Football is a family affair for ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck. Tim played nine years in the NFL, same as his father, Don. His brother Matt played 18 seasons.
We caught up with Tim Hasselbeck for this week’s Friday Five…
Who is your biggest mentor?
My biggest mentor growing up was undoubtedly my father. As I’ve gotten older and gotten to know some guys and their experience with their fathers, it’s not always the case that their dad is their mentor. In some cases, it might be the exact opposite. But what was modeled to me at a young age is that my father, who obviously had been very involved in football, just the work ethic, the kind of man that he was – still is – was something that was just modeled for me. For a kid, when you don’t know any different, you kind of take it for granted. But undoubtedly it would be my dad in terms of just work ethic, responsibility and things of that nature.
You’ve got two young sons. What are your thoughts about Brett Favre’s recent comments that kids shouldn’t play tackle football until they’re 14 years old?
I certainly respect everyone’s opinions in terms of what they want to do with their kids. Ironically, my father played nine years in the NFL as a tight end, and he didn’t want us to play football. Matthew and I were begging my dad to let us play football. And he said to us, “Look, you can play football when I retire.” He just thought that we would forget that we wanted to play football. And the day he retired, we ran to him and said, “Alright, we want to play football!” So he said at the time, and he was kind of ahead of the curve, he said, “Alright, you can play football, but you have to play quarterback. Learn how to throw and be good at playing quarterback, because that’s the only way you’re gonna play.
That was his position on it. Now, I’m glad he let us play. I think some of the best lessons I’ve learned throughout my life go back to youth football. I have a 13-year-old son and a 12-year-old son. They started playing football in fifth grade. I coached them in fifth grade. I think there’s certainly a right and wrong way to do it. I think Brett’s comments probably make sense if the coaches aren’t taking the necessary precautions, but I think there’s a lot of values, a lot of things that can be learned by kids in terms of teamwork and selflessness – a lot of the things that are great about football — I think they can still be learned at a young age with kids playing football.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you in the transition from pro football player to TV broadcaster?
There have been a few. I think one of the biggest challenges is when sometimes you’re saying something honest about somebody – it’s truthful, maybe factual – that I might think is a compliment, certainly not an insult. And it just makes you remember how sensitive players and coaches can be when they hear it. Obviously there are relationships with the people that you talk about. I was in the TV business when my brother was still a starting quarterback in the league. So I think navigating that is one of the more difficult things for former players to do.
What team do you expect will surprise people the most this season?
One of the things I try to do is not pay too much attention to what other people are saying. I guess I’ll say this, because I know Mike Tannenbaum is heavily involved here with the 33rd Team: I think Pittsburgh is gonna be better than Mike does. I’ve heard his comments on the Steelers. I look at Pittsburgh and I see a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who last year threw 33 touchdowns and 10 picks. There’s a lot of teams that would love to have their quarterback have a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. With that defense, coached by that coach, run by that front office, with their history of finding players – whether it’s receivers or running backs or whatever it might be – I just feel like I’m not ready to put the nail in that coffin in Pittsburgh. And so, I don’t know what everybody else thinks about them. But hearing what Mike has said about them, I think they’re gonna be better than what people are thinking.
If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would they be and why?
I had a hard time with which direction to go with this question, but I’m gonna take a different direction that what you’ve probably had in the past. I’m gonna go to dinner with my dad and both my brothers. There’s a lot of amazing people it would be great to go out to dinner with, but living in different areas of the country – having a year that we just had, with people staying away from each other – I think about the most influential people in my life, and it would be my dad and my brothers. And in the past year, you just think, man, the more you can spend time with the people that you love… I’d rather do that.
Check out all of our Friday Five features — including Troy Aikman, Adam Schefter, Andrea Kremer and more — in the Friday Five archive.