During my first year out of the NFL, the thing that probably drove me the most nuts was when someone would ask me “what are you doing now“, to which I would reply “I’m not sure yet”. That would inevitably be followed up with a “well, you’re too young to be retired” and “you need to do something, you know”. At the time, I knew I wanted to find a second career I could be passionate about, but I didn’t want to rush into anything. My football career ended so abruptly with the surprise neck injury that I hadn’t really done any prep work for what that second career may be.
When you’re in a financial situation where you don’t need to work to maintain your current non-lavish (by most standards) lifestyle, you’re afforded the opportunity to pursue something that you will enjoy and will allow you to make an impact on others. I wanted to stay around the game of football, but the coaching and front office hours scare me. They don’t scare me because of the hard work; that would come naturally to me. They scare me because I’m not certain I can be the dad and husband I want to be, working the hours that they do. For that reason, I always had a ton of respect for those that worked in college and NFL football while I was playing because those men and women were sacrificing a ton to be a part of the team.
Throughout my football career, I always tried to treat members of the media with the utmost respect. I knew they had a tough job to do covering the team or the sport. (I also figured if I treated them well, maybe they would take it easy on me in their reporting! 😉) When my career ended, I was grateful to have a number of media professionals reach out to me, offering any assistance they could in helping me get into the business.
I am now looking forward to having a very busy fall schedule with the new career I’m venturing into. I will be the color analyst for Buffalo Bills radio as well as an on-field analyst for the ACC Network. People often warn me about how tough that will be, but I respond with appreciation for the challenge. I felt unfulfilled last year when I didn’t have a challenge in my life and was no longer pursuing the mastery of a craft like I had been for so many years with the center position in football.
I did receive some great advice during my year off though, from a successful businessman, Sheldon Wolitski. He said that there is no one true “work/ family balance” out there that fits all. The balance between the two comes from going all-in to whichever one is occupying your time at any given moment. Following his advice, I have now implemented a practice of putting my phone on airplane mode for at least one hour per night to ensure that I will not be distracted when I am with my family. Conversely, when I am working to prepare for a game or am on the road, my family knows that I need little distraction and as much focused energy as I can have.
It takes trust, love, and understanding to allow someone the space that’s needed to focus deeply on their career, and I’m lucky to have found those in my wife, Leslie. The key to having her understand that I need to be all-in on work when I’m working is to make it known to her and my children that when it’s time to be a husband and dad, I am all-in on them too. And for me, that requires putting the phone away.