My Piece About A Brother

April 16, 2015

My Piece About A Brother

“..being present in the moment and in the now is something we must always strive for...for the now is all we really got. My idea of after-life is lying 5 feet under with a bodacious smile from ear to ear.”  - Dylan Q. Meier

What is the good in livin the life you’ve been given if all you do is stand in one place? The gestalt of our human existence wants to answer this question but only the purest and truest, willfully, answer and live it. As I think about what a brother is, my internal flame starts to flicker like a fire would with a spritz from an aerosol can. My body warms, blood starts to pump, and arrogance in an internal space overwhelms me. My conception of a brother may be construed but my brother was unique to know other. However, in our creation, each fiber and ligament that holds our name was purposed, solely to each of us. My unique understanding of a brother is different from any others but that's how it was created to be and I love that. Unique to his own, I had the best seat to watch a master live a life.

As the youngest of four boys, my personality was crafted through a watch and learn scope. Although, not necessarily fully conscious of that through my younger development but that was how I grew up. I didn't have just one trial before me but three that would unfold before it was my turn. I would sit, listen, analyze, and then attempt to conquer or create in whatever manner I was after. It was through this process that I often found physical and emotional success. Success never was and is the end result to every experience in following along a pair of footsteps. My brother, Dylan, who I’m closest to in age was the one I followed a little more closely. He often took turns and detours towards dead ends for particular reasons. One, his path was created for him. Not symbiotic for me or anyone else and he wanted me to understand that lesson firsthand. Two, he was a wild man. He took the road less traveled because his blood flowed that way. And three, my brother’s path was established as he went. As the master of his destiny he whole-heartedly explored the depths of whom he was, where he was. It was through his humble curiosity about life and it's make-up where he learned to love life so much. Loving the life you have is so simple in creation but it is often easily lost in living it, full-time with that understanding and intent. That precious breath and gift of life was something he never misunderstood or took for granted. He radiated of life and lived without one regret or a fear. The experience of his present life always trumped the search for the meaning of it. That’s my brother.

Athletics were a large part of him but he understood athletics weren't who he was. My brother played his own tune. His own tune took him to places and those places weren't always to everyone's liking. After a physically grueling junior year at Kansas State, he had his right shoulder completely re-created. In a physically frustrated state, after meetings during training camp his senior year he decided to hit the road to Winfield, Kansas to watch some bluegrass at the Walnut Valley Festival. A great idea until the coaches phoned my mom asking if she knew where her son was. My dad learned of his where bouts first because Dylan was the first person he saw that morning coming out of his tent! Often in sports, those types of players are team breakers. They create fluidity instead of adding viscosity. However, his tune was special. It was a damn good one that was always within the parameters of the team and it was contagious. His approach to athletics was quite similar to how he approached life because he viewed them through the same eye. Within the two, he constantly found himself facing obstacles. Those obstacles were things he enjoyed embracing because it tested his will in times of inconvenience. How he responded was how he discovered who he was. The game of football is calculated on a variety of different planes. Numerically, emotionally, spiritually, and the physical toll that accumulates may be the most substantial of all. Football is a violent sport of constant collisions. It's especially violent for a quarterback. There are eleven, hungry and willing individuals that are trained all week to seek and eliminate. Dylan's medical file was dictionary thick but you'd never get the slightest speculation of that. Just like his quest for life's challenges, he found the thrill in answering and overcoming that road to recovery after injury. After his junior year in high school, he had the first of a few shoulder surgeries on his throwing shoulder. That summer was where he taught me what hard work was.

As a fourteen-year-old freshman, I watched a seventeen year old relentlessly push and work his self back to not just himself again, but a bigger and better self. Everyday that summer before evening quarterback/wide receiver work and seven on seven drills, we would go to our high school two hours before drills would begin. For the first hour, it was just he and I, meticulously going through a shoulder warm-up. I would apply an ointment and lightly massage his shoulder. Follow it with shoulder stretches and then therapeutic band exercises. It was just pure, brotherly love and fun. In the second hour our high school trainer, Robin Gardenhire, would come and guide him through the rest of his rehabilitation work. I watched, listened, and worked alongside him because his eyes and attitude told me to. Hell, I was fourteen. I didn't know my elbow from my ankle. I followed his lead because I knew it was towards a purpose that I'd understand on a later day. About 99% of the time, this was unseen work by our teammates. However, I witnessed it everyday and saw the amount of sweat and tears shed. It was through those times where he ingrained me with a repertoire of weapons that I use. More curious about my well-being than his, he lead and monitored me wherever we went in life. He never once sheltered or shadowed my personal light but was only hoping to illuminate it with the greatest intent and love. That’s my brother.

