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Famous dads don't always help QB sons

Like most kids yearning to learn to throw a perfect spiral, Charlie Whitehurst would drag his dad from the sofa to the cul-de-sac outside their house to practice for hours on end.

"We worked at it, I'm sure, just like a lot of fathers worked with their sons," the elder Whitehurst said.

Yeah, with one big difference.

David Whitehurst spent seven years as a quarterback with the Green Bay Packers.

"I was exposed to some stuff early on that has helped me at this level," said Charlie Whitehurst, a redshirt junior and the starting quarterback for Clemson.

Although the Tigers (1-2, 1-1), who play ACC rival and No. 8-ranked Florida State (1-1, 0-1) today at Doak Campbell Stadium, have struggled offensively in their past two games, Whitehurst showed an NFL-like touch and ability in a four-game winning streak to close the 2003 season.

That streak began with a dominating 26-10 win against the Seminoles, in which Whitehurst completed 17 of 27 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown with an interception and added 39 yards rushing and a touchdown.

"He's an outstanding quarterback, one of the best in the league," FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "I thought he was last year. The quarterback at N.C. State (Philip Rivers) was one of the best to roll through here in a bunch of years, and (Whitehurst) wasn't far behind him. He's got a great arm, great vision, and when he plants his feet, he delivers the ball where it needs to be."

Thanks, dad.

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Only a half-dozen NFL quarterbacks have had sons go on to become pro quarterbacks, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The list includes Archie Manning and his standout sons, Peyton and Eli; Bob Griese and Brian, a backup with the Bucs; and Phil Simms and Chris, also a Bucs backup who's pushing for the starting job.

For the sons, the attention was always more acute.

For the sons, the expectations were always that much greater.

"You'd hear, "There's the Simms' kid,' " Chris said.

His dad, after all, did lead the New York Giants to a Super Bowl title. The whispers also were there for Griese, whose dad merely won two Super Bowl rings with the Dolphins and is enshrined in Canton, Ohio. He said that meant he had something of an advantage learning his trade but carried a bit of a burden in a perceived duty to replicate his father's success.

The younger Whitehurst, who doesn't remember his dad as a player and hasn't watched the videotapes in a while, said the name on the back of his jersey never has made him feel any extra pressure.

"People did know, but it wasn't a huge deal," he said.

"I think Chris Simms' daddy was a whole lot more famous than me," David Whitehurst deadpanned.

While Simms said his father is still the first one he'll call for football advice, especially if he feels like his mechanics are a bit off, Griese and Whitehurst have different kinds of chats with their dads.

"We don't really talk football," Brian Griese said.

"He was my reference until I got to college," Charlie said. "Then he was like, "Let the guys up here take it over. They know what they're talking about.' That's the way it's been. Our conversations now, they're more of a player-fan, father-son type stuff, not a player-player/coach."

Whitehurst, who has a home building business in the north Atlanta area, said the game has changed and he couldn't be a coach if he wanted to.

In his era, all teams used the same basic formation of two wide receivers, a tight end and two backs. Today, particularly at Clemson, there's a reliance on three or four receivers, one back and the quarterback sitting in the shotgun. Meddle? How could he? But there's another reason he wouldn't interfere.

"In the last two or three years, I've been humbled," he said. "I realized that my son was better at what I did than when I did it. He's already there. There's no need for me to impose how I feel about things."

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Well, he actually helped shape his son's psyche years ago. While he said his wife instilled their son with poise, he has tried to impart a toughness that he learned from his professional coach, former Green Bay quarterback great Bart Starr.

"Bart Starr used to tell us, "It takes a man to play this game,' " he said. "It took me a while to really understand what he was talking about, but over time it became clear. With the mental, emotional and physical strength that it takes to play the game, it certainly does take a man to play it. The sooner you figure that out, the better you're going to be."

Most folks in the ACC would agree the youngster figured that out.

Sooner and not later.

"Charlie's demeanor and composure last year as a first-year starter were more advanced than the typical guy in that environment because of his father and his father's background and his father's tutoring him coming up," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, whose job was saved by the play of his quarterback and team down the stretch last season.

"Dealing with success, dealing with failure, he's done both," Whitehurst said of his father. "So, there's been some good advice there."

You can bet he's drawing on that now.

Whitehurst, a perfectionist and his own worst critic, has completed 60 of 119 passes (50.4 percent, nearly 12 percent lower than last season) for 755 yards and four touchdowns with seven interceptions. After beating Wake Forest, Clemson, No. 15 in the preseason poll, has fallen out with losses to unranked Georgia Tech and Texas A&M.

"He's trying too hard," Bowden said. "I told Charlie he just needs to enjoy himself and go out there and play relaxed."

It would help if the Tigers could run the ball a bit (tied for 91st among 117 I-A teams) or shut down other teams (tied for 89th in total defense). Still, Whitehurst, who genuinely seemed surprised and even uncomfortable with the preseason hype he received, knows the team just needs a catalyst, and if it has to be him, well, so be it.

"He just wants to be the best he can be," David Whitehurst said. "That's where he's trying to go."

Thanks, dad.


Fathers and sons who have played quarterback in the NFL:

Father Claim to Fame

Jesse Freitas Four years in All-American Football Conference


Son Claim to Fame

Jesse Freitas Played for San Diego (1974-75)

Father Claim to Fame

Bob Griese Won two Super Bowl rings with Miami;

Hall of Fame inductee (1990)

Son Claim to Fame

Brian Griese Ex-starter in Denver, Miami;

current Bucs backup.

Father Claim to Fame

Jack Kemp Star in AFL (1960-69); ex-congressman who

ran for vice president in 1996.

Son Claim to Fame

Jeff Kemp Played 10 years (1981, 1983-91) for four teams.

Father Claim to Fame

Archie Manning Spent much of storied career (1971-84) on a bad

New Orleans team.

Sons Claim to Fame

Peyton Manning Former top pick, co-MVP in NFL last season.

Eli Manning No. 1 pick (2004); forced trade to Giants.

Father Claim to Fame

Emery Nix Played two years for Giants in the 1940s.

Son Claim to Fame

Kent Nix Played six years for three teams in the 1960S

and '70s.

Father Claim to Fame

Phil Simms Led Giants to a Super Bowl title.

Son Claim to Fame

Chris Simms Promising second-year pro; backup with Bucs.

_ Information from the Pro Football Hall of Fame