Mothers of the NFL Draft Picks: Sacrifice, Resilience and Unwavering Support for Their Sons

The NFL is a highly competitive field where only the best of the best make it. Every year, hundreds of young athletes aspire to join the league and play alongside other players with the same passion for the sport. Behind every triumph lies a story of resilience, and for many new NFL players, their mothers are the driving force behind their greatness.

Terrion Arnold celebrates after being selected 24th overall by the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza on April 25, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Terrion Arnold at first round of the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza in Detroit, Michigan. Image: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images.

Terrion Arnold, a first-round draft pick for the Detroit Lions, recently shared a glimpse into his bond with his mother during a Lions Rookie Bootcamp press conference. Arnold credits his competitiveness and success on and off the field to his mother, who has constantly supported and motivated him. Arnold says, “Football is my mindset, and that’s just how I think, it’s how I grew up.”

Jeannette and Kamal Hadden. Image: courtesy Jeannette Hadden.

Kamal Hadden’s journey to becoming a sixth-round draft pick for the Kansas City Chiefs was marked by heartache and determination. In a recent interview with EBONY, his mother, Jeannette Hadden, shared the moments that shaped her son’s uncertain path. 

As a single mother raising five children in Ypsilanti Michigan, Jeannette put her sons in sports as kids to give them something to do and keep them out of trouble. Her son Kamal wanted to pursue football seriously and found mentorship in coaches like Corey Parker at River Rouge High School. 

Coach Parker helped to develop Kamal’s gift for football while giving him life lessons in manhood to build his character. As Jeannette’s focus turned to her older son’s legal troubles, she recalls the moment when Parker offered to have Kamal come live with his family- providing him an opportunity to focus on his studies and football. 

“Kamal’s grades started to improve, and he ended up getting some initial college offers,” Hadden says. Eventually, her son enrolled at Independence Community College in Kansas, which helped his academic and football career, leading him to graduate from the University of Tennessee.

Beyond the appeal of professional sports, Jeannette emphasizes the importance of mental health support and financial literacy for young athletes like her son Kamal, who is just 23.

Harris Family Photo provided by Twanna Harris.
William (Will) Harris and the Harris Family. Image: courtesy of Twanna Harris.

 “With the NFL’s spotlight comes immense pressure,” says Twanna Harris, mother of NFL five-year veteran William (Will) Harris. The New Orleans Saints recently picked up the 28-year-old after being a free agent. Harris understands the challenges of nurturing her son’s football dreams amidst adversity. She created the League of Industry Moms when she couldn’t find programs offered by the NFL introducing parents to resources and support to help navigate new league players’ professional careers.

“This disconnect when entering the organization puts parents at a huge disadvantage,” Harris says. She decided to leverage her community-building skills to fill the gap. Her goal is to elevate the role of moms who have sons working in sports and create an ecosystem of leaders and resources committed to guiding their sons as professional athletes.

Looking ahead, Haden envisions a future where Kamal uses his communications degree to uplift others, particularly young people. She hopes her son will support initiatives focused on education, mentorship and mental health awareness where he can positively impact people’s lives as he continues to make his way in the NFL. 

She told him, “You’re not always going to be able to play football.” 

Hadden makes sure her son understands this and wants Kamal to be able to take care of himself as he continues to prosper. 

“Focus on making money, saving money, and being able to live life after football. I want Kamal to remember that.”

Updated: May 14, 2024 — 3:03 pm