TAMPA — Vincent Testaverde can remember sitting in the clubhouse seats on Sunday afternoons, peeping below to watch his father, Vinny, toss a football in packed stadiums.
On those memorable Sundays, people would ask Vincent if he would follow in his father’s footsteps, only to reply his choice of sport was basketball.
But that all changed last year.
Having never played organized football, on a whim, Vincent tried out for Jesuit High’s football team his junior year. He was given the starting varsity quarterback job eight games into the season. This year, he’s the No.1 guy.
His father, the Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Miami and No.1 overall pick in the 1987 NFL draft to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been the quarterbacks coach at Jesuit since 2010. He began volunteering at Jesuit partly to be closer to his son. While Vincent was in the gym, he could be on the field. When they were done, they could ride home together.
Six years after his retirement from the NFL, where he played 21 seasons and accumulated 46,233 yards and 275 touchdowns, it’s Vinny’s turn to watch a Testaverde toss a football.
“Growing up, he’d always come out in the backyard and we’d have a catch, he’d catch my passes, and he has great hands by the way because of it, but he wanted to be a quarterback last year,” Vinny Testaverde said. “He asked me if he could. I said try for the team, and see where it takes you. He’s picked it up very quickly.”
Vincent Testaverde finished his junior year 16-of-35 passing for 152 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Through the first two games of the 2013 season, he’s thrown for 320 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.
“It’s certainly been helpful with him,” Vincent Testaverde said. “He helps me out tremendously. If he wasn’t here, it would be a whole different aspect to the game, but he’s here and he helps me the best he can and I learn the most I possibly can.”
Vinny never anticipated the day he would see his son in pads and cleats, let alone being his coach.
“I’m one of those dads that really didn’t want him to play football because of the injuries and just knowing that side of it, I was hoping he’d never want to but he wanted to,” he said. “Seems like he has a passion for it and I’m going to support him.”
A passion instilled since his birth.
Seventeen years ago, while playing with Baltimore, Testaverde flew back to Tampa for Vincent’s birth. A day or two later, he had to fly back. Once his wife was cleared to travel, she, along with their 5-year-old, newborn Vincent, and two puppies, made the trip to Baltimore.
“We’re renting a house so with all the extra baggage and luggage you need with a new home, she handled all that while I was in training camp.”
Vinny said there’s a fine line between playing the role of parent and coach, but they seem to always overlap.
“The best part about is I’m with him everyday spending time with him, as I always do anyway, but we get to share in something we both love and something that’s special for both of us,” Vinny Testaverde said. “There’s no other place I’d rather be.”
Vincent understands there are expectations that come with being the son of an NFL quarterback. But with only two years of football under his belt, saying he won’t be as good as his father is an unfair assessment.
“I laughed at that,” he said. “I take it as motivation.”
To Vinny, every player at Jesuit is like a son. Each week, he gives them reading material on how to build character. Having strong character, the younger Testaverde said, is the biggest lesson he’s learned from his record-setting father.
“Being quarterback means you’re that guy,” he said. “You’re the leader on the field. Leadership is a big role and that’s what he’s taught me out here.”