Disciplined. Determined. Dedicated. What do those words really mean? In my world, they’ve been more than words--they’re the code or ethos I live by. My story is nature vs. nurture at its finest. I wasn’t supposed to play in the NFL or be in the Hall of Fame. This life wasn’t decided for me, I created it.
Growing up in a small farming community like Glennville, Georgia, you have two options: plant your roots and live modestly, or move on to something bigger. To say I had a humble upbringing is an understatement. My grandfather was a hardworking farmer. He and my grandmother raised their 9 kids and my Granny then took over the responsibility of raising my mom’s 3 kids. At a young age, I knew I wanted better for my family and myself, and I developed a deep fear of being less than I was capable of. My dreams required more than a farm, and they were far, far away from Glennville, Georgia...
Anyone who has played collegiate level sports knows that you’re faced with a lot of stress and temptation.
The physical and mental demands are unlike anything else, and it takes a tremendous amount of focus and willpower to stay on track. Back in those days we didn’t have cell phones, only pay phones. One afternoon, without any quarters to spare, I placed a collect call to my Granny. As usual the operator picked up and directed the call, but this time it was different. Almost a minute passed before I found out that my Granny wouldn’t accept the call because she couldn’t afford a $50 phone bill.
My grandparents raised me, gave me everything they could, yet the most basic things that most people took for granted, were dreams to them. I walked away from the phone, tears welling in my eyes. From there on out, I made it my life’s mission to put in endless sweat and sacrifice so that my Granny would never again have to struggle to pay a bill.
I’ve always possessed a mental edge. But I could not have succeeded if I didn’t train my body to meet my mind’s demands. Most people think that diet and training are secondary to an athlete’s sport. But in reality, diet and training can mean everything to a player. Your body is your ticket to greatness!
You need to be confident that, in a game, at a moment’s notice, you could call on your body to perform at an elite level.
That physical component is what always separates the good from the great.
I’m proud of my accomplishments, but they are more than just reasons for praise. Yes, I played 14 years in the NFL. Yes, I made it to the Hall of Fame... Yet, my proudest moment was and still is, seeing the smile on my Granny’s face, knowing that she raised me to be the man I am today. That honor is greater than any victory or award.