Eric Metcalf always hoped he could be as talented as his dad.
Metcalf’s father, Terry, played in the NFL from 1973-1981 with the St. Louis Rams and Washington Redskins. He excelled as a dual-threat running back and finished his career with 3,498 rushing yards and 24 rushing touchdowns to go along with 3,087 yards and two touchdowns as a kick returner.
In his youth, Eric watched his dad weave through opposing defenses with ease and always dreamt of playing at the same level.
“I actually wanted to be better than him, but I just wanted to be like him,” Eric said. “So any expectations that people had of me, the pressure I had on myself was far greater because I wanted to be good. You only have pressure if you're not very good at it. I knew I was good enough where I didn't worry about being the son of Terry Metcalf because I knew I was going to go over there and forge my own footsteps.”
The Cleveland Browns Presents: Club 46 - player stories through generations of football
And he did. After four years of college football at Texas, Eric was drafted in the first round by the Browns in 1989. He spent six seasons in Cleveland as a return specialist and running back and amassed 43 combined touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 1993 and 1994, his last season with the Browns.
Eric played with six different teams looking to utilize his versatility and athleticism in the last seven years of his career and retired in 2002 with more receiving yards (5,572) and receiving touchdowns (31) than rushing yards (2,392) and rushing touchdowns (12).
So, Eric has his dad beat from a statistical perspective. They never lined up together and raced to see who had better speed — and the race likely would’ve been close even though his dad is nearly 17 years older — but Metcalf believes he would’ve given him a tough competition when he reached high school.
“I knew when I got in high school, if we had raced, it was going to be a problem for him,” Metcalf said. “I might not have won, but it was going to be a problem for him because that's when I began to get fast for sure.”
Terry always knew his son had NFL potential, too. He never told him that until he reached the NFL, but that’s because he wanted to be as hands-off in his son’s development as possible. If Eric was going to reach the NFL, he had to earn it, and his dad didn’t want it happen only because he played in the league.
That philosophy stuck with Terry even when he helped coach Eric’s high school team at Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School in Virginia. Terry never coached the running backs group.
“He always said that he wanted me to live it myself,” Eric said. “He said he did not like watching fathers do that to their child. Just, ‘You got to do this, you got to do that, you got to do that.’”
Terry did, however, give his son a subtle good word when they visited Texas on a recruiting trip. The Longhorns lost badly to Texas A&M, and Terry approached the recruiting coordinator with a simple message:
“You guys need my son.”
Eric didn’t mind his dad’s hands-off approach, though. It certainly worked out in the end — Eric was a nominee on the most recent Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot.
And his dream of being as talented as his dad? Well, he certainly accomplished that, too.