Amani Toomer catches a two-yard pass from Eli Manning with five seconds… (Nick Laham / Getty Images )
Reporting from San Francisco -- Most NFL players eventually curse Father Time.
Amani Toomer just calls him Dad.
Toomer, a retired star receiver for the New York Giants, has a special relationship with the man upstairs. His father, Donald, operates the 40-second play clock for NFL games and will be handling those duties for Sunday's NFC championship game between the Giants and San Francisco 49ers. He also worked last weekend's New Orleans Saints-49ers game, as he was selected to do so by the league after 17 seasons of working Raiders games.
"It's an honor to be able to do this," said the elder Toomer, a retired San Francisco school administrator and a longtime high school and college football official.
The last time the Giants played a postseason game against the 49ers, Toomer was in the stands and watched his son catch three touchdown passes in the first half. But the 49ers came back in the second half to win, 39-38.
When he's working the play clock, Toomer said, he keeps his eyes locked on the umpire for hand signals that tell him when to stop, start and reset the clock. Usually, he's so focused on that task, he doesn't even know which team is winning.
Once, when the Giants played at Oakland in 1998, Donald worked a game in which Amani was playing.
"I'd look up there to make sure he wasn't screwing up," Amani recalled. "And sometimes they'd say, 'Would the play-clock operator please reset the clock…' And I was like, 'Oh, man, my dad screwed up!'"
Evidently, that doesn't happen often, because the league only selects its best to work playoff games, and Donald was pleased and surprised to get back-to-back postseason assignments.
"It's funny," the son said. "He always goes, 'Yeah, I'm still in the NFL, Amani. You're not.' I'm like, 'All right, Dad, you got me.'"