NATHAN JOYCE | Grandpa put the football in me

Sep 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Joyce Biographies, Tales of the Joyce Family

by Nathan Joyce

When it comes to my love of sports, and my career as a sports writer, my grandfathers fathered me into this life.

It’s my grandfathers who loved football and taught me the joys and rules of the world’s greatest sport.

It’s them I think about on this Father’s Day, as I make my annual trip to Safeco Field with my daughter and again explain to her about three strikes and three outs.

My grandfathers are polar opposites of people — which shows football’s broad appeal.

My Grandpa Joyce died in 2000. He was a slight, shorter man with immaculate gray hair. He spent most of his working life selling building supplies on the Olympic Peninsula. When we learned there was a small town past Port Angeles called Joyce, the family joke was we always wondered what he did on those long business trips.

Grandpa Joyce played football for North Kitsap in the late 1930s. His senior year, he was named the team’s most inspirational player. He had broken his leg as a junior and came back to contribute. Best I can tell, he came off the bench at running back.

When I started playing football at North Kitsap as a freshman, he came to every game. Even though he and Grandma had retired to a beach house in Quilcene, he drove to every road game — Bremerton, Port Orchard, wherever.

I hardly played that first year, but there he was at every game.

He always told me I needed to “get my wind up,” and I should do what he did the summer before his senior year, which was to run up and down Lincoln Hill. Even though I lived at the top of it, I didn’t follow his advice. Instead, I talked my parent into buying me a weight set. I was a lineman after all, not a running back.

Of course, football was on at his house during weekend visits, though I remember him taking frequent naps during games.

My Grandpa Roark, a stocky bear with a bald pate, played some football at Prosser before he joined the Army just before World War II started.

But he’s always loved football. He always tells me about past players he remembers, usually by telling me that player was “big as a horse.” I’ve heard tell about countless players from the 1960s and 1970s who were equine sized.

My senior year in high school, I moved in with my grandparents in East Bremerton, where they still live. My parents had to move because of dad’s job. I had less than a year to finish high school and I stayed in Kitsap.

Sundays I’d hang around and watch football with my grandpa. He had a wood stove in his man cave off the dining room. Often he’d stoke it with motor oil as well as wood. Most Sundays, the temperature in that room would pass 90. By halftime, I would lapse into a coma.

I’ve written before about how my dad was never a sports fan outside of the summer Sundays we’d watch hydroplane racing together. I’ve written before that football was my teenage rebellion.

While most men remember growing up watching football with their dads, that’s not my experience.

But I have fond memories of my grandfathers filling that role in my life.

And on this Father’s Day, I thank them.

Contact Nathan Joyce at

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