T.D. and Mic Roof were born in October 1998, during their father’s first season as a linebackers coach at Georgia Tech on coach George O’Leary’s staff.
“I remember it well,” said Ted Roof, Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator. “They were born on a Tuesday, and we played N.C. State on a Saturday.”
Roof was present for their birth, but did not so much as skip a practice to be with his wife, Pam, and their newborn sons.
“I’m almost ashamed to say it,” Roof said.
Nineteen years later, Roof will get some of that time back. T.D. arrived on campus Tuesday to begin orientation and the start of his freshman year. He’ll play linebacker, the same position where his father starred in the mid-1980s.
“How many fathers get to see their sons when they go away to college every day?” Roof said. “Not too many.”
T.D., who starred at Buford High with Mic, was equally eager for the new dynamic in their relationship to begin.
“He’s always wanted to do that, and I’ve always wanted to do that with him,” T.D. said.
When his sons began showing interest in football at 6 or 7, Roof put on the brakes. He rebuffed their beginning for a number of seasons, wanting to see how true their desire was.
“I never wanted to be that dad that pushed them to do something because I did it or whatever,” Roof said. “I always wanted them, if they wanted to do something, I wanted them to show passion for it.”
After they deemed that their sons’ interest in the game was sincere, Roof and wife finally relented when the boys were 10. After Roof returned to Tech in 2013, T.D. and Mic starred at Buford High, and the light turned on for their dad that one or both could end up at Tech. T.D. seemed the more likely, as Mic is a pro-style quarterback and not a fit for Tech’s option offense. He is headed for Charlotte.
Roof again tempered his enthusiasm, repeatedly explaining that the son of the defensive coordinator, particularly a linebacker, would be under a microscope.
“The first time he misses a tackle or if he has a rough game and we lose — ‘Well, the reason he’s playing is because …’” Roof said.
Said T.D., “He just wanted me to make the best decision.”
T.D. chose Tech last June for a variety of reasons — a high-caliber degree, ACC competition, a location close to home and a defensive coordinator with the same last name.
“I think it’s pretty special,” T.D. said. “It’s always good to have family around, and him being what he was at Tech, and me trying to carry that on, I think that was a big part of it. As a coach, it had a role. I wouldn’t say it’s as significant as some others, but it’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I couldn’t turn that down.”
Before his arrival at Tech, T.D. said that he and his father hadn’t had a talk about how their relationship will work. He did tell T.D. and Mic that their goal should be for their strength coach and their academic advisor to say that they’re the hardest-working people on the team.
“He said that’s the only thing you need to be worried about,” T.D. said.
Neither T.D. nor his father is entirely sure of what awaits. Roof hasn’t coached his sons since they were 5, he said, in a coach-pitch baseball league. T.D. said he’ll call his father “Coach” in football settings, but “Dad” at home. He also has little interest in wearing his dad’s number, 93.
“I’m trying to get the lowest (jersey) number as possible,” he said. “I’m not a 93 guy. That’s him, not me.”
T.D. also knows there won’t be any sugarcoating.
“I’ve got a really good feel of how he is when he’s mad,” T.D. said. “But (what his father is like) coaching, yeah, a little bit. I’ve grown up around it. I’ve seen him coach. Being my coach, that’s still interesting, but we’ll figure that out soon enough, too.”
Roof did make one thing clear in an interview Saturday. His son won’t be treated any differently, and he’ll have to earn his way onto the field.
“But you know what?” Roof asked. “That’s the circle of life, and that’s a positive thing because that’s the real world. That’s how it goes.”
For Roof, the excitement of having one son on his team is counterbalanced with the assurance that he’ll rarely be able to see his other son play in person. But he is clearly proud and excited for the opportunities that both have. On signing day in February, with his duties as a recruiter finally aside, the moment caught up to him.
“I got emotional after they signed,” Roof said. “From a sense of pride a sense of knowing how fortunate that we were.”