The Geathers: 2 generations of NFL, college stars
There has been plenty of NFL talent to come out of the state of
South Carolina – many from the Geathers family tree.
Brothers Jumpy and Robert Sr. are the patriarchs of a group that
has produced six pro football players with more on the way. Jumpy,
known as ”The Human Forklift,” spent 13 seasons as an NFL
defensive lineman and helped Washington win the Super Bowl in 1992.
Robert Sr. played six years with the Buffalo Bills.
Robert’s sons, Robert Jr. and Clifton, are currently on NFL
rosters. A third son, Kwame, is a rising junior defensive lineman
at Georgia. Jumpy’s sons played football too, Jeremy at UNLV and
Jarvis at UCF.
That’s a lot of football skill from one lineage out of
small-town South Carolina.
The family recently talked with The Associated Press about their
”It’s really kind of neat when you think about it,” said Adria
Geathers, wife of Robert Jr. who’s preparing for his ninth season
with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Geathers’ group came together earlier this month for a
family football camp designed to give something back to Carvers Bay
High and the Georgetown County community where they grew up.
”This is something we’ve wanted to do for a while and we’re
glad it happened,” said Clifton, who played at South Carolina and
is on the Dallas Cowboys roster.
Robert Sr., who owns a car dealership, got things started when
he starred at South Carolina State and was a third-round NFL draft
pick for Buffalo. Younger brother Jumpy was right behind, going to
Wichita State to play basketball before joining the football team
for former South Carolina State coach Willie Jeffries.
Jumpy Geathers was taken in the second round by New Orleans in
1984 and played until the getting injured before the 1997 season
with Denver, which went on to win the first of two straight Super
Jumpy, known for his devastating forklift rush, finished with 62
sacks in a 13-season career at defensive tackle with the Saints,
Washington, Atlanta and Denver.
”I’m still trying to catch up to my uncle,” Robert Jr.
Robert Sr. and Jumpy were part of a family of seven brothers who
grew up harvesting tobacco in the rural fields of Georgetown
County. Sports were natural distraction and football, as it is
throughout most of the Southeast, was king at now closed Choppee
High. The brothers passed the love of football on to their sons,
but they also made sure their children put it its proper place
behind faith and academics.
Friends and Carvers Bay teachers out to visit the camp recalled
how the Geathers’ parents made excelling at school more important
than a quarterback sack or fumble recovery.
”We’re all just here for a short time with nothing promised,”
Jumpy said. ”It’s important to know what matters most.”
Robert Sr.’s sons remembered their parents’ insistence on
working area farmland and washing cars in the searing South
Carolina summer heat. Clifton said studying came before most
anything else and if there was a problem at school, his parents
made sure he understood that it had to be corrected.
”I had people leading me in the right direction,” Clifton
That’s the reason behind the camp, which was open to area
youngsters who might one day play for Carvers Bay or beyond.
Clifton and his father, Robert Sr., said they were there to show
young people that doing what’s right can lead to success in any
For the Geathers, that’s meant the football field.
Neither Robert Sr. nor Jumpy pushed their sons to play. But as
they grew in skill, it was hard for the next generation of Geathers
not to attract the attention of college coaches. Robert Sr.
remembers a ”who’s who” of colleges stopping by his house to talk
about Robert Jr., then Clifton and finally Kwame. Robert Sr.
remembers with a laugh how he was cooking shrimp for the Georgia
coaches ”while other schools were outside waiting,” he said.
Robert Sr.’s boys can’t escape a playful rivalry with the family
business. Robert Sr. recalls Clifton telling his older brother
Robert Jr. that’s it was time for him to step aside. Kwame chimed
in right after that it was time for both his older brothers to make
way for the young defensive end.
”Out with the old and in with the new,” Kwame said,
Kwame is a 6-foot-6, 329-pound nose tackle who was praised by
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt for his work during Georgia’s spring
ball. Should Kwame catch the eye of pro scouts, it could give
Robert Sr., a third son in the NFL. ”I don’t know if anyone else
can say that,” he said.
Kwame’s not the only Geathers excelling at college football.
Cousin Clayton Geathers Jr. started 12 games for UCF last fall,
finishing with 40 tackles and six passes broken up. ”I just want
to work hard and see where it takes me,” Clayton Jr. said.
That’s usually the approach in the Geathers family.
”You’ve got a destiny,” Jumpy said. If you come from a family
of top carpenters, ”you’ll be a top carpenter. If you’re in
sports, you learn sports and you want your kids to do the best,”
Jumpy continued. ”That’s only human.”