ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) - "I'll wake up from this when it's all over and say, 'Yeah, wow, that's pretty cool.'"
It's that moment for a parent, the realization that your child's dreams are finally coming true. For Butch and Jan Staley, that has now become a reality. Their son, Joe, the fun-loving, locker room jokester, All-Pro left tackle for the San Francisco 49ers, will be playing in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday evening.
"He's wanted this for a long time. So we're proud of his accomplishments, but proud of the man he is." Butch Staley told 24 Hour News 8.
It's a long list of accomplishments that stretch back to his days at Rockford High School. A 2003 Ram graduate, Joe was a football and track star whose true passion wasn't even on the gridiron.
"It was always, always baseball. He thought he was going to be a major league player," Jan Staley said.
Fortunately for Joe, he was cut from the Rockford baseball team as a sophomore. He spent his varsity football years with head coach Ralph Munger as an undersized tight end. The coach recalls his best game in a 45-32 win over Jenison, his senior season, one that sent the Rams to the playoffs.
His family says his college choice was simple. The most interested school in Joe was Central Michigan University. In 2003 he became a Chippewa under then-head coach Brian Kelly. But his father says Joe thought about transferring after Kelly moved the tight end to right tackle on the offensive line. His dad's advice -- "Walk through the door and never look back." That's exactly what Joe Staley has done.
After being drafted 28th overall by the 49ers in 2007, Joe has become the anchor of arguably the best offensive line in the National Football League. He's a two-time, back-to-back, All-Pro, and now after coming up one game short last year to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game, has a chance to take home the Lombardi Trophy with a win on Sunday.
"The challenges change. It's a lot different from high school football, that has its own unique context, but as you go through, the challenges become different. That's what make me proud, to see him handle those challenges along the way, when the team wasn't doing so well. That's all part of the journey that makes this even sweeter," Butch said.
Butch has followed his son every step of the way. He has seen him go through the triumph and disappointment the game brings. He was there when Joe's high school career ended in a 41-35 loss to Muskegon in 2002. And last year, when the Giants kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime to beat the Niners and go to the Super Bowl. For Butch, the disappointment he feels for his son is the same.
"You sit there and you go through their disappointment with them and you're there for them but I really wanted this, for him. This time," Butch said.
And this time, they did get it. The bags were packed and the Staleys will be New Orleans-bound Tuesday night.
It's the biggest game for anyone in the family, and the emotions of it all are hardly contained, as Butch can barely get out his sense of pride.
"It's amazing. The accomplishments for our son of a life-long dream. What could be more amazing than that?"