Buffalo Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson lost his father when he was 15 years old. On this Father’s Day, the former first-round pick wrote to his father for the first time.
I know I talk to you a lot, but I wanted to put down in words some of what has happened since you were last with us in this life.
I’ve accomplished a lot of what you wanted me to accomplish when I was a little kid. You always wanted me to be better than you. You played basketball at the college level, but you always wanted me to be better than you. I know you’re proud that I’m a more accomplished athlete now that I’m a pro, but more than that just a better person in general. I know my education was important to you. I went to college and at some point I will finish my degree.
You taught me to never be satisfied with something I did well. That always motivated me to strive to do more, not just in football, but in life as a human being.
You prepared me to step up and be a man after we lost you in that car accident. Your guidance enabled me to step forward and be a man fast for my brothers and sister. I know it wasn’t planned that way, but you equipped me with the confidence and sense of family to be a father figure for my siblings.
I came to respect your work ethic as I grew up and respect it even more now. You worked two jobs to support the family, something I don’t have to do. You’d go from one job to the other, and we often wouldn’t see you until we were headed to bed and you’d talk to us about our day before we went down for the night.
Early in my NFL career I learned from your example to surround myself with the right people. You always hung out with positive people. People who were going to impact your life in a positive way. I know not to be with people who are going to bring me down.
I know a lot of people say we share the same smile and it makes me happy to know that people are reminded of you when they see me smiling and enjoying life. You always had a smile on your face and were a bigger than life personality. It was easy for you to make friends with just about anybody.
I always admired how you found a way to smile through the ups and the downs. I try to carry myself in the same way.
I still recall our conversations about my football career and where it was headed. You always told me, ‘Remember why you started.’ One of your favorite lines was, ‘high school hero, backyard zero.’
Now more than ever I respect how you used yourself as an example to me so I wouldn’t fall into the same pitfalls that you did after a very successful high school basketball career. You never got to play at the pro level because you chose to rest on your high school and college successes thinking the next level would just naturally happen. It pushed me to work harder to ensure I could make the most of my football talents in college and give myself an opportunity as a professional.
Father’s day is still a hard, emotional day for me since you’ve been gone. Sometimes I hear someone talking about their dad and how something bad happened between them and how they’re mad with their dad and it makes me sad. Partly because I’d never want to be mad at my dad and because they probably don’t realize how lucky they are to have their dad in their life.
I know I usually visit you at the cemetery on Father’s Day, but you know I stopped by a couple of weeks ago. Those visits are a real peaceful hour for me. I’m glad I can still talk to you about things when I visit. I just try to catch you up on what’s happening with me. It’s only me talking, but I know you’re listening and watching out for our family. I know you’re seeing the good things. I just wish you could see them in person and guide me even more.
I feel your spirit with me all the time, especially when I go back home. I know you spoke to my little brother and assured him you were in a better place. Hearing that situation puts my mind at ease.
I like talking to you at night, but I know you’re with me every day.
Happy Father’s day dad. I’ll talk to you soon.