Like father like son: Jacob Fabini following in his father’s footsteps on gridiron for Bishop Dwenger

Bishop Dwenger senior Jacob Fabini, left, and his dad, former NFL offensive lineman Jason Fabini, are enjoying the ride of a deep postseason run together. (By Justin Kenny of News-Sentinel.com)
Bishop Dwenger senior Jacob Fabini has amassed 89 tackles and a team-high 10 quarterback sacks this season. (By Justin Kenny of News-Sentinel.com)

With four sons, former NFL offensive lineman Jason Fabini felt he had a great shot at one of his offspring following in his footsteps on the football field.

Son Jacob has made that dream a reality, sort of.

When Bishop Dwenger takes the field against top-ranked Lowell at 8 p.m. Friday in the Class 4A North Semistate game at Homestead, the Saints will have a pair of Fabinis playing integral roles — Jason in the coaches box as offensive line coach and Jacob on the field as (gasp) … a DEFENSIVE player?

“I always wanted an offensive lineman, but he’s obviously a better defensive lineman,” said Jason about his son, who enters Friday with 89 tackles and a team-leading 10 quarterback sacks along a stout Saints defensive front. “About his sophomore year, I figured that one out.”

Jason played a decade in the NFL with the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins before returning home and joining the Dwenger coaching staff. His eldest son elected to play rugby instead of football, making Jacob the first of his children to delve into the sport.

“You never know what your kids are going to do,” Jason said. “(My oldest son) didn’t like football, so you can’t force a kid to do something he doesn’t like to do.”

Jason coached Jacob and several of his teammates at St. Charles prior to Jacob attending Bishop Dwenger. Back then, Jacob dabbled with the offensive line, but always preferred defense.

“I just like to hit kids,” said Jacob succinctly when asked why he likes the defensive line.

Jason’s playing career wasn’t relegated purely to the offensive line. At Dwenger in the early 1990s, he starred at both offensive line and defensive end before heading to the University of Cincinnati. That knowledge of both sides of the trenches has helped Jacob in his growth on the interior line for the Saints.

After all, who better to give pointers on how to beat opposing offensive linemen than a former pro offensive tackle?

“Sometimes I probably give him more tips than he needs,” Jason said.

Of course, problems do arise between father and son, although not as much as when Jacob was younger.

“When I was a sophomore, he used to get on me for not going in on scout defense a lot more,” said Jacob about dad. “Back in those days, I didn’t really like him out here as much.”

It is probably best that coaching duties keep father away from son on game nights nowadays, although halftime can be interesting.

“I think he gets a little frustrated with me (at halftime) — I can be brutally honest,” Jason said. “A few weeks ago, he wasn’t playing a great game and, at halftime, I was like, ‘What’s going on? You need to pick it up.’

“Sometimes, like any son, he doesn’t listen to his father.”

Jason’s duties up top during games can sometimes prevent him from seeing his son at his best. While working out issues on offense and the linemen, Jason can miss big plays made by Jacob on the other side of the ball.

“The hard thing on Fridays is I want to watch him, but I got a job to do,” Jason said. “Sometimes I don’t get to see every play because I’m trying to coach my guys up and talk to the other offensive coaches.

“Someone will be like, ‘Jake just made a play!’ and I’m like, ‘Oh God, I missed it!'”

While Jacob did receive a state championship ring for Dwenger’s title in 2015, he did not see much action as a sophomore. With Jason sporting three title rings — two as a player in 1990 and 1991 and one as a coach in 2015 — dad has bragging rights in that department.

But it sure would be nice to add another ring — and the shared experience of a coach and son at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend.

“I think this is a lot more enjoyable seeing him play,” Jason said, “and, hopefully we can win this week and enjoy that moment of being in the state championship together.”

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