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Famous bloodlines get you no favors with Bulls

Five USF players have NFL connections, great for getting advice and support but no advantage with coach Jim Leavitt.

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 22, 2001


TAMPA -- Jimmie Giles didn't have to put a football in junior's crib.

"I think he came out holding one -- and a baseball, too, because I played both of them," the former Bucs tight end said of the current South Florida guard. "But he's not playing football because I wanted him to. He's always wanted to do it.

"I've tried to pass my knowledge and expertise on to him. Neither me nor my wife (Vivian) ever pushed him, but we've always been there to support him."

Jimmie Giles Jr., 23, a junior at USF, is one of five South Florida players with an NFL connection. The others:

Junior defensive lineman Lee Roy Selmon Jr., 20, son of the Bucs Hall of Fame defensive end turned USF athletic director.

Freshman cornerback Marcus Edwards, 19, son of Herman Edwards, the former Eagles, Rams and Falcons cornerback, former Bucs assistant head coach (1996-2000) and now rookie coach of the Jets.

Freshman wide receiver Cedric King, 19, brother of Shaun King, third-year quarterback with the Bucs.

Freshman placekicker Santiago Gramatica, 18, brother of kickers Martin (with the Bucs) and Bill (Cardinals) Gramatica.

That adds up to 43 years (and counting) of NFL playing and coaching heritage, none of which means anything to coach Jim Leavitt, "other than I hope the bloodlines are good. Each player we have we evaluate on his own merit and not because somebody in the family played in the NFL."

All five were tutored to some degree by their fathers or siblings. But none, they say, felt pressured to play. And none, they say, feels pressure to live up to his fathers' or brothers' reputation.

Martin and Bill Gramatica "got to do what they wanted to do (playing in the NFL), but I don't see it as pressure because of them," Santiago said. "I see it as encouragement, effort, pushing me to be good. ... They've opened doors for me. The way I look at it, if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be where I am now."

Gramatica will play this season. The other four are expected to be redshirted, although Selmon could be called upon if necessary.

"It's tough redshirting," Edwards said. "You come from high school where you're the man, and you come here and you're like nothing. ... My dad worked his way up from the lowest point to the highest. Now I'm starting just like him, at the bottom."

In elementary school, the family name carried weight, particularly the name Selmon. "Teachers would call my name during roll call and be like, "You Lee Roy Selmon's son?' "Yeah.' That's when I started feeling I was being treated special. People got a lot more curious, asked me a lot of questions. "What's it feel like to have that kind of name?' I'd tell them, "The same as anybody. He's my father and he treats me no different than your father treats you.' "

His father said he and wife Claybra talked constantly with Lee Roy Jr. about bearing the weight of that name, trying to reduce the inevitable pressure. "We figured he'd get it while he was growing up -- "Are you going to do what your dad did?' -- but we assured him, assured the whole family (children Brandy and Christopher) that they can live their own lives."

At USF, the weight their surnames carry is self-imposed.

Said Edwards: "The other guys know my father's a head coach, but it's not like they treat me any different or look at me different. I'm just another freshman trying to work my way up."

Said King: "You always want to make a name for yourself. It pushes you to go out and work harder so maybe one day they'll look at Shaun as Cedric's big brother."

In some cases, contact between father and son or brothers is limited by circumstances. The Edwardses are about 1,200 miles apart. "It's hard for me because I'm a home type of kid," Marcus said. "My father watched me play my whole high school career (at Clearwater Catholic). That was the best time ever; he made sure he could see me and after the game he'd tell me what to work on, what I could get better at."

The Kings are just a few miles apart, "but we're both involved in two-a-days (practices)," Cedric said. "(Shaun) told me whenever I need something, just to call. But right now he tells me to stick it out, work through it."

The Gramaticas must have some interesting phone bills. "Martin got me a phone so I could talk to him and Bill at least three times a day, back and forth," Santiago said. "We're always talking about how practices went." It was nice having Martin drop by for the first scrimmage, "because at first I started a little shaky warming up. He told me what I needed to do. It really picked me up."

Jimmie Giles, on the other hand, stays away from his son's practices and scrimmages.

"I don't want to be an influence on that," he said. "When they start playing and get into the flow of things we'll follow him and watch all the games, from the stands. I don't want to be one of those fathers who interferes with his kids. He has his own life to live now and I don't want him to be living in my shadow.

"And I definitely don't want to live my life through him."

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