The Tampa Bay Buccaneers visited University of Phoenix Stadium in 2010, and there, the moment hit Russ Grimm.
One son, Chad, was already working alongside Russ on the Cardinals’ coaching staff. Another son, Cody, was playing for Tampa Bay.
“That,” Grimm said, “was special.”
Working in the NFL often doesn’t lend itself to fatherhood. But on this Father’s Day, Cardinals coaches are off until training camp and Grimm is spending time with his adult children in Cabo San Lucas. While the 53-year-old Grimm isn’t prone to waxing eloquent about being a dad, his kids are clearly a source of pride with him and the chance to work with Chad on the Cardinals important.
Russ Grimm is the assistant head coach and offensive line coach. Chad is much further down the food chain as offensive quality control. Chad wasn’t sure he would ever get into coaching after finishing his college career at Virginia Tech a few years ago, but he admitted he was thrilled when Russ called him to gauge interest after staff spots opened following the Super Bowl season.
“On one hand, it’s great,” Russ said. “On the other hand, you feel sorry for pulling him into this business.”
In some ways, Chad Grimm was pulled into the business a long time ago. He only has fuzzy memories of his father’s playing days as an all-pro offensive lineman for the Washington Redskins, with Russ retiring when Chad was 7. Those moments blur into Russ’ start as a coach, joining Washington’s staff as soon as his playing days were over.
The Grimms would pile into a van – “The one with a ladder on the back,” Chad remembered – to drive to games. Dad would go into the stadium, and the kids (Chad and Cody also have fraternal younger twins Dylan and Devin) would toss a football in the parking lot. There were the times the Grimm children, relegated to a suite a couple of years, would create bags of confetti to throw out into the stands win or loss. They’d run the hallways of the stadium, collecting autographs. Once in a while, Russ would let them go out and run around the field. Chad even remembers as a young boy throwing with former Redskins great Sonny Jurgensen pre-game.
Russ worked long hours. That’s the business. But it was all Chad and his siblings knew.
“It would be traumatizing for a kid if a guy just midway through his kids’ lives decided to go into coaching, but since we grew up with it, it wasn’t uncommon at all to not see him until Friday,” Chad said. “It was a normal thing for us.”
That didn’t make it any easier.
“Summertime, we’re at the beach every day, playing with them every day, day in day out, then bang, I don’t see them for a month,” Russ said. “It’s a shock, ‘Hey, where did Dad go?’ But I think it makes them a little tougher. Once the season rolls around, I mean, you can always say family first, but not so much in this business.”
Chad’s parents split as he was getting the high school, right about the time Russ was changing coaching jobs from the Redskins to the Steelers. Pittsburgh was home for Russ – a natural spot – but the kids stayed behind. No reason to uproot from school and friends, although Chad said there were still plenty of times during the year there would be trips to see Dad with only a four-hour drive between them.
Grimm still gets together with his children. Recently they all attended the NCAA lacrosse championship, where Dylan was part of Loyola-Maryland’s first NCAA title. Dylan and Devin, Russ notes, each graduated college with honors.
Chad gets a little more of the one-on-one time living in Arizona and working in the same place. But while Chad lived with Russ for three months when he first took the job with the Cards, both quickly agreed Chad needed to get his own place. Russ wasn’t about to protect Chad in the job either, making it clear to the rest of the staff that if Chad made a mistake, “he’s not my son, he’s the quality control coach.”
When the two talk at work, Chad said the dynamic is much more older-coach-to-younger-coach than father-son. “He’s given me enough fatherly advice through the years,” Chad said, allowing a quick smile. “I still get some though. Trust me.”
Russ still has pictures of his kids on the wall of his office, including an 8-year-old Chad in the stands at a Redskins game so many years ago. Russ Grimm is usually a man of few words, and that can extend to his children. He’s the kind of guy who, when his kids fell down and started to cry, he’d matter-of-factly tell them to get back up.
He can’t help but be proud of Chad, though.
“You want to see your kids do well,” Russ said. “I was excited about (Chad) coming here, but I’m not going to tell him that.”