Bob Ryan

Father and son hike to summit

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / February 1, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS - Zak DeOssie is a certified Super Bowl winner and two-time Pro Bowler, but I have to break the news to him: The old man was crazier.

I still can see Steve DeOssie playing for Boston College against Alabama in the original Foxboro Stadium. It was miserable to the max, cold and rainy and a windchill around minus-absurdity. The Alabama players all just wanted to go home.

And every time Bama would break the huddle, there was this crazy person at middle linebacker, arms bare, having just rubbed snow on himself, pounding his chest a la Tarzan.

Hey Bama, say hello to Steve DeOssie. You really want a piece of him?

The younger DeOssie is tough, of course. He’s in the NFL, isn’t he? But he’s a little more, shall we say, civilized than his dad was. Dad is all polished up now, a longtime Boston electronic media mainstay. Good grief, he’s even a restaurateur. But right here in Indianapolis, his chief claim to fame is that he is the proudest of proud poppas, a Super Bowl-winning long snapper with a Super Bowl-winning Pro Bowl son going for a second ring.

“Anything your kids do, you just revel in it,’’ said DeOssie the elder. “Playing football was fun, but this is infinitely more exciting.’’

Zak DeOssie is 27 years old and settled into a career as a long snapper and special teamer that should keep him employed for a long time. He was a linebacker at Phillips Andover and Brown, and it was not a given that he would enter the family business and make a living by snapping the football. But when it was presented to him, he recognized the value it could have for his career.

“I knew it would help me, coming from a small school,’’ he said.

That’s not to say that he has any regrets about the path he took to get here.

On Andover: “That’s the place where I became a young man. It was hard academically at first, but it turned out to be the best place for me.’’

On Brown: “The best decision I ever made. I had other Ivy offers and other small school offers and even some offers from schools that play at a higher level, but the coaching staff, and, more importantly, the academics, were what I wanted. And it was close enough to home [North Andover], but not too close.’’

He always had the backing any young person needs from home.

“I agreed with the Brown decision 100 percent,’’ said Steve. “We brought him up to be a good man, a good student, and everything else will fall into place.’’

A three-time All-Ivy linebacker, Zak never was worried about the NFL overlooking him.

“The way I see it,’’ he said, “if you deserve to be in the NFL, they will find you.’’

That was sound thinking, as he became the first Ivy Leaguer ever to be invited to the all-important Indianapolis scouting combine. A 4.58 time in the 40 and impressive bench-pressing numbers led to the Giants selecting him in the fourth round back in 2007, the 116th man in the draft.

In case anyone is wondering, no, they are hardly the first father-son Super Bowl duo. The Patriots have one, as well, special teamer/wide receiver Matthew Slater being the son of renowned offensive tackle Jackie Slater.

But the DeOssies are the first father-son duo to win Super Bowl rings for the same franchise, Zak being one of the many Giants who played in Super Bowl XLII and Steve being the long snapper in Super Bowl XXV against Buffalo.

“I was in kindergarten,’’ Zak pointed out. “I didn’t know anything about football yet. I just remember being at the bus stop the next day saying how my father had played in the Super Bowl. That was the first game I had ever watched from start to finish.’’

You also can erase any visions of extensive tutorials on the art of the long snap given by the elder DeOssie.

“He taught me how to hold the ball, the basics; that’s about it,’’ Zak said.

“I never taught him anything,’’ confirmed DeOssie the elder. “The same thing with linebacking. He developed his own style. I kept telling him, if he wanted to learn how to do it right, I’d show him. But two Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls later, he doesn’t want to listen to me.’’

Zak did have a rocky moment in the NFC Championship game. After practicing with a wet ball all week in anticipation of bad Candlestick Park conditions, he did force holder Steve Weatherford to make a spectacular catch of a bouncer to set up Lawrence Tynes for the game-winning field goal. But no one asked him to apologize.

“Nothing was said,’’ he explained. “We were just hugging each other. Steve just did what he’s been doing all along.’’

The incident does highlight the nature of this demanding job, however.

“The thing you need in this job is a short-term memory,’’ he said. “Of course, you can’t have things like that happen very often. It’s all about consistency.’’

The two Pro Bowl selections testify to his stature in the game. And the presence of his father adds a little extra flavor to Super Bowl XLVI.

“I guess history does repeat itself,’’ said Tynes. “I look at Zak as a legacy, because his father did the same job. Think about it. They’re one of 32 people in the world doing that job. It makes them elite.’’

Oh, but if Zak could see a clip of his dad playing against Bama, he may never look at him the same way again.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on He can be reached at

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