The Ties That Bind Lead Dads

No Matter Who You’re Rooting for in the NFL Draft

I met Najee Goode the way I make nearly all new friends these days: on a golf course. (School events are my other source, but they’ve been scarce these past two years.)

He was a friend of friend and we hit it off. He has two young girls. I have three girls, with my youngest wedged in age between his two. We talked about our jobs. We cracked some jokes, ribbing each other as we got to know each other better during the round. At the end, we drank a few beers and ate a sandwich. By then, we’d learned we’re both Lead Dads.

We’ve kept in touch. And a few weeks ago, when my family and I were on spring break in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla, where Najee lives, we got everyone together – five daughters, two Lead Dads, my wife and Grampy, aka my dad who drove down with me.

What’s the big deal?

Well, if we weren’t Lead Dads, I can’t think of what would have brought Najee and me together.

Najee, who grew up in Ohio the son of a former professional football player turned engineer at Ford Motor Company and a mom who is a nurse, played nine seasons as a linebacker in the NFL. He was part of the Philadelphia Eagles team that won Super Bowl LII in 2018. He’s both sacked and intercepted Tom Brady. And he’s run other quarterbacks’ picked-off passes into the endzone for touchdowns.

I’ve never played a down of football in my life and rarely watch it on television. When I was growing up in Massachusetts, the Patriots were awful and Brady was still in junior high school. Each year, I put myself through a crash course on the two teams playing in the Super Bowl so I can talk the talk. (It’s never convincing – if I’m honest, I’m in the room for the chili dip and wings.)

Until I launched The Company of Dads in February, I was a journalist for 25 years, having achieved a childhood dream of writing for The New York Times.

Two years removed from his playing days – his childhood dream – Najee is putting his engineering degree to use as part of a team creating an app called Veepio, which aims to allow viewers to interact directly with what they see on TV. Want to buy those sneakers that player is wearing? Done. Want to factcheck that political debate? Scan it.

We’re both doing new things that energize us after accomplishing earlier goals.

But it’s being Lead Dads that has made us friends.

In the pool where we were staying, floating around with our girls, we were Lead Dads. Our kids were jumping off our shoulders – though truth be told, he can throw his girls a lot farther than I can throw mine. We weren’t talking football or work; we were talking about the logistics of Lead Dadding.

What does he do when he travels to Los Angeles for work? (He’s got family in the area; my dad comes down every week to help out.)

How often does he work in his car or in the drop-off line at school? (Every day – a car with wifi, we both agreed, was a gamechanger.)

Getting some fun and relaxation? (You have to do it, but it’s hard. We’d planned the day we were having a week in advance.)

Does he ever push things off to another day? Sure does – a few days earlier, his uncle backed into his sports car, leaving a few dings. He’ll get it fixed at some point. Ask any Lead Dad about prioritizing and he’ll have a rolling list of things that can wait.

But being a Lead Dad means you can only talk for so long before you get interrupted.

My middle daughter kept asking Najee to race – a 10-year-old trash talker convinced she could beat him because he was “retired.” Running a 4.5 40 at the #NFLCombine meant nothing to her. She kept at it until they were lined up on the beach. Najee kept it close, but, c’mon, he couldn’t let her win – guy sacked Tom Brady!

And when his phone blew up with work calls, I stepped in and watched his girls. I bought everyone fruit smoothies and took them back to our rental so they could play Barbies. He was able to work knowing his girls were having fun. And kids playing happily? That’s Lead Dadding made easy.

At the end of the day, we ordered BBQ and kept talking, until our daughters were so tired they were spinning.

We weren’t an ex-NFL player and an ex-journalist. We weren’t guys trying to create something we were passionate about. We weren’t even separated in age by 15 years. We were Lead Dads, hanging out. And we had a great day.

If you want to hear more, listen to a podcast Najee and I did back in February on Apple and Spotify or watch it here on YouTube.

And if you can, tell me about Lead Dad friendships you’ve made.