Ted Ginn Jr. wasn’t certain he had hit rock bottom, but, four years ago, it certainly felt like it.
In 2012, Ginn caught two receptions for one yard in 13 games. That was it. That was his entire offensive output with the San Francisco 49ers.
Things were, as they say, as bad as they could get. Then, something happened, Ginn found a brand-new sense of determination, spurred on by his father’s improbable recovery from cancer, to jumpstart his football career and start his own personal Renaissance in Carolina.
Now, the Panthers wide receiver is the team’s No. 1 target, an offensive weapon no one really saw coming in a season that few could have ever predicted. From the very bottom to one game away from a Super Bowl title, Ginn has refocused his entire life, both on and off the gridiron, and it’s helped him notch one of the most impressive seasons of his career.
Read on to learn about the ups-and-downs of Ginn’s football life and how he found support from those closest to him in his most difficult days:
1. Ginn Was a High School Star in Cleveland in the mid-2000s
Ted Ginn Jr. has always been a star.
In the mid-2000s he and his friends, including Browns safety Donte Whitner and Troy Smith, were standouts for the Glenville High School, coached by Ginns’ father. At the time most people in the Cleveland area split their time watching LeBron James at St. Vincent-St. Mary High and catching the “Glenville boys” on the football field.
In addition to playing high school football, Ginn was also a track and field star, a top-shelf sprinter and hurdler who was recruited by top-tier programs across the country. Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who recruited Ginn to Ohio State, discussed his affect on the area, telling ESPN:
Everywhere you go in Cleveland, you know who the Ginns are. Ted is a big, big deal there. He has always known what it takes. That’s why you can’t ever count him out.
After high school, Ginn stayed close to home, opting to play college ball at Ohio State and it didn’t take long until he started racking up highlight-reel moments. By the end of his career with the Buckyes, Ginn finished with 125 receptions for 1,943 yards and 15 touchdowns in 37 games. He also recorded 900 yards on 64 punt returns, the second highest total in program history.
2. He Married His High School Sweetheart, Krystle, in 2015
Ginn Jr. first met the woman who would become his wife in 2002. He was riding in a truck with a group of his friend when they saw several girls walking up the street. The boys pulled up and started talking with the girls, but one of them moved to the back, using the tinted windows as a quasi-mirror to fix her hair.
It was Krystle. And, suddenly, Ginn Jr. knew he had to talk to her. “Leave your hair alone, you look fine,” Krystle said he told her. It was enough to catch her attention.
The pair started dating shortly after and when she graduated high school in 2005, she joined Ginn Jr. at Ohio State. Then, in 2010, after nearly eight years together, Ginn finally proposed.
Ginn Jr. and Krystle made it official in April 2015 at a ceremony at La Centre in Cleveland.
3. The Pair Are Parents to Twins
In addition to focusing on his gridiron game, Ginn Jr. is also determined to be the best father possible after he and Krystle welcomed twins in 2010. In fact, it was his kids that helped him decided to head to Carolina. He told The Charlotte Observer:
It’s very important because I got kids. I’m only 30 and I’ve put all my whole life into football. I don’t know how many people can really say what they really, really want to do after this until they have to do it. Right now while I’m in this business I have to get everything I can get out of it. That was one thing I had to go through. But to be able to come back here and walk in and be the same guy is great.
Both of the twins were big parts of their parent’s wedding in 2015, with Theodore III serving as the ring bearer and Krysten playing the part of flower girl.
4. Ginn Signed a Two-Year Contract With the Panthers in March 2015
Ginn has cris-crossed the league since being drafted by the Miami Dolphins with the ninth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, but he seems to have found a home in Carolina. In March 2015, the wideout signed a two-year deal with the Panthers worth a reported $4.2 million.
According to ESPN, the Panthers wanted to re-sign Ginn the season before, but didn’t have the salary-cap room to compete with Arizona. The Cardinals, who Ginn had previously played for, received a $2.25 million signing bonus as part of a three-year deal worth $9.75 million. Ginn was released by Arizona in February 2015.
Coming into Super Bowl Sunday, Ginn had caught 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns, as well as 277 yards on 27 punt returns.
5. He Credits His Father, Ted Ginn Sr., for Inspiring Him
In the fall of 2012, Ted Ginn Sr. was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was 57 years old and the outlook was not good. Over the next few weeks he spent 65 days int he hospital, underwent six surgeries and dealt with infections that cost him his spleen and half of his pancreas.
In November, he spent a week on life support and, the next month, Ginn Jr. returned home to Cleveland for what, he thought, would be his final moments with his father.
Then, the improbable happened. Ginn, Sr. recovered. And, suddenly, his son found a brand-new sense of determination. If his father could find a way through, he could find a way to be a dominant NFL player once again. Ginn Jr. explained to Sports Illustrated:
My old man went down. And to know that every day I had to get up and go play football for somebody who didn’t cherish me, that was hard. Real hard. It’s your dad on his deathbed. I’m not kidding—on his deathbed. I’m not saying I’m doing this for him. We’re doing this, we’re doing life, for each other. We get joy from this. We.
Ginn Sr. has noticed the return of the fire in his son’s eyes and, most importantly, the happiness. For a long time, Junior wasn’t happy playing football. That’s different now and it shows every time he lines up for a route.
Now, the entire family will be in Santa Clara for the Super Bowl, even dad. He hasn’t slowed down a bit after defeating the disease, opening his own all-boys school in East Cleveland, and is still coaching football at Glenville.