The remembrance of someone or something often follows an extravagant act of life or death. It's through these remembrances that we can find peace and comfort through grief. It’s difficult comprehending that it’s nearly five years since the passing of my brother. This weekend, April 18th, 2015 the Dylan Meier Get Busy Livin' Foundation will hold its 5th annual 5k run & 1-mile Friendship walk. That too is a hard one to digest but as hard as it is, it’s the reality of my existence. Our creator blesses, protects, and comforts those who mourn and how we mourn comes in a variety of ways. Grief is but a stage that we all pass through. It's not forever and it modifies as time continues on. There's this special trail that is opened during grief that pulls us forward to live and love as greatly as possible. Someone so strong and real never quite goes away. My brother is just like the truth. He always finds a way to the surface and makes his presence known. Of all the things he was and did, the way he made you feel was superior. It’s often in our lives that we may forget what’s someone’s said or what someone’s did but no one will ever forget how someone makes you feel. The effect he had on others was the greatest currency he held.

The beauty of our brotherhood is whether it’s two seconds or two centuries apart, there’s this rooted connection that is eternal and never broken. We’ll pick up where we left off and keep on trucking forward, seeking the next thrill. However, until I’m called home I’ve got a lot of living left to do. The timeline we live on is calculated and the breath I have in-between is to be lived with the grandeur of life. My brother is not gone but just a little further away from me, physically, for a while. I do look forward to the day where we reunite in paradise and bask in the sunlight together. We’ll reminisce on a plethora of adventures and everything will be perfect. I’ve fallen in love with goals and ambitions in life and how we get there comes from fuel. My body runs on this pure, efficient yet overly toxic and contagious fuel. It’s called my brother. In my quest to fulfill my life’s ambitions I have one that I want to hear when I see him again. “Brother, I’m proud of you.”  

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Written by: Josh Martin

2015 NFL: BM&E Program Day 2

April 09, 2015

Hello Everyone! Today we had a chance to visit three great companies: Facebook, Google, and Luxe. At first glance they may not seem similar, but they all shared a nearly palpable culture oozing with creativity and passion. All of the companies welcomed us with open arms and were extremely helpful in providing relevant information on recent developments in the tech start-up world.

Facebook

At Facebook we learned about the impact personal branding can have on professional development. Did you know Facebook has over 1.3 billion active monthly users? Neither did I. But, today I learned about the different tools Facebook offers to leverage this network in order to increase my fan base (I love you mom and dad, but your services will no longer be required...). We even had the opportunity to build fan pages with some of their excellent media staff (...thanks, Peter). We also had a chance to discuss some of Facebook's most recent obstacles with Facebook veteran Naiomi Gleit.

Google Ventures

At Google we learned more about what it takes to be successful in the tech industry. Google Ventures Partner Bill Maris offered his personal insight on what it takes to build a successful start-up and have a career in tech. A major theme was the importance of building a great team. In football the right combination of members on your team makes all the difference between winning and losing. As it turns out, selecting founders for a tech start-up is no different.

Luxe Valet

Luxe offered a raw look at the beginning stages of a start-up and might have been the most engaging stop of the day. Luxe didn't have a huge campus like Google or Facebook. They're currently housed in a relatively small office with an open layout (like a true startup in my opinion). The access was more than anything we experienced at Facebook or Google. We were able to walk up to any employee while they were working and simply ask them what they're doing. It was great because we had access to the entire backbone of the company from the CEO to the support staff. I had a chance to talk to a couple of their engineers, Pawel and Rob, and they were extremely helpful in suggesting resources to help me improve my coding skills.

Believe it or not, our day was not over. We headed back to Wharton and squeezed in a couple of presentations...I am so tired and so well informed. Until next time...zzzzzzzz

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Written by: Josh Martin

2015 NFL: BM&E Program Day 1.5

April 08, 2015

Hello to all of my fans! I'm back!!! For those of you who don't know who I am, my name is Josh Martin. I'm a third year outside linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, and I'm here to blog about my experience as a participant in the 2015 NFL: Business Management & Entrepreneurial program at the Wharton School of Business in San Francisco (...yeah that's a lot). Now that the formalities are out of the way....

