Former New York Jets WR Al Toon
Father of New Orleans Saints WR Nick Toon
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Even though you had a difficult end to your football career with post-concussion syndrome which forced you to retire, can you discuss your role as a parent in terms of encouraging or coaching Nick to follow in your footsteps?
"Oh you did, I don't remember that. We actually instill in all of our kids independence and to be independent thinkers and to make their own decisions. It was an honor for us to have him follow in my wife and I's footsteps going to the University of Wisconsin and becoming a Badger. He made the decision on his own, he was pretty excited about the opportunity and thought like, well, I'm going to have my biggest fan base here in Wisconsin and they call him and offer him a full scholarship so he felt that they were really excited about him."
*With all the concussions you had, are you involved in any of the current lawsuits with the NFL? *
"I am not. I am kind of waiting to see how all of that plays out. Obviously right now my focus right now has been my kids and making sure Nick is doing the right things, which he has been and making sure he is prepared physically and emotionally for this process. That has been my focus. I am history. I am an alumni. I have moved on. The game has obviously become dangerous and that is part of the game. I am just watching how this whole concussion lawsuit situation progresses."
Can you tell us your reaction when the Saints had drafted him?
"They called my phone, so I was thinking who is calling me right now? I was glad that I answered the phone but my reaction was when they asked for Nick, I hope this is them. I didn't recognize the area code, but I hoped it was a team, I didn't know who it was. Then I saw Nick's face light up and I knew it had to be the call. Obviously we were watching the television screen and assumed it was the Saints. The room was ecstatic and excited. The community is getting a great kid. Obviously you are promoting of your kids, but in this case he truly is a great kid. We preach that as parents. We made that our number one goal to be great citizens. Again, we are really excited about the opportunity. We are excited to come down. The first game, that we plan so far, is December 30, and celebrating New Year's down there."
You probably know better than anybody the importance of having a good quarterback to be successful at that position. What are your thoughts about playing for a guy like Drew Brees?
"Clearly Drew Brees has proved to the world that he is an exceptional person and quarterback. You couldn't ask for an individual or athlete who is any more dedicated to the sport, dedicated to the community and represents the organization as well as he does. Nick is excited and as a former player that has had some success in the league and seen some great quarterbacks, I watch him play and see the confidence in how he plays, the style of play, and the accuracy of his throws. He clearly has a high football IQ and those are the things you look for."
Were you disappointed that your son went in the fourth round?
"Clearly from an ego standpoint to a self-evaluation standpoint, you look at that situation and he said wow I wish I would have gone higher, but I said to him throughout this whole process that you want to go where they want you and it's not about where you get drafted, it's what you do with your opportunity. We try to keep him focused on that. The call finally came in and now we are moving forward."
I'm sure a lot of people in Wisconsin compared your son to yourself as a player. How would you compare your son to yourself as a player?
"The biggest difference is, I was a track guy and my goal was to represent the United States in the Olympics in 1984. I qualified for a couple of events, but didn't make it to the trials, but then I kind of converted to a football player. So my mentality was always track, Nick's has always been football first. He loves the game, he has always loved the game, has always wanted to play the game. My philosophy behind this whole 'football, kid following in your footsteps thing' is that I felt that I had to be very careful because I didn't want him to feel like I was pushing him into the game, so I never put out or put out in presentation of any of my trophies or jerseys, although actually I did hang one of my jerseys. But I didn't hang a lot of my stuff up because I didn't want him to get the sublime message that it's all about football. I wanted him to develop that passion and desire for football, so what I did when he was younger was let him play little league, you know I wanted him to develop a skill set across the board, be more balanced and become a great person, and then he had to decide whether he wanted to play football. And when he decided he was hungry, he was ready to go. Actually when he got to Wisconsin, he was pretty greedy as a receiver and I let the coach there (DelVaughn Alexander) do his job and coach Nick, and I kind of stayed out of the way and watched from afar and he developed into a great football player."
Was Edwin Moses one of your track competitors in your era?
"He's slightly older, but I watched a lot of Edwin Moses. Ah- Edwin Moses was a lot older; Carl Lewis was a little bit older."
I wonder what it says with Henry Ellard here now as the wide receiver coach, I guess who must've been close to your era, what it means for a coach who actually played well in the NFL to be so high on your son?
"Well it's obviously humbling and - Henry and I actually led the league one year together, he led the NFC and I led the AFC. We are actually on a card together, which is pretty funny. I told Nick I have to pull one of those out, I got to locate one, it's actually pretty ironic and here's the deal, I wouldn't say strange but I don't know what word to use right now: four days ago, my wife dreamt that Nick was going to the Saints."
Al, what is your wife's name?
"Jane. Jane woke up four days ago and said, you know, 'I dreamt that Nick was going to the Saints.' And Nick was like 'Really?! I hope I go earlier than that but it is what it is.' It's going to be great for him. He's tremendously excited, we all are, and we are behind the Saints and you guys have a new fan base in Wisconsin."
What do you and or your son know about New Orleans?
"We know it's a great place to be. We know obviously that they have gone through a huge transition with flooding and, as a matter of fact when I was in college we used to due to our spring breaks during track season down at LSU. So I've been there in the 80s and would go down to Bourbon Street and do a little bit of that, but I don't believe that Nick has ever been down there. I told Nick, "We need to get online, we need to do some studying now that we know where you're going to end up." So he is going to be well-versed when he gets there."