim McMahon said. "He was my roommate for a couple of years - Mo and I had a great time together - he's pure class. He went from wide receiver in our offense to playing tight end. It was a tough change to make. He was a big part of our offense - he made some key blocks and big catches for us all year and in the Super Bowl."
The Bears finish at 15-1 and in the playoffs; they beat the Giants, 21-0 and crush the Los Angeles Rams, 24-0 to win a birth in Super Bowl XX. Chicago goes on to dominate the New England Patriots 46-10 to take their place in history.
"A lot goes into becoming a champion, but as we just kept winning, everything fell into place," Emery Moorehead said. "We dominated all season - offense and defense."
Emery Moorehead's son Aaron, was a walkon at Illinois before making it to the NFL
Photo courtesy: Indianapolis Colts
"My dad didn't let me play football until I was in eighth grade," Aaron Moorehead said. "He didn't want me to burn out early and he didn't want me to get hurt. I was so happy when I started playing."
At Deerfield High School in Illinois, the son is a science teacher and football coach, and his father is a Hall of Famer from Gordon Tech High School. Tom Winiecki tries to encourage his son, who excels in biology, to pursue pre-med, but the son knows the tug of coaching and teaching is too much to fight. Aaron Moorehead attends Deerfield and begins his high school football career under Coach Steve Winiecki.
"Aaron was a great athlete," Coach Winiecki said. "He had confidence in his ability and showed pure determination. He kept working hard - always wanting to do another drill, catch another ball. He played on an option team as a wide receiver, and the best thing about him was his selflessness."
In football, the hours of performance never stack up to the hours of preparation.
"The time the team spends together preparing - the behind-the-scenes work - watching film, weight training, practicing - it builds trust and a special bond," Winiecki said. "And then when the team finally gets to play the game and things go well, the players really celebrate each other's accomplishments. Aaron was always positive - through good times and bad."
The son doesn't have a shoebox full of recruiting letters, but Aaron Moorehead decides he wants to play DI football and walks on at Illinois.
"I love the game - that's something I have in common with my dad - but it's a tough game," Aaron Moorehead said. "Lining up - it's me versus you and I'll do everything I can to beat you."
A father is the football coach at the University of Illinois, and a young man with athleticism in his genes is a walk-on for the Illini. Aaron Moorehead makes the team and Coach Ron Turner awards him a scholarship. In 2001, Illinois records a 10-2 record, win the Big 10 Conference and play in the Sugar Bowl.
"Aaron showed he had the ability to make plays," Turner, now receivers coach for the Indianapolis Colts, said. "As he developed, he got stronger, faster and more mature - physically, mentally and emotionally. He had superb body control and could make the tough catch. We knew who his Dad was, but he had to earn his way - and he did. He fought through adversity and became a great player. With his leadership skills, I knew he would succeed."
From Illinois, Aaron Moorehead signs a free agent contract in 2003 with the Indianapolis Colts.
"I never had an easy time with football," Aaron Moorehead said. "I had to work hard and earn respect at each level."
As a wide receiver for the Colts, Aaron Moorehead catches the ball from Peyton Manning, a son whose father and brother are also quarterbacks, but that's another story.
"In 2005, we had an interesting year," Aaron Moorehead said. "We were 13-0 before losing to the Steelers, and we finished 14-2. We had a really good team that year, but we lost a lot of key guys to injuries."
Aaron & Emery Moorehead following Indianapolis' 38-34 win over New England in the 2007 AFC Championship Game
"We started strong the next year, but Bob Sanders got hurt early in the season," Aaron Moorehead said. "We finished the 2006 season at 12-4 and Sanders came back for the playoffs. The team just changed - the attitude of the defense changed and that helped the offense get better, and we started making big plays."
The Colts free safety, Sanders was nicknamed 'The Hitman' and rallied his team.
"The AFC championship was the greatest game we ever played when I was with the Colts," Aaron Moorehead said. "The whole environment was just awesome - we willed it to happen and we won - we were going to the Super Bowl."
The Colts beat New England 38-34 in the AFC Championship game and the father travels to see his son play. Emery Moorehead is proud and excited that his son will be in the big game just as he was those 20-some years ago. Indianapolis will meet the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
"It's ironic that the Colts played the Bears in the Super Bowl," Emery Moorehead said. "Of course I wanted my son to win, but I wanted the Bears to do well."
Aaron Moorehead plays in the game and celebrates the Colts 29-17 victory over the Bears. The next season, he starts two games before being placed on injured reserve because of a back injury. There's no comeback from the three surgeries he endures and he decides it's time to retire.
"Football didn't define me," Aaron Moorehead said. "But once I started playing, I always wanted to go to the next level. I had the chance to be on some great teams with some great players. It was quite an accomplishment to win the Big 10 Championship with Illinois and winning the Super Bowl is every player's dream."
A father keeps Aaron Moorehead on his radar screen after his playing career at Illinois and at Indianapolis. Coach Turner's son becomes a strength and conditioning intern for the Stanford University football program and with Morgan Turner on the Cardinal staff is Aaron Moorehead, now an assistant receivers coach.
"I think my greatest strength is compassion," Aaron Moorehead said. "I care about people and now that I'm coaching, I truly want these young men to succeed in every part of life. We have a great program at Stanford and I'm very lucky to be here."
A father is a coach and he also wears a Super Bowl ring. Leslie Frazier plays for the 1985 Chicago Bears with Emery Moorehead. In the Super Bowl game, he has a career-ending knee injury, retires and goes into coaching. Now the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, in years past, Frazier coaches Aaron Moorehead - first at Illinois and then at Indianapolis. Frazier's son, Kieron plays at Illinois with Aaron, and his second son, Corey, now plays at Rice, but that's another story.
"The fact that both Emery and Aaron have Super Bowl rings is a testament to how great both of them were as players - they were talented - no doubt about it," Frazier said. "I know how hard it is to play football, to make it to the Super Bowl and then to win it - it's a rare, rare feat. Both men were extremely competitive, they were good teammates and hard workers, and both had a great sense of humor. Emery was so charitable during and after his career and he passed those qualities on to Aaron. They're the type of men that will do anything to help others."
Emery and Aaron are the only father and son in professional football joined together by an achievement of historic proportion. The statistical probability of such a feat is better left to the mathematicians and statisticians, but they stand alone.
"All of the coaches I had were tough disciplinarians," Emery Moorehead said. "They knew how to mold a team into champions. They were technical and paid great attention to details and knew how to pull the best out of players. Neither Aaron nor I were the best players on our team, but we were competitive - we wanted to play - we wanted to win. I'm proud of Aaron and not just because he was a pretty good football player. He's a good person - passionate and respected - and I'm proud of that."
The father quietly keeps track of the Stanford football team, able to see a game ever so often. But once a week or so, Emery Moorehead shares a telephone conversation with Aaron - to talk about football and life. Emery's a respected businessman in Chicago, donating countless hours to charity, including the Northeast Illinois Council of Boy Scouts and serves as President of the National Football League Players Association Retired Chicago Chapter. His son lives in the sunshine that is California, part of a coaching staff that's guides the football team to the Orange season.
"It's pretty special that we're the only combo," Aaron Moorehead said. "It takes a lot of different factors to win a Super Bowl - you have to be able to play, stay healthy, be on a great team - seems like we both played with some of the greatest football players of our generations. My dad probably understands it more than I do - I can't fully grasp it. All these years, all the players - shows how hard it is."
The fraternity - fathers and sons, teammates and coaches, roommates and friends - remains the constant and steady pulse of football.