Howard Cross III Follows Father's Footsteps To Football Field On His Own

May 14, 2018

As a former NFL player, Howard Cross would figure to have as good an idea the potential of his kid at an early age as any parent, but the former New York Giants star tight end doesn’t believe anyone can truly tell that early.

“That is not something that parents know,” Cross told Irish Sports Daily. “I think if someone tells you that, that’s a fictitious thing. Being a professional athlete – and I love my kids to death – I just wanted them to have fun with whatever sport they were playing or whatever they were studying to get the most out of it. It was never, ‘Oh, he’s going to go to a major college and play ball.’

“I’ve listened to parents my kids’ whole lives talk about having high expectations for their kids to play beyond the Rec League, YMCA or whatever. I just never did that. I was like, ‘Just have fun and enjoy it. If you grow into something, you grow into something.’ But I never went down the path of special training sessions or ‘You’re going to get there.’ That’s not the way. I don’t prescribe to that.”

Yet, his son, Howard Cross III‍, certainly has grown “into something” and last month, the 2019 New Jersey defensive lineman committed to Notre Dame over offers from schools like Michigan, Northwestern, Tennessee, Boston College and Duke among others.

“I thought it was a good decision,” the elder Cross said. “Notre Dame is a great school with a great education, great coaches. They seem like a nice group of guys, it should be good. Great alumni base, you can’t beat that.”

Cross may not have recognized his son’s athletic potential right away, but he does remember one instance when his son was about 11 or 12 and proved he owned the desire to put in the work that would be required if he did want to reach his potential.

“We were going to go work on something he wanted me to work on with him,” Cross remembers. “We pulled up to the field and there was a kid kicking balls into a soccer net. Dribble, dribble, dribble, kick, kick. The kid was by himself with a bag of balls just kicking.

“He looked at me and I was like, ‘Now, that kid wants it.’ There’s no coach, no dad, nobody. He just loves it and wants to do. I was like, ‘If this is something you want to do, I’m more than happy to hang out here with you and go through drills with you, but that’s what it looks like, just so you know.’”

You don’t put expectations on kids and then every time they do something, it’s like they’re taking their first step.
- Howard Cross

The younger Cross sat there and watched the aspiring soccer player for a bit and then turned to look at his father and said, “‘Alright, let’s go.’”

Cross coached his son and his twin sister, Isabella, who played lacrosse and golf, when they were young.

“I was so glad when they started playing lacrosse because I didn’t know anything about lacrosse, so I didn’t coach that,” he laughed.

Cross says he’s a “big picture person.”

“Kids today expect to be great from the moment they try something and parents have the expectation that they’re going to be awesome, but it’s a work in progress constantly,” he said. “I always preached to my kids and any kids they hung out with that, ‘Guys, it’s always a work in progress. You don’t get any better at anything unless you try to do it, unless you practice it, unless you think about, unless you want it.’

“I said, ‘Different people have different wants. Different groups of people have different reasons for doing things.’”

Cross understands the expectations that can be placed on the children of former professional athletes.

“If he does anything or my daughter does anything, I wanted them to do it on their own merit,” he said. “I’m very proud of both of them.”

The younger Cross isn’t the kind of kid who sits down and watches every game, according to his father, who chuckles when thinking back to the early days of the process.

“He was talking about schools and where he wanted to go, I said, ‘You should list the schools,’” he remembers. “So, he’s listing schools and I was laughing at the list. I can’t remember the names of the schools, but I was like, ‘OK, so you obviously haven’t been watching football, so let’s think about where would you want to go to do what you want to do in life.’”

The younger Cross pointed to the success some family friends had in the world of business, so his father suggested looking at schools like Boston College, Michigan, Northwestern and Notre Dame.

The Irish extended an offer in early-April and Cross was in South Bend a couple weeks later for the spring game. By the time he left, he had given his verbal commitment to Notre Dame.

“When he listed schools with great Business programs, that was one of the schools he listed,” his father said. “Then, being from a Catholic family, ‘Oh, you should go to Notre Dame,’ those whispers were always around with his mom’s family, especially.”

This may not have been the culmination of a decade-long master plan, but in a sense that adds to the pride Cross feels regarding what his son has accomplished.

“Like I said, you don’t put expectations on kids and then every time they do something, it’s like they’re taking their first step," he said.

“It’s pretty amazing to see such a good kid – and I say that because he’s my kid – but to see such a good kid get such a great reward like having the opportunity to go to the University of Notre Dame and be a part of the football team, getting offers from any school is great, but getting an offer from a prestigious school like that is over the top.”

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