This. place. is. awesome! The past day and a half have been filled with invaluable lectures and presentations offering an abundance of information. We've learned a lot stuff so far, and met a lot of great people. For example, are any of you familiar with the company Integrate? Or, its co-founder and CEO Jeremy Bloom? Besides being a presenter this week, Jeremy is an accomplished entrepreneur and professional athlete. After having a legendary professional skiing career (US Skiing Hall of Fame...cough cough) and a career in the NFL, Jeremy entered the tech start-up world which eventually led to the development of Integrate, a successful cloud marketing platform. He's obviously a busy guy, and he's only one example of the many wonderful people I've had the pleasure of meeting this week! NFL Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott was here today!

And, that is exactly why I'm here. These programs offer a means to build meaningful relationships off of the field, relationships that lead to opportunities after football is all said and done. I'm thrilled to be back this year, and I'm looking forward to sharing more of my experiences with you over the coming days. Tomorrow we visit Facebook, Google, and Luxe, so I'll be sure to take lots of pictures! Until then...



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Written by: Torrey Smith

Dear Baltimore

March 09, 2015

Where do I begin? These last four years have been amazing for me. I have been able to grow as a player, and more importantly, as a man. The men who run the Baltimore Ravens organization have been essential to my growth. For that I say thank you!

We have been able to win the division twice and win the ultimate prize, the Super Bowl. I will never forget the feeling that we all experienced knowing that we did it together. The way the city responded still gives me goose bumps every time I think about it. I literally dreamed of playing for the Baltimore Ravens, not just because it is a great organization with an amazing fan base, but because of the foundation of the team and the principles that the men who run it stand by and for.

Mr. Steve Bisciotti, I can’t thank you enough for what you have done for my family and me. Your words of wisdom and support have meant everything to me, and the love that you have shown my family was truly unconditional. I will never forget how supportive you were when my brother passed away. It was one of the darkest moments of my life and you were there for me when I needed support the most.

Mr. Ozzie Newsome, thank you for making the phone call on Draft Day that allowed my dream to come true. You have made an impact on my life by simply being yourself and challenging me to be the best that I can be. You believed in me and have expressed that over the years. You have also always been straightforward and honest with me, and for that, I am thankful.

Mr. John Harbaugh, I appreciate everything you have done for me. From educating me on random things to being a supportive and inspiring Christian leader that I can look up to, you have been a person that I can lean on for support and advice. Your door has always been open for me. Thank you.

Coach Jim Hostler, thank you for teaching me how to be a pro. You taught me how to work at my craft and challenged me to be the best that I could be. I still have some work to do, and I know if I make it there, you will still tell me it’s not good enough. I appreciate that.

Coach Craig Ver Steeg, we have grown close over the years, and I truly appreciate our relationship. You have educated me and helped me grow as a Christian man. From various biblical lessons to football talk, you have made a major impact on my life. Thank you.

Coach Bobby Engram, in one year you have helped me develop and improve in every aspect of life. You have been a great coach, support system and friend to me. I wish we had more time to work together, but I know our relationship will last a lifetime.

Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak, thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and giving me a chance.

Mr. Johnny Shelton, you have challenged me to become the best man and Christian I can be. It has truly changed my life. I am not the same person I was even just a year ago. Thank you.

To all of my brothers, thank you! Our locker room was amazing. The leadership, guidance and overall bond that we shared is something that I will miss, but will always be thankful for. Joe, keep doing elite ish! They don’t have to respect you, but we know what kind of player you are. It was a pleasure playing with you. Tyrod, we put in work in the offseason. We go way back and I appreciate you.

To my wideouts, we had too much fun! Jacoby, Steve, Marlon, Kamar, Camp, JB, our bond goes beyond the meeting room and I’m thankful for that. Sizz, Webb, James (Jimmy), BP, Buck, Forsett, Yanada, KO, Eugene, Morgan and all of my other teammates, I love y’all like brothers and will see y’all around. Haloti and Sam, I will miss our rides to the airport. I still can’t believe y’all never made me drive. I was spoiled.

I also want to thank the entire staff, both defense and offense, for the memories. I appreciate you all and respect you even more as men.

