McNabb traces his perfectionism to parents

Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb and his parents stress the importance of their tight-knit family in his development as an athlete and a leader. (Photos courtesy of The Washington Post, AP, Getty, Reuters, Mt. Carmel High, McNabb family)
By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 8, 2010; 12:53 AM

IN CHICAGO Sam and Wilma McNabb have been slowly packing away a past life.

Just a day after their son, Donovan McNabb, was traded to the Washington Redskins, Wilma hopped online and ordered new jerseys that featured burgundy and gold. Four months later, though, there still are remnants of McNabb's 11-year run as the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback lying around. The license plate holder on Wilma's sport-utility vehicle is still green, for example. The McNabbs have tried to clear most of the Eagles' knickknacks and photographs from their closets, shelves and walls, but it's not that easy.

"We keep seeing something, and it's like, 'Oh, we forgot one,' " Wilma says.

"We'd also just got a bunch of new Eagles' gear in January," says Sam. "I was thinking, 'Well, all right. I'll be all set. I'm looking pretty good here.' But it's all got to go now."

So they've been packing it up, putting just about everything into a box that will be banished to storage space, like old photos and letters from a past love. "We can't just throw it all away," Wilma explains. "It's still part of a legacy."

So many corners of the South Side of Chicago have played a role in shaping McNabb's legacy, which the 33-year-old quarterback hopes to build on in his first season as Redskins' quarterback. But nothing has been as influential and crucial as his parents and brother.

"They were the ones providing advice, guidance, [who would] be your worst critics and make sure you're doing the right things," McNabb says. "We've always been a close-knit family, where no matter what situation someone is in, we're all going to rally together and make sure it comes out for the better."

Unquestioned leadership skills

Critics have had no problems dissecting McNabb's throwing mechanics, quibbling and complaining. But those who've watched McNabb since he entered the NFL in 1999 rarely take issue with his leadership skills. His former teammates and coaches call him a perfectionist, and McNabb knows where that's rooted.

McNabb was raised in the dangerous "Wild 100s" section of the city before his family moved to the suburb of Dolton when he was a young boy.

"We learned at a young age that you've got to have a thick skin," said Sean, McNabb's older brother. "We were the first black family to move into that neighborhood. We had no choice but to grow thick skin."

Regardless of where they lived, the McNabbs always had high aspirations for both children, Donovan and Sean, who is older by four years.

"My parents continued to push," McNabb explains. "You get a B in class, you get excited, [but] that's not good enough. You get an A in a class - 'You don't have all A's'. You get out on the basketball court, you win and you hit the game-winning shot - 'Well, you missed five shots.' You go to a football game, you win - 'You threw this many incompletions.'

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