“This is f—ing awesome. Don’t take it for granted” is what I thought every Sunday in the fall when I ran out of the tunnel before a game. It was the only time I’d allow myself to take in the moment of my job. I got to play collegiate and professional football, a sport that I’ve loved since I was a kid, in front of thousands of fans and millions more watching on television. Once I slowly jogged my way to the sidelines, my focus was on the game. Winning is the ultimate adrenaline high and that is what we chased every weekend.
I loved the process of getting myself ready to play a game. It started in late February and continued all through the season. The workouts, the diet (didn’t always love that, but it worked), the film study, and most of all, the locker room camaraderie. The payoff of that process was Sundays. Some players dreaded game day, the pressure was too much. I enjoyed that pressure. I thought it always brought out the best of me.
I always told myself I’d play as long as someone wanted me or until I didn’t love the process anymore. Well, both of those happened, almost at the same time.
There’s nothing I regret from my career. I wish things in New York would have worked out better. I waited six years to sign that second contract, worked for it, and got it. But once I got to New York, I only played in 13 of 32 games, and I wasn’t close to being 100 percent healthy in any of those games. I understand we all play through injuries, and that excuse is somewhat hollow, but it’s what happened. I’m disappointed I couldn’t live up to that deal.
After my leg broke for the second time in 2015, I figured the Giants would restructure my contract again for the 2016 season, same as they did the year before. When I started the rehab process after that surgery, my motivation just wasn’t the same. This was my second straight offseason of rehab and I was fed up with the process.
Rehab isn’t the same as training. Rehab is getting that injured body part back to full strength, so that you can train. I think this is misunderstood. I told my wife, much to her happiness, that 2016 would probably be my last season, no matter what happened with the Giants. I just wanted to end my career with a healthy season.
Speaking of my wife, she’s a saint for putting up with me. She watched me get cut open six times, plus the dislocated toe, moved around the country with me, and put off her career so I could play a game.
The Giants released me, and I signed with the Lions. It didn’t work in Detroit. The Lions let me go in late August during the first round of cuts. I expected I’d be picked up at some point during the season with so many injuries. I know I could have still played.
But you know the saying, “the best ability is availability,” and in the end, the risk of injury wasn’t worth it for teams. I knew about three or four weeks into the season, I wasn’t getting picked up. Time to move on.
I don’t miss much of football. I miss Sundays just a little bit. I don’t miss preparing anymore or the way my body felt after practice or games.
I’ve always prepared for my exit from football. I spent three straight seasons, 2011 through 2013, knowing I didn’t have a deal for the next year. I knew it would all be over at some point. Jumping from team to team, in a weird way, helped me deal with missing the locker room camaraderie. I made plenty of great friends along the way, but moving so often, I never got attached to a locker room.
I’m not going to spend much time thanking people in this space. The people who need to be thanked, they know how I feel about them. But I do need to thank a circumstance that altered my career.
After a personally disastrous 2012 season, my wife and I (we were engaged at the time) called off the wedding. She moved out. One of my best friends, Duke Manyweather, had been begging me to go train with an offensive line specialist, LeCharles Bentley, for a few years. I kept putting it off for whatever excuse. At that point, I had no excuse. My career was at a crossroads, so I flew to Arizona to workout at OLP with LeCharles and Duke.
It completely changed my career and thus my life. I thought I knew what a hard workout was, how to push myself, how to challenge myself, how to eat properly. I knew nothing. Those guys rewired my brain and body, and I haven’t looked back.
I’ve known that I’ve been retired for months, so have others around me. Now y’all know, as well.
My love of the game remains the same as I watch from afar. I enjoy staying involved in the game by watching my brother, and writing and talking about the sport. I love being at home almost every day with my growing family and finally being a normal husband and dad.
It’s odd saying you’re retired at 30, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life!