President Dick Cass, Eric DeCosta, Joe Hortiz, Vincent Newsome, George Kokinis (my quarterback), and Andy Weidl, thank you! Craig, Darren, Smitty, Gus, Kevin, Sam, Heather, Megan, Joan, Mrs. Pam, Mrs. Val, Mrs. Toni, Jess, Money Manny, Marlon and way too many other people to name, thank you. Y’all are family to me and I appreciate y’all taking care of me.

To my family at Jimmy’s Seafood, The Baltimore Arena, BCPS, Baltimore City Public Schools, Downtown Dog Resort, No Limit, Carbiz, Worth-A-Shot, Shoe City, thank you.

To the fans, it is tough to leave a city that I now call home. Y’all have embraced my family and me, and we truly appreciate it. Your support has been unreal and I will miss being able to make y’all proud. Although I may no longer be a member of the Baltimore Ravens, at heart, I will always be a Raven. What we accomplished together is timeless.

I will be playing for a different organization, but I will remain committed to the City of Baltimore. I will continue to give back and help build a better future for our young men and women. MY COMMITMENT TO THE CITY IS FOR LIFE. This isn’t a goodbye because I will still be around and Baltimore will continue to be my home in the offseason and when my career is done. I’m on to the next chapter of my life and football career, but I will see you guys later.

To the Baltimore Ravens Organization, good luck! Thank you, Baltimore! Love!

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Written by: Justin Forsett

Our Valentine’s Surprise

February 18, 2015

To say it was an amazing – and crazy – Valentine’s Day would be an understatement. We were surprised by the early arrival of our second son, and man, I feel blessed. I still can’t believe how it all went down…

All week I was trying to plan dinner and a movie for Valentine’s Day, but I was having a hard time getting a reservation at a good time. Then, while doing some research, I found out that Lauryn Hill, one of my favorite singers of all-time, was coming to perform at the Howard Theatre in D.C. Perfect plan. We could go to our favorite restaurant, Shake Shack, have a burger and head to the concert after that. Shake Shack is my wife Angie’s favorite place, so it was looking like it was all working out.

Fast-forward to Saturday morning. We have the babysitter all set up for our 2-year-old Judah. We were hanging around the house, and I went out around 3 to get a snack because we weren’t going to leave Baltimore until around 7.

While I was out, my wife calls me saying, “I think my water broke, but I’m not sure.” Okay, so I come back home. I’m thinking she’s probably experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions (which are like fake contractions), which she’d been having throughout the pregnancy. I come in the house, and I see her leaning over with her hands on her knees, clearly in a lot of pain. Okay, this is not Braxton Hicks, this is a contraction. I was like, okay, I guess we are going to have a baby soon, maybe tomorrow. In our first pregnancy, it took 10-12 hours until the baby came after her water broke. I wasn’t worried; I thought maybe we still had time to catch the show!

Angie called her doula, who told her to wait at home until the contractions reach a minute in length. Not even 10 minutes went by after she hung up the phone, and I looked over at her and she was having a contraction…and it was one minute in length!

Time for the two-minute drill. Right now! Thankfully she already had her stuff together. I needed to pack a bag. What are we going to do with Judah? While we’re trying to get that squared away, the contractions are getting worse. Forget everything else, we need to leave the house. Judah is coming with us.

At this point, it’s 6p.m. and the snow is coming down crazy. I’m driving, worrying about traffic because I’m thinking people are going out for Valentine’s Day. The snow made it worse. It was dark, I couldn’t see the road in front of me. I was leaning to the side, trying to find an open space on my windshield.

Mind you, the birthing center is closer toward Annapolis, which is about a 45-minute drive without traffic. No telling how long it’s going to take now. I can’t speed because the road is slippery. We’re driving by wrecks on the road. There was a salt truck in front of us. While everybody else was slowing down, I’m the guy going around him.

About halfway there, these contractions are getting really bad. Angie’s squeezing my hand and yelling. My son’s in the back yelling and crying because she’s yelling and crying. The nursery rhyme CD he likes is blasting. At this point, she’s throwing up. It’s crazy right now in the car. I was trying to be the calm one in the vehicle. Internally, I’m freaking out.

Just get us there safely and fast. The contractions are like four minutes apart. When we were getting close, she looks at me and screams, “He’s ready to come out!” Even though we are still about 30 minutes away, I keep telling her that we are almost there, to keep breathing, hold on. At one point, I’m thinking, man, we might have to stop this car and I might have to deliver this baby.

