Tennessee Titan Jason Babin Talks Football, Family and Why He's Teaching His Young Sons to Hunt
Jason Babin, a defensive end for The Tennessee Titans, has three passions he loves talking about: sports, family and hunting.
Married to Sara Babin, his college sweetheart, and dad to two boys -- Maddux, 5, and Talan, 3 -- the 2004 first-round draft pick is known as #93 on football field, but he's also dedicated to the sport of hunting.
Babin owns and operates the Babin Ranch, 500 heavily wooded acres in Center, Texas, and home to a variety of animals, including zebras, rams, antelope, wildebeests, deer, elk and buffalo.
In a recent interview with ParentDish, Babin says he has been teaching his young sons how to hunt, and that it teaches them sons valuable lessons. An edited portion of the conversation follows.
ParentDish: Sorry about the season so far.
Jason Babin: Yeah, well, the season is not going according to plan and it does not look like we are going to make the playoffs this year. A couple teams will have to lose, which means we have to win, so, overall, I would say the playoffs are a slim chance right now.
PD: You have had quite a career with the NFL. Texas, Kansas and now Tennessee.
JB: It hasn't gone as planned, but we are on track right now.
PD: Is it hard to plant roots in one place knowing you can get traded at any time?
JB: It is uneasy, which is why I am excited to finally sign a four to five year deal. Now we can be somewhere for a while and finally start a life.
PD: How does your family handle each move to a new city?
JB: My wife has been amazing about it since she is stuck with all of the unpacking since I tend to be in training camp. As for the boys, they look at it as a long vacation.
PD: What's your take on Tennessee?
JB: We love it here because we love country music and the country scenery. We are ready to make it home.
PD: In addition to your role with the Tennessee Titans, you are also a dad.
JB: When I had my first child, Maddux, I was nervous. I was never a dad before and I knew what I did with Maddux was going to be a direct reflection of me in terms of how my wife and I parent him. Now that I have a second child, I am in the groove.
PD: Do you give your boys a special pep talk before you hit the road to play a game?
JB: (Laughs.) Yes, I do. Always. I sit them both down and say, "OK, Daddy has to go to the hotel now, which means you are the men of the house and have to protect Mommy while I am gone." They take it to heart and they take it serious when I am gone.
PD: How do you stay in touch with them when you are away?
JB: We use the iPhone face chat so we can see each other, or the webcam on the computer. I tend to read them stories when they are getting ready to go to bed.
PD: Speaking of children, when you were 7 years old, you started hunting.
JB: Yeah. I started hunting early. Actually, my mom's father was a professional fur trapper for a while and he used to hunt and fish, too. Because of that, they never went to the store for meat. They always hunted for their meals.
PD: So, when you were 7, you learned how to shoot a gun?
JB: They started teaching me with a bow and arrow because that requires more patience and you need to learn patience if you are a hunter.
PD: Don't you think that is too young to teach a kid how to fire a weapon?
JB: Absolutely not. My 5-year-old shot his first deer on a bye-week at my ranch in Texas, and then we made it into hamburger and sausage for the family. We are a pretty hands-on family.
PD: What did you hunt as a kid?
JB: Where I grew up in Michigan, it was deer, rabbit and turkeys.
PD: I find your take on kids handling weapons surprising since you graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in criminal justice.
JB: Yes, that is true. I grew up in a small town and since it was rural there wasn't a whole lot to do and hunting was common.
PD: You don't think this sends the message to children that it's OK to kill an innocent animal for sport?
JB: We are a meat-hunting family and everything we kill we eat. Look, we have a rule in our house: You do not point a toy gun at anyone. We instill the basics to our kids and, in terms of hunting, we do it because it is how we get our food. We really educate our kids about this and if you teach them the right way, they will learn those lessons early on.
PD: When did you introduce Maddux to hunting?
JB: When he was 3.
PD: Three? My daughter only played on the playground and the beach at 3.
JB: He learned how to shoot a bow and a .22, as well as (my son) Talan.
PD: And you don't think that's way too young for a kid to handle a weapon, let alone learn how to use one?
JB: Maybe it was because my mom wouldn't let me have some of that cool stuff at that age. My mom was very over-protective of me. Look, before my boys did anything, they needed to learn the proper care, such as how to clean a gun and put it away. We always promote safety first.
PD: And your wife allows this?
JB: Yeah, she is on board with it. She knows what I am doing and how I teach them the basics before we do anything else.
PD: I'm stunned other parents haven't given you a hard time about this.
JB: They do, but I don't care.
PD: What are the benefits to teaching your kids how to hunt?
JB: There are three great benefits. One, I feel it teaches them patience. It taught my 5-year-old how to sit still and not move for two hours. It also teaches them life lessons, such as finding food for survival. And, three, we get to spend lot of quality time together, which I wouldn't trade for the world.
PD: You and your dad also run the Babin Ranch Center in Texas where you serve as the owner and your dad is the manager.
JB: He fills in for me while I am gone because we have a lot of corporate outings during the fall season while I am gone due to football.
PD: Do you let kids hunt there?
JB: Yes, we can set it up to be a family atmosphere.
PD: So, at what age can kids go there with their parents?
JB: At least 12, and their parents have to be avid hunters and they always have a guide with them at all times. We always put safety first.
PD: I'm shocked PETA hasn't come after you.
JB: Oh, yeah, and I love to antagonize them. I have even saved some of the letters they sent me -- how I have made the world a darker and gloomier place and my soul will be forever blackened.
PD: Your response?
JB: I invite them to come out, but they never have.
PD: I notice you give a lot of tickets away to needy children to attend a football game.
JB: Yes. I was lucky to have good role models when it came to my parents and, unfortunately, not every child has that. The more I can do to help out children is an amazing feeling.
PD: Do you work with a particular charity?
JB: No, but I am hoping to be in one place long enough to team up with someone. Since I get tickets at face value I purchase them for the children so they can go to a game.
PD: Is it true a lot of athletes follow the same practice?
JB: Yes, a lot of guys do. I think the guys get involved because, if you read some of the bios about these players, you see a lot of them came from nothing and, in the end, made it to the NFL. I think it is a great way to give back and teach other children you can do anything you set your mind to.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.