When you make it to the NFL, people like to talk to you about your process. They want to know what you do, what you think, what motivates you, etc. They want to know every absolute thing there is to know.
Why? Maybe they like me that much. Maybe they want to see how I did it so they can do the same. It probably depends on who's asking.
I imagine my love of the game and my competitive edge started out just like a lot of guys. Growing up in Wisconsin, me and my cousins would go to the park, Kenosha Commons, and play. Once our folks started seeing us throw each other around and into the garages and stuff they figured it was time to put on some equipment.
Growing up, we didn’t have much. So, to train and put in the work to get better, my dad would improvise. We use to go out by the parks and dig water bottles out of the trash cans to use as cones so I could run drills.
Yes, I used people’s discarded water bottles to help me become a better football player—and it worked.
I can remember when it hit me that I might be on to something doing those drills with my dad. There was a practice where I returned a kick, and I put this move on the head coach’s son that totally had him on skates.
I thought to myself, “This stuff might work.”
I put in a little extra work, and I saw results.
Hard Work and Motivation
People want to talk about motivation constantly. They want to know what they can use as motivation. They want to know what motivates me. What works for them, they have to figure out. But for me, it’s always been the pursuit of greatness.
Football isn’t just a game I play. It’s constantly on mind. If I have time to do something that will make me better, I do it.
Does that mean I sometimes went to the team facility in college to get a workout in while my boys went out? Absolutely. Did I send them Snapchat messages like, “I hope you’re enjoying it because I’m getting mine?” Yes, I did.
If I have time to work, I work. I’ve always been that way. It has never mattered to me if it is 1:30 AM morning. There is no such thing as a bad time for a workout.
Don’t get me wrong. I still went on in college. But when I’d come back, I’d get a workout in to reset my mind; to clear my conscience.
Why am I so intense?
You always want to think you are doing enough. But sometimes we aren’t. But if I was going to be the best, I’d have to put in the work. You have to do whatever it takes to get into the mindset to accomplish that, either on your own or with the help of a coach, teammate, etc.
You have to find your motivation.
Coming from Wisconsin, I didn’t feel like I got a lot of respect from colleges. I felt like I always had to prove myself while players from states like Florida had all eyes on them. I used that disrespect. I used my status as an underdog as a driving force to help me stayed focused.
Not just focused but laser focused.
Without it, it can be pretty hard to get things done. In college, people always wondered about the pressures of playing for Wisconsin and being from the state. They appreciated that I was a homegrown player, but sometimes it seemed like they expected more because of that.
The pressure can be intense; it can break you. Yeah, playing in front of 80,000 fans can be crazy, but that’s where the laser focus helps. When it came time to play, I dialed in and played. I didn’t notice all the distractions around me.
Of course, the pressure reaches a new level in the NFL. It’s different, but thanks to my college experience, I knew I could handle it. Yeah, my start was rough, but then I realized I needed to improve my focus. So, I quit playing fantasy football my second year in the league.
That stuff will get you, man!
The ability to focus is beneficial in just about every aspect of life. It certainly helped me when my dad went to prison. I can remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time to be depressed. I have to keep moving.”
Did seeing my dad go to prison bother me? Of course, it did! But no matter how much it bothered me, my mom was hurting even more. I needed to be strong for her. So, I handled my emotions. That way she wouldn’t have to see me down, and it allowed me to be there for her when she needed me most.
My mom will tell you that now that my dad is out, people better look out because I am going to do what I can to impress him.
But I don’t just want to make my dad proud. I want to make my friends and family proud as well.
Health and Happiness
Concussions, CTE, and your health, in general, can really steal your focus if you let it. It’s hard not to be concerned about that stuff. You have to keep the risks in mind, but you can’t let concern for those risks consume you.
Ultimately, we choose to play this game. I choose to play this game. It’s what I am supposed to do with the gifts God gave me. It’s what is going to allow me to provide for my family.
I’m happy to do it. People want to know what makes athletes tick. Man—it’s the same thing as everyone else. We just want to be happy.
I just want to be happy.
I want to provide for my family; be there for my kids. I want to be able to kick my feet up at the end of the day and just watch my kids grow.
If you can do that, then you must be doing something right.