Twenty nine years ago when Tyrone McGriff Sr. and Albert Chester Sr. patrolled the sideline together as Rattler teammates they developed a special bond, 24 years later their sons share similar chemistry.
“He’s a real good friend, the closest thing to a brother,” Albert Chester II said of his teammate, and defensive end Tyrone McGriff Jr.
The two met each other when they came to Florida A&M University years ago and began playing under head coach Billy Joe. It wasn’t long before the duo revived a generational bond that existed between their fathers.
“We are real close on and off the field as far as expectation with what we want to do,” McGriff Jr. said. “We have a lot in common.”
Aside from being successful players themselves, the most pronounced commonality that the two seniors share is the burden of carrying a legacy of success on their shoulders.
Quarterback Chester II says he wants to move out of the celebrated shadow of his father, who led FAMU to its first national title in 1978 as a quarterback. This is a comparison he refuses to embrace.
“I strive to be my own man, the best I can be,” said Chester II, a fifth year pharmacy student from Jacksonville. “I don’t add any extra pressure to uphold the legacy.”
However, being the son of former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers, College Hall of Fame and All American, McGriff Jr. honors his father and grandfathers legacy and agrees that he has large footsteps to follow.
“I think besides being a legacy I wanted to do something that has never been done – 3 generations of ball players in the hall of fame,” McGriff Jr. said. ” I’m trying to do my best to follow in their footsteps and keep the name strong.”
The path of McGriff Sr.’s prodigious footsteps came to an end in December of 2000.
The Rattler football legend was in the hospital for two weeks after suffering a massive heart attack. The reality of his fathers death took a toll on McGriff Jr.. as he looked into his future for the first time without his inspiration.
“I was prepared for it,” McGriff Jr. said. “Being an offensive lineman he was larger than the average person and that took a toll on his body. I don’t think people realize the things you put your body through playing football.”
The MEAC Defensive Player of the Week had an emotional experience during the Saturday night half time show.
“It was real special when we retired my fathers jersey this weekend,” McGriff Jr. said. “It was a proud moment for me and all my family that came from Gifford and Vero this weekend.”
With his grandfather stomping the field of Bragg Memorial Stadium and his father leaving behind the torch for his son to carry, the truth remains; people die legacy does not.
Chester II, a second generation FAMU Rattler, wears his fathers old number gracefully as he leads his teammates in his final season.
The seniors put four years behind them as they look to maintain the generational bond in the future.
“Our personalities are kind of similar. We are both quite, respectful guys,” Chester II. “He motivates me in practice as far as being completive and I motivate him and that’s what draws us together.”