Pressure packed: Football fathers sweat out the games of gridiron sons

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

As most parents would attest, there is no pressure like that of watching your children perform, whether on an athletic field, in a music recital, or in a theatrical production.

“It is a different sort of intense,” said state Court of Appeals Judge Michael Riordan, whose son plays football for the undefeated University at Buffalo squad, which is 2-0 entering Mid-American Conference play this Saturday against visiting Eastern Michigan University.

“We all want to succeed in life, but that goes double when we’re talking about our kids,” added Riordan. “The pressure can be incredible at times.”

Especially for a dad whose son plays a position cloaked in anonymity, where for the most part the only way to make a name for yourself is to commit a costly blunder.

“My son, Jeremiah, is a long-snapper on the team, snapping the ball for punts, extra points, and field goal attempts,” said Riordan. “The only time he is going to be noticed by the average fan is if something goes bad.”

Fortunately, that has rarely happened for the 6-2, 230-pound University of Detroit Jesuit product, who was the team’s exclusive long-snapper during his freshman season last fall while also continuing his solid play in the first two games of the 2018 gridiron campaign. In fact, Phil Steele, the highly-regarded college football prognosticator and analyst, ranked Riordan as the No. 2 freshman long-snapper in the country entering the season, based on his snap speed, consistency, and overall athletic ability. In 2017, he also was listed as the 34th “Top Michigan Recruit” by ESPN’s 300 football recruiting database.

“Jeremiah made three tackles last year and almost had a fumble recovery in the game against Minnesota,” said his proud father. “He proved his worth in other ways than just snapping.”

Attorney Tim Finegan, a partner in the Troy firm of Finegan Murray, also can feel the pressure of being a football father. His son, Evan, is the starting punter for the Buffalo Bulls after redshirting his freshman year. 

In high school at Bishop Foley, Finegan was an All-State punter, averaging 44.8 yards per boot as a senior, the best in Michigan that year. His talent also attracted national attention, as Finegan earned All-America honors as one of the top seven punters in the country.

“Between Evan’s junior and senior years, he attended a punting camp at the University of Toledo, finishing first among 38 punters,” said his dad. “After that showing, Toledo offered him and other schools also started to recruit him.”

He narrowed his college choices to Toledo, Eastern Michigan, and Buffalo, with the Bulls eventually offering a full ride to the largest school in the State University of New York system.

“Evan’s really enjoyed being part of the team and is doing very well academically with a 3.7 grade point in business administration,” said Finegan. “It’s been a very positive experience, especially sharing it with Jeremiah.”

Last Saturday, in a nail-biter against host Temple, father (lower case “f”) Finegan watched in agony as his son’s punt was blocked late in the game, leading to a tying touchdown for the Owls. The turnover was blamed on a missed block, which allowed a Temple defender to rush in untouched.

“It was tough to watch, but it was quickly apparent that there was nothing that Evan could have done to get that punt off,” said Finegan. “Temple is one of the best teams in the country at blocking punts, and they run an interesting scheme to make it happen.”

But all was not lost, as Buffalo rebounded in the waning moments to score the winning TD on a 29-yard pass play with 59 seconds to go in a 36-29 victory, setting up a home showdown this Saturday with another surprising 2-0 team, Eastern Michigan.

“My wife (Jackie) and I will be there, just as the Riordans will be,” said Finegan. “We love watching Evan and Jeremiah play. What parent wouldn’t get a kick out of that?”

Funny he should phrase it that way, rhetorically speaking.

“I get asked all the time by people if I root for Buffalo to get a first down when its 3rd-and-8 or do I want them to come up short so that my son can go out to punt,” Finegan said. “The answer is obvious – first down all the time.”

After all, there will be plenty of opportunities for his son to display his punting talents in the years ahead, especially with such Big Ten schools as Penn State, Ohio State, and Nebraska looming on future Buffalo schedules.

“There figures to be a lot of work for the punter in those games,” Finegan said with a grin.
 

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