Thank God, when we got toward the backstreets close to the birthing center, it was almost all green lights. I was just trying to be supportive. As soon as we got there, they were waiting for us outside. They took her in, and one of the doulas took Judah. I still had to play my part and be there for her. I’m in there sweating, knees buckling. I was trying to be the support system.

Before we knew it, Zion Jay was here.

When the baby came, after all the hard work, everything we had been through to get her there…to see him come out, it’s always emotional, fighting back the tears. Judah was able to hold Zion a little bit. It was a blessing, an exciting time.

When you have one child, you feel like you could never have the same love for another. But you do. Even though it was our second time, man, it was still emotional, it was still heartwarming to see him come out, to hold him…it was special.

Angie was a trooper. She did this, for the second time, with no drugs. Since we were at a birthing center, we probably could have come home that night. But because the storm was so bad (the winds were really blowing), they recommended we stay over at the birthing center. Angie was okay, Zion was ok, and we were able to come home on Sunday.

The first night at home was a little tough, but Zion is doing a good job with the sleeping. He is waking up to eat during the night, but then goes right back to sleep. And he’s sleeping a lot of the day, so it’s a lot easier than the first time around (Judah was NOT a great sleeper!). Of course, it’s still draining for Angie. My mother-in-law got into town yesterday, so hopefully we’ll get some more sleep.

Judah is doing good as a big brother. He’s getting a lot of daddy time. I took him to a little My Gym class, which is an activity center for toddlers. We go there and hang out. Of course Angie and I want to make sure he still feels loved, so quality time is important.

For me, I’m taking on more of a role during the off-season. It’s a special time to be a father, spend time with the family. There’s nothing like it. Being a father is one of the greatest gifts that you can have. Seeing both of my sons now, carrying my features, it makes me want to go out and make sure I’m providing for them the right way, make sure I’m protecting them and leading them the way I’m supposed to. That way we can leave a lasting legacy way beyond my lifetime.

Oh and another bonus: Lauryn Hill tweeted at me saying congratulations on baby Zion. We knew that were going to name our son Zion. She has a son named Zion and a song “To Zion.” And our baby was born on the night that we were supposed to see her perform. It was just crazy how it all happened!

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Written by: Mike Utley

Accountability Above All

February 09, 2015

My name is Mike Utley. I am a former Detroit Lion. I was drafted in the third round of the 1989 NFL Draft. I started for three NFL seasons. On November 17, 1991, I was pass-blocking, hit the turf and broke my neck. I am a C5-C7 quadriplegic.

And I still love this game.

People ask me if I accept this injury. No, I have never accepted anything negative in my entire life. I deal with it on a daily basis. And that’s what you do. As an athlete, you deal with mid-stream adjustments. When you are married, you do mid-stream adjustments. It’s what you do. Football is a violent sport, and I will be personally responsible for my actions, on and off the field.

I was out at the Super Bowl talking about accountability; something that these young players need to address when they choose to play this beautiful game. Be accountable. I want the kids in peewee sports, the kids in high school, and the kids in college, to all be accountable. Address the situation you are faced with and then move on from it.

You need to set your own core principles. You need to understand that you cannot break those core principles. You can bend some principles, but you cannot break them. And that’s what I stand for.

The NFL has been good to me. Mr. Ford, the Ford Family, the Detroit Lions, Mr. Tagliabue (at the time) – they’ve been great. Now, Mr. Goodell, he’s stepped up and opened up his arms to me.

But the number one message for me is that I love this game. I love the competition. These men are the best athletes in the world. And I feel blessed to still be a part of what this group has created…from the past old-timers to the Gridiron Greats to these kids now.

This game…I enjoyed it then, I enjoy it now. And I will always be accountable to myself, no matter what I do. 

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Written by: Jarrod Bunch

A Productive Super Bowl Experience

February 05, 2015

I was out at Super Bowl last week, and it was fun to see so many guys after all these years. It’s very nice to get back in touch with guys that you played with. We talked about life, what we’re up to, what we’re trying to do, our families. It’s funny talking to former teammates and opponents about their kids in college… wow, are we old or what!

