Shaun Herock wasn’t going to miss Friday night.
With a hectic schedule and a job that takes him all over the country, he probably had every excuse to miss North Forsyth’s game against South Forsyth, where his sons Anthony and Chris were playing for the Raiders.
But right after flying back to Atlanta from Miami earlier in the day, he made his way to a somewhat chilly Raider Valley, leaning over a railing adjacent to the fieldhouse, sporting a gray jacket that partially covered a Cleveland Browns shirt, a not-so-subtle clue as to what he’d been up to. He’s a college scout for that team, but even though he spends so much time away from his family, he’s only missed one North football game this season, to the point where he’s recognized and chatted up by plenty of fellow onlookers.
“During the college season, it's hard because I'm gone a lot,” Herock said. “(Cleveland GM) John Dorsey knows me, knows all my kids to the extent that they play in the pool and wrestle, that type of stuff. One thing he told me when I joined was, ‘You have two kids that are playing this year. I want you to make sure you get home to those games. Make sure you do when you do your schedule,’ and I did.”
The Herock family is one that lives and breathes football. Shaun, who played part of his high school football career at Milton, went to the Browns over the summer after front-office stints with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, the latter of which he spent over a decade. His father, Ken, had a standout career in the league as a player for the Raiders: He helped that team to a Super Bowl II appearance as a tight end before serving as the team’s personnel director, helping build Oakland’s Super Bowl XI championship team before serving as the Atlanta Falcons’ de facto GM in the late 80s and early 90s.
Anthony and Chris are the newest additions to that football legacy, and they certainly had the kind of beginning that any football-centered family would want. They were both born in Green Bay while Shaun was working for the Packers, a team that the entire city revolves around. To Shaun, the sense of community there wasn’t much different what he now sees in Forsyth County.
“Everybody knows everybody,” Shaun said. “Everybody's friendly. There's no traffic - if you've got to wait two seconds for a light, that's a bad day. To get from one side of town to the other, it's literally 10 minutes. Everybody loves football. It's a football community.”
As Anthony and Chris grew older, they became regulars at the Packers’ facility, and on Sundays at Lambeau Field, the two got an up-close look at game day.
“You look at those NFL guys and they're not human,” Anthony said. “Those guys are five times my size and still run faster than me. It's crazy. Every time we went to the games, my grandpa would have the field pass and take me down to the lineman's section and show me all the footwork they were doing, how quick they were, and all these really complex things that they do, even when I was in middle school and elementary school.”
And that exposure to the league didn’t just end with going to the games. Throughout their development, Shaun has used his knowledge of the game to help guide his sons in their football careers, and even when he can’t make their games and has to watch them online.
“When you watch these kids, you maybe look at it a little different,” Shaun said. “I'll tell them what they did wrong and what they did right. I probably tell them more what they did wrong because I want them to improve upon their ability.”
In 2012, Shaun left the Packers for the Raiders to become their director of college scouting, but he didn’t move his family to Oakland, feeling like that kind of shift from Green Bay would be quite a shock. Remembering his earlier years in the Atlanta area fondly and knowing that most of his work would be done east of the Mississippi, he opted to move to Forsyth County.
The years in Oakland were up and down – mostly down – but when general manager Reggie McKenzie was fired in the middle of the 2018 season, Herock took a post only 32 men have had: becoming the Raiders’ interim general manager.
“We were in town for meetings,” he said. “(Jon) Gruden came to me and Mr. (Mark) Davis came to me and told me what they were going to do. It was a whirlwind deal where instead of coming home for Christmas, now you're out there for good. At that point you're trying to sign futures, you're trying to elevate kids off the practice squad for future signings. That was a busy time, and also the time of our draft meetings.”
While Shaun was helping the Oakland Raiders through a transition in the front office, Anthony had decided to stop playing football for the North Forsyth Raiders, opting to spend his junior year focusing on his other sport, lacrosse. But as the year went on, the desire to play the game his family was so entrenched in wouldn’t go away.
“I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be fun. I'm going to have free time,’” Anthony said. “But there's just something about it. It's just part of us -- I couldn't stay away.”
And during his first year back since his sophomore season, Anthony, a tight end, is one of North’s most valuable weapons as a senior: He’s second on the team in receiving with 416 yards and four touchdowns. Chris has had a solid freshman year on defense, with 19 total tackles and 2 1/2 tackles for loss.
They’re both enjoying the one year they’ll play varsity ball together, but that doesn’t mean their competitive nature as brothers has gone away, especially while facing each other in practice.
“I don't think I've ever been beaten by Chris. I really don't,” Anthony said.
“I'm a little bit better on defense than I am on offense, I'll admit that,” Chris responded with a smile.
Shaun had to be proud of what he saw on Friday, with both of his sons making contributions to North’s 43-34 win over South. After a long day of work and travel, seeing smiles on their faces makes his periodic trips home more than worth it.
“It sure makes coming home a lot easier when they come home with a win and they're happy when we get back,” Shaun said. “They've so far exceeded expectations this year. It's a good learning lesson for them. It's been a lot of fun watching them grow together.”