In honor of Father's Day, Lisa Zimmerman explores how being a dad has impacted the lives of five members of the NFL family.
T.J. Carrie is excited to celebrate his first Father's Day -- although he admits he's still adjusting to the fact that he's now eligible to be an honoree.
"It really hasn't even set in. I almost forgot Mother's Day, too," he laughed.
The Cleveland Browns cornerback has been a little busy juggling his football responsibilities with his now-more-important focus: his four-month-old son, Elijah. So, realizing that these holidays celebrating parents now apply to him and his wife, Tyisha, wasn't quite top of mind.
In some ways, the 27-year-old Carrie is still amazed that, thus far, everything has gone as planned. He and Tyisha, who have been married for two years, had hoped for an offseason baby so that he could be around to help more in the early months, and were thrilled when it worked out that way, with Elijah arriving after the conclusion of the 2017 season.
Even more remarkable: In March, after four years with the Oakland Raiders (who selected him in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft), Carrie signed a contract with Cleveland -- the city where both his parents and his wife's family live. So now they have the family interaction and support that he has always wanted.
But the Carries know having children is a huge life change, especially when trying to balance the demands of the NFL. So, planning, preparation and scheduling have become key.
"This is the lifestyle now. It's understanding that I can't just take that nap that I'm used to," Carrie said. "You have to look into developing a schedule -- his bedtime, his feeding time. When I come home, I take the reins. It's all about partnership and having that clear-cut communication.
"For the wives, it's a huge part to take on. Players are gone from eight to 12 hours a day and it's totally up to the wives. It takes very strong women. Especially because we spend so much time away from home and on the road. Me and my wife have had a number of conversations about how we're going to go through training camp and the season.
"I think that's why a lot of players, they really take the time out during the offseason to enjoy their family. Because the sacrifice we make is we miss a lot of [kids events], so any time you have outside of football, you see players try to get involved as much as possible."
Carrie also realizes the connection the two have already developed, and the significance of the impact the relationship will have on his son. Carrie recalled a recent incident in which he got frustrated at something he was doing on his phone and let out a yell. Elijah, lying next to him, burst into tears.
"I didn't really understand how much my son really knows who I am," Carrie said. "My voice, my reactions. It's crazy how much he's in tune. All the little things I do, he's going to understand and feel. It's moments like that that you have to pay attention."
Carrie, who grew up with four brothers and a sister and has 13 nieces and nephews, is accustomed to being part of a close and loving family. But the love he's experienced being a father has taken that to a new level.
"One of the things I always heard was about this unconditional, unimaginable love and now I see it," he said. "I used to kind of wonder when people would tell stories about their kids and it was something so small and how did that make them so excited. But, the other day, I was holding a cup up and he grabbed the cup and my wife and I got so excited. That's that love. Those little moments you cherish, you didn't think could bring you that much joy but it really does."
Down the road, Carrie is looking forward to he and Elijah wearing matching outfits. "It's a dad-son thing," he explained.