Antonio Cromartie‘s career has spanned four NFL teams, four Pro Bowls, and includes holding the record for the longest play in NFL history. And, of course, the former cornerback might be best known for fathering 14 kids throughout all that, including four after he had a vasectomy. Antonio made waves in 2010 for a TV clip in which he struggled to remember all of his kids names, but the meme-able moment, as with most quick internet chuckles, obscured the tenderness of his family life and his commitment to be a positive, present figure in each of their lives. In fact, Antonio recently hung up his jersey to be a stay-at-home dad, as chronicled in USA’s reality show The Cromarties. He sat down to take the Fatherly Questionnaire and reflect on reconnecting with his own dad, the joys of pedicures, and having more kids post-vasectomy.
What is your name?
How old are your children?
They go from 13 to three months.
What are their names?
I’m not going to name them, I’ve got 14 kids.
Are they named after anyone in particular?
The boys all have my first name as their middle name. So, Jagger is Jagger Beau Antonio Cromartie. Jynx is Jynx Revell Antonio Cromartie. Jordan is named after Michael Jordan.
Do you have any cute nicknames for your children?
J’adore we call “Tink Tink.” Jynx is “Deuce.” And right now, we’re fluctuating nicknames with Jhett, we have “Pooh Bear” and “Tutu.”
What do they call you?
“Cro.” They call me “dad,” but my nickname around the house is “Cro.” They call me that when they really want something.
How often do you see them?
The kids in my house, that’s every day. I also have summer visitation with some of my kids. It’s alternate for holidays, too, so we have odd and even years. It’s not hard to keep track of. We know the years and we know if we’ve got odd or even years. It makes it easier. Plus the kids are getting older, so they’ll just be like, “Dad, can we come to your house?”
Describe yourself as a father in three words.
I would say loving, very hands-on, and a little strict. Like, “you need to be here, you gotta be here, you gotta do this a certain way.” So, I would probably say hands-on from a standpoint of just always wanting to know what’s going on with homework and everything. And I’m strict, I am. I have a very militant, military background.
Describe your father in three words.
From us just talking and having a true breakthrough: loving, he’s open to communication, and he wants the best for me and my other siblings. He just wants the best for us. Doesn’t want anything, just wants the best and that’s what I appreciate about him the most. The day that I got drafted, my dad was there. He was like, “Look, son, I don’t want anything from you, at all. Just be aware of other people using you.”
What are your strengths as a father?
I would say my strictness. I would say my strictness because it keeps the kids on a schedule. They understand what I expect of them, what Mom expects of them. My other strength is, I’m very nurturing. I think I just try to be as much in the house as possible. With the kids that aren’t in the house, I know I can’t be. So it’s about just trying to be as nurturing as I can with them, also.
What are your weaknesses as a father?
That’s probably communication, with the wife, with everybody. I think that’s my biggest weakness, it’s communication. Having trouble to communicate, or being able to just say what I want to say. I think that’s a weakness as a husband and a father. It’s the communication part.
What is your biggest regret as a father?
Honestly, I don’t have a regret as a father. Like, my situations are my situations. I don’t look at it with regret. I don’t really have anything I want to regret because all of my kids are a blessing. Everything is going maybe not as family-planned as it’s supposed to, but I don’t regret anything being a father.
What is your favorite activity to do with your kids that’s your special father and kids thing?
With the girls it’s going to get pedicures. I love that, when you take your little girl to the pedicure and you’re looking at them and it’s like, “man, they’re growing up.” I gotta start getting ready for these boys to start coming in. I got to prepare myself. My little girls are growing up and I like spending time with them in their element, in something that they like. Those moments with my daughters, just being able to take them to get their first pedicures ever. Those moments are cherishable. And with my sons, it’s just being able to take them to the movies, they love that. Being able to have them in the same element that I’m in.
What has been the moment you’ve been most proud of as a father, and why?
It’s been recently. Our daughter, Jordan, she had all B’s on her report card. We’ve been pushing her to make sure she keeps her grades up. She’s very smart, but gymnastics takes up a lot of her time. She’s exhausted from that but she has to do her work. We tell her, “keep your grades up” and we won’t be so hard on her. We know what kind of student she can be and we just want her to see that.
What heirloom did your father give you, if any?
Just saying to me, “Look, I don’t want anything from you. I just want to make sure you have everything. And watch out for the people that are close to you.”
What heirloom do you want to leave your children, if any?
The work ethic. Making sure they work and know that nothing is just given to you.
Describe the “Dad Special” for dinner.
I have baked ziti. Everybody loves when I make baked ziti. Cro’s baked ziti, I can make two trays and it’s done in two days. The other meal is maple-glazed salmon.
Are you religious, and are you raising your children in that tradition?
I am religious, non-denominational, but it’s more so Christianity. That’s something that me and my wife are raising our kids as. We try to teach them to pray.
What’s a mistake you made growing up that you want to ensure your kids don’t repeat?
Don’t let people take your kindness for a weakness. What you have is yours, don’t let other people around you dictate where things are supposed to go.
Besides saying it, how do you make sure your children know you love them?
I think it’s just by spending time with them. Doing the things that they like. Pedicures, or Jagger will want to play with swords and baseball. Little stuff like that, just appreciating what they do.