I was at the Franco Harris Immaculate Reception Dinner and I ran into Mel Blount. Mel played for the Steelers in the 70s, and I have to tell you, the guy still looks like he can play! He still looks good!

It’s really cool when you see people that you haven’t seen or talked to in years, and then you find out they have similar things going on. You come back to meet and see people, and then something else always pops up that shows you just how much you’re connected.

I’ve been in entertainment since 1995 when I retired with the Raiders in Los Angeles. I became an actor, and now I’m actually doing more producing projects. A lot of players have seen me on TV shows and in movies, but I wanted to let them know that I’m also producing now…and producing something that affects the community of professional sports.

One of the first projects that were doing is about former professional athletes. We are taking them back to their hometowns – where they got their scholarship, where they grew up playing – and helping them connect with the people there now. It will be a documentary-type show, but it’s also more of an uplifting, home improvement-style project.

As the project has grown, it’s become more of a professional athlete thing, not just football. We have been developing the project, and before we even shot one, we had so much interest from the networks. We have not signed a network deal yet, but it’s more a question of where we will end up as opposed to if it will air.

Bill Goldberg from WWE, who played in the NFL, loved it so much that he is going to be the host of the show. The response from the players has been outstanding. And I’m glad I was able to go out to Super Bowl to talk to players about the project and let other people know that it exists. I’m really excited about it, so stay tuned!

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Written by: Nick Lowery

The Power Of A Pro

February 05, 2015

I was at the Super Bowl last week, and it’s funny because people kept calling me a “former player.” Truth is, we are never “former” because it’s in our DNA. And people always ask if I still miss it. Of course I do. There’s nothing equivalent that replaces it.

After I left the game, I reflected and learned during the great transition that I went from being a very good college player to arguably the best and most decorated kicker in the history of the game when I played because of my focus. Amidst all the rejection (11 rejections by 8 teams), I made it my 12th time (with the Chiefs) from learning how to focus. Learning how to be mentally and physically tougher.

As a kicker, every single lesson at every other position (including quarterback) is just not the same as the intensity you have to have as a placekicker. You have to block out 11 huge people 20 feet away who want to kill you and are paid millions of dollars to do so. You have to block out all the distractions, and the only thing you can control is yourself.

The only true thing we can rely on is ourselves, our ability to grow and our ability to learn and focus on what matters. And then if we’re lucky, when it’s time to make the transition out of football, we find something with a real level of passion. It won’t be equivalent to what we had on the field (because there’s nothing like it), but it taps into other parts of us.

I think we are in a new era (which the New York Times talked about a few weeks ago) called athletic activism. Because of social media, we’ve seen a growth in the capacity of the individual athlete to be a one-man station standing for important causes. In end, I think that’s what the Commissioner wants, what DeMaurice Smith wants, which is to look at yourself as a 365-degree person who, in the end, has a long life ahead of him even if you make it in the NFL.

The average career is 3.6 years, so by the age of 26 or 27, you are done. I played 18 seasons, but even at 40 years of age, you have a lot of your life ahead of you. Are you going to live your life based on what you did or are you going to live it based on what you learned? You learned how to focus, you learned how to inspire others, you learned how to deal with pressure, and you learned how to be a team player. And most importantly, hopefully you learned how to adapt.

Your real power is in inspiring others, connecting to others, your ability to become more empathetic with other people. An athlete has name recognition, discipline and some skill sets. The key thing is, after reclaiming your ability to focus, find your passion.

I’m trying to help athletes realize how lucky they’ve got it now and how important it is to plant seeds and appreciate what they have so they don’t blow it – for their team, for themselves, for their capacity to be role models when their careers are over. The resources for professional and Olympic athletes are enormous. We can help change the world.

So what I do now – something that I had been searching for and found – are the passions I have today. I went back to Harvard and studied at the Kennedy School of Government; leadership, youth development, non-profit management. I’ve been doing that to help launch AmeriCorps for President Clinton, help get that bill passed. What is it about? AmeriCorps is giving young people references for making a difference, for being leaders, and for making contributions to the quality of life in the small circle around them or in a bigger way. I’m pretty passionate about that.

I love working with kids of all ages and adults in the area of bullying, to teach that we all matter. It makes me emotional just thinking about it, but I was recently at the Gila River Indian Reservation at Blackwater Elementary School outside of Phoenix. I spoke to their community of parents and grandparents, and tried to say something they could all connect with about bullying and how it relates to Native culture.

