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Imperfect timing, perfect ending for Shanahan


Shanahan became the Texans' newest father when his wife Mandy gave birth to a baby girl on Aug. 7.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story first appeared in the Houston Texans Gameday Magazine on Sept. 9, 2007.

It was three days after the start of Texans training camp, in the midst of the most rigorous part of an NFL coach's schedule: two-a-day practices and 12-hour plus work days of tireless preparation for the regular season. The date was Aug. 4, and Kyle Shanahan's wife, Mandy, was due with the couple's first child.

Texans head coach Gary Kubiak helped by giving Shanahan a day off of work on the expected date of birth. And on Aug. 7 at 7:45 p.m., Kyle became the Texans' newest father, standing by his wife's side as she gave birth to Stella Taylor Shanahan at the Woman's Hospital of Texas.

The venue was different than he was used to – a delivery room instead of the west sideline of Reliant Stadium. The pupil was, too – a laboring wife instead of a 6-5 quarterback. And the pressure was of a completely new sort – overseeing the birth of a child instead of a play-action pass. But even in this foreign setting, Shanahan's coaching intuition kicked into gear.

"He was great; he coached the whole time, of course," Mandy said with a laugh. "And he was totally together until she was born, and then he lost it. He started crying right when she was born, and he followed her down to the nursery and has been just in love with her ever since."

For Kyle, it was a positively abrupt removal from his training camp immersion in football.

"It was different," he said. "I mean, to go from how intense camp is where you really don't have much time to think about anything but football, and to switch gears and to go totally the opposite, to something I'd never been through before. You really can never prepare for something like that.

"But it was exciting to get there and go through it all, and for it just all to work out and for Mandy to get through it healthy and the baby to be healthy, it was real special."

And despite that unfortunate timing, the Shanahans have been married for two years now, so Mandy knew giving birth during the preseason wouldn't be optimal.

"We knew it was going to be really hard," Mandy said. "His mom came into help, which was nice. And Gary (Kubiak) knew that one day when I delivered he wouldn't be there, but that Kyle would be back at work the next day. And you know, so many friends ask if Kyle's going to take paternity leave or get to be home for two weeks, and I'm like, 'Not in the NFL.' I'm lucky if he'll be there for the delivery and then it's back at camp."

For Kyle, who has faced an endless array of questions from the media about handling the responsibilities that go along with coaching at his age, becoming a father was another leap forward in maturity. Well, sort of. That depends on whom you ask.

"I still feel like a kid, which is kind of weird because I have a little girl now," Kyle said. "Now I'm officially a dad, but it's funny because I don't feel any different than I did when I was in high school or college. I'm still the same person inside."

{QUOTE}Mandy, however, has noticed a significant change in her husband in the month he has been a father.

"He's so much more responsible," she said. "Not necessarily in that he grew up right when she was born, but his priorities have definitely shifted to her, which I see as him maturing into fatherhood. I don't know if it's dawned on him what's happened yet, but it's all about her."

But Kyle knows that when it comes to what has made possible his simultaneous commitment to an up-and-coming coaching career and duties as a first-time dad, it's all about her – as in Mandy.

"It would be tough if I didn't have a real strong wife," he said. "I'm helping as much as I can, but leaving at six in the morning and coming home about 11:30, midnight, it's hard for me to get up a lot and help with the baby. My wife's been awesome through it all and she's really working hard."

That supportive disposition has become second nature for Mandy during her time with Kyle.

"With the dad part, I just try to be very encouraging," Mandy said. "With the coaching, he's pretty good at it now that it's his fourth season. He's gotten in a routine. I know it's the beginning of August, I just can't put a lot of pressure on him and he's going to be tired, and it's going to be hard."

Sometimes, Mandy says that Kyle pays perhaps a little too much attention to their new baby girl.

"One night he did come home and instead of hugging me and kissing me, he took the baby up and held her for a couple hours," she said. "And finally I said, 'Hello? You still have to hug and kiss me and then pick the baby up.'"

And while Kyle's head start with the NFL has been well-documented, his daughter might be one-upping him. At only two weeks old, Stella already attended her first NFL game when Mandy brought her to the Texans' Aug. 25 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. And Kyle says he plans to get Stella a Texans jersey as soon as he can find one that fits.

But even with her quick introduction to the NFL, and despite the fact that some young children of NFL coaches have been known to pore over game film with their fathers before they can even read, Kyle isn't sure that he'll have Stella come around the office very often as she grows up.

"I don't know, I might," he said with a reluctant smile. "Maybe when she's young and stuff. But you don't want your younger girl hanging around the football team all the time, you know. But as much as I can have her around, I'll love it."

Kyle has received parenting advice from a wide range of people, but he has always been pretty adept at figuring things out on his own. He's blazing his own trail through the NFL coaching ranks, and has taken the same approach to fatherhood.

"Honestly, the advice you need is for people to just tell you that it's normal," he said. "The first time you hear your baby cry, you think something's wrong with her and you get nervous, and just the reassurance from people to tell you, 'Hey, all babies cry, all babies do this, it's just something they go through,' – that's what helps because then you don't stress out as much."

And that suits Mandy just fine.

"He's adorable," she said of Kyle's interactions with their daughter. "He wants her to sleep with us every night. He thinks she's just perfect. He thinks she smiles at him. I try to let him think so, even though babies don't smile yet. I'm like, 'Yeah! She's totally smiling at you.' But he thinks she's perfect. He says that all the time."

Ideal timing of the birth or not, Kyle couldn't have game planned a better ending.

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