T.J. Pridemore, a senior linebacker for the Wolves, stood on one side with his hand against the wall, a smile sneaking through a brown, unkempt beard. Tom Pridemore, T.J.’s father, stood on the adjacent side of the corner, hand against the wall, a smile sneaking through his gray, neatly-trimmed beard.
The similarities between the two aren’t just skin deep. Their fondness and aptitude for football also seems to run deep in the Pridemores’ blood.
"I get it from a lot of people," said T.J. Pridemore, who has spent the past week preparing for Buford’s game against Lovett on Saturday for the Class AA state championship. "On and off the field, people say I look like my dad, that we play with a lot of the similar styles, very competitive, very intense."
Being told he plays like his father means something different to T.J. than it does to most people.
Tom Pridemore played in the National Football League for eight seasons between 1978 and 1985 as a safety. He spent his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons and finished with 121 games played and 21 interceptions.
Buford’s senior linebacker isn’t the only player that has an in-house football role model. Four players on the Wolves roster have fathers that spent time playing football at the highest level.
Senior Kody Case’s father, Scott Case, played 12 seasons in the NFL, 11 with the Falcons and one with the Dallas Cowboys. Sophomore Jessel Curry’s father, Buddy Curry, played in the NFL for eight seasons, all the with Falcons. Junior Colt Ours’ father, Greg Ours, played with the Miami Dolphins in his only season in the NFL.
Tom Pridemore, Scott Case and Buddy Curry even played on the same Falcons team for a number of years.
Combined, that is 29 seasons of NFL experience that will be in Buford’s stands and on the sidelines for kickoff at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"I never would have thought 15 to 20 years ago that our kids would be on the same team playing for a state championship," Tom Pridemore said.
In the stands and on the sidelines is where the four NFL fathers keep their expertise, however. They do not insert themselves into their sons’ program, and Buford’s coach is thankful.
"I’m sure it’s a benefit to the kids," Buford coach Jess Simpson said. "It doesn’t really affect our program on a day-to-day basis. To be honest, most of those dads stay out of the way. It’s not like you might expect. ... You never hardly hear from those dads."
Simpson knows how these players feel. His father, Howard Simpson, played in the NFL for three seasons with Minnesota and Buffalo.
Jessel Curry dispeled another misconception: Having an NFL dad doesn’t mean that the player gets special treatment.
"It’s nothing special," the receiver and defensive back said. "I don’t have anything better than anyone else. I still have to play."
The place where having a professional football player father shows its biggest advantage is at home. When talk of football might end at the practice field for some players, home can turn into film study for these four Buford players.
"He can help out a lot if I’ve got any questions," Kody Case said of his dad. He plays defensive back like his father did in the NFL. "He knows what is going on, if I have any questions on covers and stuff like that."
"Every night, I go home and we watch tape together," Jessel Curry said. "He tells me what I can do better. I’d say it is definitely an advantage."
When watching film with his son, Buddy Curry concentrates on technique, swarming to the ball, getting low enough to block. He said that when offering constructive criticism, his son can take it kind of hard.
"At times it has been hard for him," Buddy Curry said, "especially when he knows it. I’ve tried to pull back a little and be more encouraging, be more of a father."
Buddy Curry says it takes a lot of focus to turn off the coach inside and act more like a father to Jessel.
"I have to disengage myself so I can be dad," he said. "I try not to get into football that much until we watch film."
As frustrating as it might sometimes be for both, having an NFL dad gives the player an easy-to-locate source of inspiration.
"I’ve always looked up to him a lot, especially as football goes" T.J. Pridemore said. "I’ve always looked to him and his example, how hard he worked for his goals."
"He pressures me to be the best I can be," Colt Ours said of his dad. "He tells me all the time that I have more talent than he did."
Put two football fanatics in the same house and the conversation will often turn to football, especially when the two are father and son.
T.J. Pridemore says his father is always a father first and a coach second. The two spend a lot of time together and football is usually their topic of choice.
"We spend a lot of times out in the woods," Tom Pridemore said. "We enjoy getting away and fishing and hunting and those kinds of things. A lot of times, the topic goes to football. We talk about some of the things we think are important about the game, the way the game should be played. ... It’s a topic in our family that is pretty popular."
After enough time, however, it is like any other father talking to his son.
"I used to ask him (to talk about the NFL) a bunch," Colt Ours said. "But I got out of it because I had heard just about everything. He gave me a bunch of stories, some of them I wanted to know, some of them I didn’t want to know."