I’ve always done work in the community, and I feel really blessed because I’m doing what I really love, whether it’s running bullying or leadership programs. And it’s important for today’s pros to recognize that amidst the plenty that they have, there is a great opportunity to do something really impactful while still preserving your own financial security. 

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Written by: Jelani Jenkins

A Signing Day & Recruiting Flashback

February 04, 2015

Signing Day brings back a lot of memories for me. February 4, 2009 was a really great day. We were in the high school gym. The whole student body was there. There was a table and a bunch of cameras in front of me. And my family was standing behind me, all with the same hat on. My Mom was crying. Everybody was so excited. It was an amazing atmosphere, and I remember being kind of nervous and excited at the same time.

There were five of us with Division 1 offers that year, but my selection was the only one captured on television, on ESPN. It might have been the first time I had that many cameras on me like that. Definitely nerve-wracking. All of those cameras in front of you on that day…it’s lot of exposure at a young age.

It was six years ago, but it does feel like a long time ago. A lot has happened since then. As I put back the pieces, the memories, the vision I have from the whole event is from a big, huge picture that one of the teachers at the school gave me afterward. That picture really captured the moment. I had it up on my wall in college, and I always used to look at it. Actually, the picture is hanging on the wall in my old bedroom now. It didn’t make it to Miami. It moved back home when I left college.

The recruitment process is not so easy for a lot of guys. Thankfully, my family was really hands-on and proactive, which made the decision a little bit easier. I had 50-something offers. We went to a lot of different visits. A lot of unofficial visits and only two official visits.

We were able to weed out a lot of the clutter by making a little matrix. We researched all of these schools and ranked them in terms of the categories we deemed most important. There were like 15 categories. Two of the biggies were graduation rate and players going to the NFL. Being able to rank what meant most to me and see the schools that exceled in those categories really opened our eyes. And then the visit is actually what brings it all to life.

It really felt like family when I visited Florida. Besides being in the top 5 in all of the categories I needed it to be, the school had an exciting atmosphere. They were about to play for the National Championship when I went on my visit, so the excitement around the campus was really apparent. Everybody was real friendly and took me under their wing fast. The weather was great. I just remember feeling at peace.

My choice to go to Florida definitely was a choice. I knew there were people in front of me. I knew they were a Championship team, and I wasn’t going to go in and just step on the field and start automatically. Nah, I chose them because of the competition and the competition of the SEC. And I knew I was going to be coached by the best. I knew that I was going to have to find my spot. And everything I wanted to get, I had to earn.

When I got there, it was down to business. Whenever you go to championship-type colleges, recruiting and your high school accolades don’t matter anymore. Your high school highlight tape doesn’t mean anything. And that’s the first time you realize how many great, great, great players there are around the world. There are about 10 other five-star recruits sitting right next to you. You’re not all big and bad on campus anymore. You have to prove yourself.

Everything is all glitter and gold when you get recruited (that’s for everybody), but you have to understand that once you get there, you still have a job to do. When I got to college, it became a grind. It was a lot of hard work. A lot more work than you do in high school. Playing in the heat and all that. But I adjusted..

For a lot of guys, it’s a surprise, but I kind of went there with the mentality that I had to compete. And I knew that being in the same locker room with someone like Brandon Spikes, who would help me grow in my first year, was going to be a great opportunity. I wouldn’t take back the decision to go to Florida for anything.

But the recruiting process definitely presented me with a lot of pressure. I am the kind of guy who struggles to say no. There were a lot of people that were reaching out to me and giving us spiels about the “right” place for me to go. I was a little high school kid – it seems so long ago – but I remember not wanting to hurt anybody’s feelings. Not just coaches, but fans, people who had gotten close to the recruiting process, like players at other schools. My best friend, Michael Wallace, who was sitting next to me on Signing Day, ended up signing with Penn State. And Penn State was my second choice. At the end of the day, it was between Penn State and Florida. I had to make that decision to go to Florida when he really wanted me to go to Penn State. And Florida was farther away from home (Maryland), so a lot of family wanted me to be closer. There were a lot of different stressors. It was a lot.

I tried not to get too focused or stressed out about the rankings, but I do remember being aware of where I was on those lists. My father was really hands-on with dealing with the guys that were calling from the media outlets in terms of the online rankings. My mom was taking a lot of calls, and every number we gave was to her. She managed a lot of the situation. I was able to continue to do well in school and balance everything. I think the recruiting process for me was handled the best it possibly could have been thanks to those around me.

