It’s a family affair at UCLA football

Tackle Conor McDermott is the second son of Deborah and Kevin McDermott to play for UCLA.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The McDermotts and the Fafauls gathered for breakfast Saturday morning thousands of miles from home, which could mean only one thing.

Another UCLA football weekend was under way.

Deborah and Kevin McDermott had flown from Nashville, which didn’t qualify as the most miles traveled to see the Bruins play Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium. Mike and Barbara Fafaul came all the way from Baltimore.

It was no big deal to them. The McDermotts have missed only a handful of UCLA games, home and away, in the nine seasons sons Kevin and Conor have played for the Bruins. The Fafauls have also been diehards during the five years their son, Mike, has been the backup quarterback.

“We just wouldn’t miss it,” Deborah said. “It’s as much fun for us as it is for the kids.”

The parents usually hang around each other more than their sons. Deborah said she and her husband spend 15 to 20 minutes with son Conor, the Bruins’ starting left tackle, on Friday evenings before away games.

That leaves the balance of the weekend for getting to know other parents and resuming old friendships. They have meals together, catch up at a parents tailgate and sit near one another at the games.

“UCLA is very generous with the parents,” Deborah said. “We have 50-yard-line seats.”


The McDermotts leave for games on Fridays but don’t always come home on Sundays. Deborah sometimes flies to another destination for her job as senior vice president and chief operating officer of broadcasting conglomerate Media General, meaning she can be away from home as long as two weeks at a time.

The McDermotts also try to make as many Minnesota Vikings games as possible because Kevin is the team’s long snapper. They’re unable to attend most Sunday home games that start in the early afternoon because of a lack of nonstop morning flights from Los Angeles to Minneapolis.

“College is always the priority,” Deborah said. “We went to all of my older son’s college games, so we have to do the same for Conor.”

The McDermotts did once stay in Nashville for a weekend in October 2013 when Kevin came to town with the San Francisco 49ers to play the Tennessee Titans because Conor wasn’t playing regularly at the time. As luck would have it, Conor did indeed play against Stanford because of an injury to a starter.

Of course, Conor’s parents are in the stands at his games far more often than not.

“It’s tremendous support and I can’t thank them enough,” Conor said.

UCLA games have become such a cherished ritual that Deborah said the family intended to keep its season tickets even after Conor plays his final game this season. Of course, it will never quite be the same.

“I’m going to miss it,” Mike Fafaul Sr. said of attending games involving his son. “It’s going to be a huge void.”

Color him happy

There’s a colorful backstory to UCLA kicker J.J. Molson’s shoes.

Molson asked equipment manager Brendan Burger before the season whether the team had any leather cleats. It did, but they only came in bright reddish-orange, which isn’t exactly an ideal match for blue and gold. Molson was sold anyway.

“This was the only cleat that I liked on my feet, but this was the only color they had as well, the bright red,” Molson said. “So I ended up just sticking with it.”

Molson said he preferred leather because it provides a better feel when his foot makes contact with the ball.

He had worn gold shoes during spring practice but was asked by coaches to switch.

“I’m not supposed to say this,” Molson said of the gold shoes, “but they were Nike cleats, so I would spray paint them over. Sorry Adidas.”

Twitter: @latbbolch