Derek Stingley Jr’s path to NFL Draft shaped by grandfather’s tragedy

BATON ROUGE — Count Derek Stingley Jr. and his father among the nearly seven million viewers of a viral video posted in May depicting a child absorbing vicious helmet-to-helmet contact in a full-speed, full-pads tackling drill. The eight-second clip of two youth players colliding in practice in the Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association, near Charlotte, N.C., drew stern rebuke from current and former NFL players alike.

Former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder called it child abuse.

Former Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison cited the play as indicative of why he wouldn’t let his kids play football until after he retired, so that he could monitor how they were being coached.

NFL Vice President of Football Development Roman Oben described the video as “abhorrent.”

But for all the outrage over the video, few if any of its viewers have as much perspective on it as the Stingleys. Derek Jr.’s grandfather, Darryl Stingley, was made a quadriplegic after an infamous hit to the head by Jack Tatum in a 1978 preseason game between Stingley’s New England Patriots and an Oakland Raiders franchise that had forged its image through intimidation. Tatum, a hard-hitting safety who stood at the core of that reputation, benefitted from playing in an NFL era that didn’t regulate tackling much beyond hits delivered too far out of bounds or too late after a whistle.

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