Looking back, there’s one thing I did on Signing Day that I’m glad I did. Before I picked up the hat and chose Florida, I thanked all of the coaches around the NCAA that were recruiting me, especially the top 5 that I had on my board. I had a two-minute spiel pretty much thanking the schools for opening up their arms. It was on TV, so they heard it.

And that’s one piece of advice I would offer the guys going through this now: don’t burn bridges. I was just talking to my Dad the other day about how most of the coaches that were recruiting me are not where they were when I was in high school. Harbaugh from Stanford is now with Michigan. Urban Meyer has moved on. Charlie Weis from Notre Dame…all these guys are not where they were. Many of them are coaching in the NFL now.

So my biggest advice on Signing Day today is not to burn bridges in the recruiting process…and a lot of guys kind of do. When I see guys doing fancy stuff with the hats, like throwing the hat over to the side or over your shoulder, that is disrespectful. I didn’t even have hats on the table. I didn’t want to pick one out of five. I just pulled out the hat that I wanted.

We did a lot to not burn bridges and make sure that we showed appreciation for everybody that helped and taught me a lot throughout the recruiting process. And now in the NFL, you see a lot of the coaches that were recruiting you in college. And they remember the respect you gave to that school. They remember the kind of person you are. It goes a long way.

There have been a lot of exciting times throughout my football career so far, and Signing Day was definitely a highlight. I wish the best of luck and congratulations to the guys experiencing it today!

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Written by: Billy Cundiff

Spreading An Important Message

February 01, 2015

Living here in the Valley, it’s always interesting when the Super Bowl comes in. I can remember the last time it was here, and this year, it feels like it’s grown exponentially. So I wanted to see what was going on and get a good chance to visit with some people from my journey across the league.

I am also here because I wanted the chance to tell people about our Foundation, Colleen’s Dream Foundation, and talk about the things we are accomplishing, as well as spread awareness about ovarian cancer.

We wanted to start an organization that would be bigger than my playing career. We wanted to be an actual player in the ovarian cancer space and make a difference. We’ve gotten off to an amazing start, which I say very humbly. When we first started the organization in December of 2012, we had lofty goals and things that we wanted to get done. Since then, we’ve given out $250,000 in research grants. And we actually just gave out our biggest grant to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for $75,000.

It’s been a true blessing that we’ve been able to carry out the legacy of my mother-in-law. We lost her to this awful disease. We have our big event (a golf tournament and gala) around the third week of February, as close as possible to the anniversary of her passing. It’s our chance to talk about her as much as we possibly can and help people understand what this disease is, understand the signs and symptoms, and hopefully support our efforts to fund research that will get an early detection test and one day a screening tool we can use.

This week I’ve been able to connect with some guys I played with in other places. It’s crazy how many familiar faces you see when you walk through here. But the big thing was talking to media outlets and letting them know what we’re doing. We wanted to establish connections here in Arizona, and it’s interesting because as I’m talking to these people, they are asking things like, do you need more golfers? No, we are actually sold out. Do you need more people to attend your event? No, we are sold out there too. I just want to tell them what we’re doing and hopefully get these people to be a part of our growth because we’ve accomplished a lot in two years and are really starting to turn some heads.

We want to take advantage of the NFL and the situation we have here to let people know what we’re doing while I’m still playing so that when I make the transition out of the game, we’ve already established all these connections and people feel like they’ve been a part of this as we’ve matured.

And we already have so many current and former players involved. Neil Rackers, who’s a friend of mine and was an Arizona Cardinals kicker, loves to be involved with this because he loves to come back and give back the Arizona community. Nick Novak, who I competed with to get the job at the Chiefs (he ended up winning that job, by the way) lost a good friend to ovarian cancer, and now he’s involved. Spencer Lanning, a guy who I’ve become real good friends with and played with the last two years, lost his Grandmother to ovarian cancer. So he got involved in our efforts in Cleveland. This year, we have Mike Nugent coming out to the event. Robbie Gould, Johnny Hecker and Jon Weeks are coming too. These are guys that I’ve either competed against, trained with, played with, you name it.

So many guys are showing their support. And we are only getting started. We are in it to make a real impact.

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