Ted Ginn Sr. helped Saints' Marshon Lattimore realize 'phenom' potential

Marshon Lattimore has always been "a phenom type of guy with his size and his speed," said Ted Ginn Sr. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

METAIRIE, La. -- Ted Ginn Sr. says he has two sons now playing for the New Orleans Saints.

One, of course, is receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who signed as a free agent in March.

The other is rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who is part of Ginn’s extended family from Cleveland’s powerhouse Glenville High School football program.

Ginn, a renowned high school coach who actually grew up about 70 miles north of New Orleans until he was 11 years old, said he would use the word “son” to describe any of his former players. But he has a special bond with Lattimore, who is one of the most special talents to come through the public-school program in a lower-income part of Cleveland’s East Side, which has also produced standouts like Ginn Jr., Donte Whitner, Troy Smith, Cardale Jones and Frank Clark.

“I’ve always kind of been on Marshon [to be] who he should be and the greatness in him,” Ginn said of Lattimore, who overcame a great deal of family hardship throughout his young life before he went on to star at Ohio State and become the 11th overall pick in the NFL draft.

“When he was younger, I used to always make his uncle go get him and make him come play football and stuff like that, because he was so gifted,” Ginn said. “I’ve always tried to push him past that average situation to let people see the natural ability God gave you.

“You know, he’s a phenom type of guy with his size and his speed. So I’ve always seen that in him.”

Ginn didn’t hesitate when asked for a story that demonstrated that “phenom” ability.

It was during Lattimore’s senior season, when the Tarblooders reached the state title game, and they were a 33-yard field goal away from losing an early-season game in the final seconds.

“He jumped in the air and he blocked that ... I mean, it was so freakish it looked unreal, where his feet was by everyone else’s helmet,” Ginn said.

Lattimore’s 161 yards and four touchdowns as a wide receiver in the state semifinal game that year weren’t too shabby either.

You’ll note in that picture of the blocked field goal that Lattimore is wearing No. 2 -- which is no small detail.

Ginn has always bestowed that No. 2 on a special player who has the right combination of talent, character and leadership ability. Ted Ginn Jr. also wore it a decade earlier.

But when Ted Ginn Sr. gave that number to Lattimore, it was almost a challenge -- or a prediction.

“Some guys, I tell you, ‘I want you to wear this number for this reason,'" Ginn said. "Sometimes you try to give a kid something special that he can honor and then work toward, trying to build his character and things like that. So I think with Marshon, that’s kind of what I chose him for.”

As if life on Cleveland’s East Side wasn’t hard enough, Lattimore had to deal with his father spending time in prison when he was younger.

Then his cousin, with whom he was very close, was shot and killed when Lattimore was 14 years old. He reportedly considered quitting football after that but ultimately decided football was his way out.

“We have different tragedies like that in life,” Ginn said. “What you try to teach young people is that there’s gonna be obstacles in your way, you’re gonna have tragedy in your life. But what you try not to do is let that hinder you from who you’re gonna become as a person and a man.”

That No. 2 jersey meant a lot to Lattimore, who brought it up last weekend during the Saints’ rookie minicamp when asked about his relationship with the Ginns.

“[Ted Jr.] is way older than me,” Lattimore said with a smirk, “so it’s not like I grew up with him. But he’s one of the Glenville greats. Then he got No. 2, and I got No. 2 after him. So that was Coach Ginn’s number, one of his favorite numbers. So me getting that, he started talking to me, like we stood together, the ‘deuces’ stick together. So after that we just built a little relationship.”

Lattimore said Ted Ginn Sr. was a “big influence” on him, especially during that tough period after his cousin was shot.

“He was keeping me up. Everybody was keeping me up,” said Lattimore, who has also praised his mother, Felicia Killebrew, and talked about wanting to honor her with his success.

Ted Ginn Jr., meanwhile, met with a different type of adversity after he was drafted with the ninth overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2007.

The dynamic speedster has spent much of his 11-year career trying to shed the “bust” label that was attached to him when he struggled early with dropped passes and a lack of success on a variety of struggling teams.

Needless to say, Ted Ginn Sr. is proud that his son had his best two-year stretch over the past two seasons with the Carolina Panthers -- at the ages of 30 and 31 -- which led to him signing a three-year contract with the Saints in March.

“I’m proud of him being able to handle the part of being a ‘bust,’ you know what I’m saying, and knowing that you’re not a bust. That’s pretty tough,” said Ginn, who credited Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl and quarterback Cam Newton. He said coaching and quarterbacks and systems are more important to receivers at the NFL level than people might realize -- especially for a receiver who has Olympic-track speed that sometimes throws off timing.

“I thank God for people like Ricky Proehl and people like that who saw the greatness in him and kind of cultivated him to be who he is, just to teach,” said Ginn, who also acknowledged those drop demons his son has battled.

“I think that so many people analyze and different things like that, and once you get a stigma on you, it sticks with you,” Ginn said. “But I always looked at it at every level, if you throw him 10 balls, he’s gonna catch eight. He might drop two, but he’s gonna catch eight of ‘em.”