Everyone wants Phillip Supernaw to be his father's son. It'd be the perfect story, the kind of feature sports editors and TV producers coo over.
He'd be the son of a country music star chasing a long-shot NFL dream with his hometown Houston Texans.
Only real life is rarely perfect. It's messy, complicated and full of surprises.
And Phillip Supernaw isn't his father's son. Not in anything more than name. No, he's his mother's boy.
"I haven't talked to him once since I've been in the NFL," Supernaw says of his dad.
When asked what he thinks his father — country musician Doug Supernaw — would think of his football run, Supernaw simply shrugs. "I have no idea," he says.
It's no stretch to say that Supernaw looked to be at worst the third best player on the field.
Supernaw made it onto the Texans practice squad as a rookie from a small Division II school last season. This year, he figures to make it onto the field when the games count.
He's a big tight end who can catch the football and be physical, a prized commodity in a Gary Kubiak offense that finds it surprisingly short of tight ends at the moment. In a Texans rookie mini camp dominated by the pass-catching exploits of first-round rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins and the pro development of University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum, it's no stretch to say that Supernaw looked to be at worst the third best player on the field.
And now that the whole team is coming together for Organized Team Activities (OTAs) — starting Monday afternoon and running through June 6 — Supernaw has another huge chance to stake his claim to some playing time. Oh, he'll be doing it behind the headlines — again.
Even former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein got many more notice and fawning TV features (before going unsigned) in that rookie mini camp. But Supernaw made the plays.
It was a good three days for the kid from Katy. The fact it ended on Mother's Day only made it a little more sweeter.
"I'm headed over to my mom's right after this," Supernaw told CultureMap on the last day of mini camp.
Supernaw says his mother is the one who "totally raised me." She stood strong as the constant parental support even as dad drifted in and out of the picture, seemingly becoming more and more unstable.
Doug Supernaw ping ponged in and out of jail and mental institutions, talking of grand conspiracies working against him in court documents. He once was a semi big deal. But the 52-year-old hasn't made an album since 1999.
Now the son is the one making something of the Supernaw name. Phillip Supernaw definitely has something of a presence about him. And with his country star worthy looks (the man knows good hair) and his quick smile, it'd be easy to imagine a guy who could coast through life. Instead, Supernaw attacks an unlikely dream with full ferocity.
"Supernaw can do it all," Keenum says. "If you give him a chance, he'll catch it. And he's not going to be easy to tackle."
Supernaw's built himself up into a 6-foot-5, 250-pound force — and he now feels he has the knowledge to match.
"It's night and day from last year," he says. "I just know the plays — and what we're trying to do — much more. I'm comfortable. I don't have to think about it or try and force things. I can just go out there and play."
The Arian Foster Way
Supernaw never looked at going undrafted as a hardship. Especially when his hometown team Texans came calling. For a kid from Katy, who grew up as this franchise was growing up, it doesn't get a whole lot better than that.
"Are you kidding?" Supernaw says. "Being able to play for the Texans . . . that's the dream."
"If you give him a chance, he'll catch it. And he's not going to be easy to tackle."
If Supernaw can make an impact as the third tight end in an offense that highlights the position, he'll be the latest undrafted impact find from Texans general manager Rick Smith. You don't get an Arian Foster-level talent that route every year. Or every decade. But Supernaw as a rotation player would be no small feat.
And don't be surprised if he makes a run at being a starter in the next few years. It'd be wise not to sleep on Supernaw's potential despite the road he traveled.
It's just, the man himself never thought of it as much of a stretch.
"To be honest, I thought I could play in the NFL from the moment I got here," Supernaw says. "I thought I belonged. But I knew I had to prove it."
Supernaw is nothing if not unfailing honest and polite with reporters. When stopped for this interview, he extended a meaty palm and introduced himself with a strong grip. "Phillip Supernaw."
You might think that comes from his humble football background. Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. — with its total enrollment of just over 1,500 — does not exactly scream out as a diva building ground. But no, Supernaw will correct you. That's not it. The manners comes from mom too.
"She raised me right," he says, breaking into a grin, before jogging off into his future.