Ernest Wilford would love to have a big game against the Chargers on Sunday, and it has nothing to do with being in his restricted free agency year. Wilford wants to put on a show for his father, Ernest Sr., who will be seeing his son play for the first time in his professional football career.
"It means a lot to me for him to see what I do. I can show him how much I love playing football," the Jaguars wide receiver said.
Playing football is something that was not encouraged in the Wilford household. "It was forbidden in my house until my senior year in high school," Wilford said.
"I sneaked out of the house to run track in my junior year. It got into the newspapers and that's how they found out I was playing sports. I got a whippin'," Wilford added.
His father is a pastor in Richmond, Va., where Wilford was raised in an ultra-religious and disciplined environment. Participation in sports was viewed as time better spent in church.
"I wasn't allowed to leave my front yard," Wilford said. "My dad is very strict."
Ernest and Janice Wilford will be the guests of Jaguars owners Wayne and Delores Weaver in the Weaver suite on Sunday. The Wilfords will watch their son and the Jaguars attempt to defeat the San Diego Chargers and take another step toward a playoff berth.
In middle school, a young Wilford gave his parents reason to discipline him. "I was bad," he said of behavior that earned him enrollment in a military high school. "I was a bully, a class clown. I was suspended and had to return to school with my parents."
Prior to his senior year, the football coaches at Franklin/Armstrong Military High approached Wilford's father about allowing his son to play football. "My coaches ended up talking to him and telling him how good I was and that I could get a college scholarship," Wilford said.
The strategy was successful and this Sunday Wilford's father will witness the result of his decision to permit his son to play football.
"I will definitely hear his reaction after the game," Wilford said. "I love my father. He provided a meal for me on that table every day.
"I'm still in the church. I still talk to my parents on a regular basis about religion," Wilford said.
Following Sunday's game, they might even spend some time talking about football.