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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Written by: Chester Pitts

Lights, Camera, Action

January 31, 2015

This year I am at Super Bowl doing a little reporting and corresponding for Channel 2 in Houston, the NBC affiliate. I’m covering some of the fun, lifestyle stuff, and then I’ll cover the game for them as well.

If you’ve never been to Radio Row it’s really hard to describe. The layout, the production, there are so many radio stations here. For me, I love seeing the production of a production. I am taking it in and paying attention to the way things are set up.

Since I’ve retired and been doing some media work, I’ve found the production side very interesting. So when I get the opportunity to learn something new, I have to take advantage of it. I live in Houston, so it’s not like being in L.A. or New York. It’s a Top 10 market, but it’s not the same as the big boys, so it’s harder to learn some of this. I’m paying a lot of attention to the behind the scenes and hope to some day make a business out of the production side of things. We’ll see.

My last NFL season was 2011. And then in 2012 I did an internship with a wealth management and medical services company. I learned that business and had a blast. But it was only part-time, and I wanted to find something else to do. And then some of the media partners out in Houston asked me to come on and do some of their shows. One station said they wanted me all to themselves, and that’s how that got going. I’ve been doing that for two years now. I’m on Sports Sunday, which is a 30-minute Sunday night show. It’s awesome.

Even though I’ve been at this for a couple years, I’m still learning a new craft. The studying is different. I’m learning how to follow the cameras, how to spot my one shot, working the two shot, being engaging, how much I can move my hands because TV flattens you out…all those good things. I’m picking up and learning little things like that. I hold myself to a very high standard. If you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right. So, for me, going through the process of getting is right, is really fun and interesting.

I only played in Seattle one season, which isn’t like playing the 8 or 9 years that I did in Houston, but I had a great time playing there. There were a ton of really, really good people at that organization. When Pete (Carroll) came in and built that team up, it made it pretty doggone awesome. Seeing the way that defense has developed, the way they’re playing, what Russell Wilson has pulled off…are you kidding me? It’s been a pretty cool ride just to watch from afar.

And even though I’m a reporter, there’s nothing wrong with showing your bias, as long as you disclose it. Think about Michael Strahan. He’s an unabashed Giants fan. He calls it fairly, he sees what he sees, but at the end of the day, he still wants them to win!

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Written by: Kelvin Beachum

While I’m In The Neighborhood…

January 31, 2015

I’ve been in the area doing some training, and I wanted to come to Super Bowl this week to utilize the resources and get around the festivities, which I’ve never done before.

If I’m not in Pittsburgh, I’m usually in the Dallas area with my family, where my wife and I are from. But now, I am training with LaCharles Bentley at O-Line Performance outside of Phoenix. I came out here last offseason, and have been out here quite a bit.

I’m working hard and getting back at it. After having a good season, I want to build on the momentum and try to take it forward to the next season. I took a little time off, but I’m getting back into the swing of things. Even if it’s not crazy heavy lifting, I’m getting back into the flow of working out, getting back to those good eating and sleeping habits, so that I make sure that I have another successful season. The best way to stay in shape is to never get out of shape!

I’m enjoying it here and having fun with the Super Bowl experience. There’s a lot of stuff going on. It’s pretty cool seeing so many players here. I just saw Ryan Mundy, who I haven’t seen since he left Pittsburgh.. I saw Le’Veon Bell earlier. I’ve seen a bunch of guys I’ve played against, guys like Jimmy Graham.

There are so many great players from the National Football League here. I was with Terry Bradshaw at his roast a couple days ago, and I saw Joe Montana too. It’s special to know that a lot of people that have benefited from the NFL still find a way to come back and speak to the media, speak to current players about how to do things the right way, and stay connected to the game. 

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Written by: Donte' Stallworth

My Second Chapter

January 31, 2015

I always like to come back to the Super Bowl, especially to Radio Row. I played for a number of teams, so to be able to come back and do interviews with some of the same media outlets that I dealt with when I was a player, it’s always fun.

And now they are allowing fans in to see Radio Row for themselves. The kids are excited to see some of their favorite players, and for me, seeing the kids’ faces light up and smile, that’s one of the best parts.

While being here does make me miss the game more, it also brings back great memories. Obviously a lot of the current and former players come back, so I get to see a lot of friends, a lot of ex-teammates. This is the biggest show around, so it’s fun to come back and be able to be in this mix.

I’m currently working as a national security fellow for the Huffington Post, and thankfully, they still allow me to have my football life, so to speak, so I was able to sneak away for a few days. This season I was also doing analyst work for Comcast SportsNet New England, and they allowed me to do that. I missed some Mondays because of it and have had some speaking engagements, but they’ve allowed it. They’ve been nothing but awesome to me.

I’m living in Washington, DC and working from the Huffington Post office every day from 10am to 6pm. I’ve covered briefings at the Pentagon, I’m at the Capitol regularly, I’ve been able to go to the White House. I actually went to the White House once before my freshman year when we won the National Championship, but I hadn’t been in any other capacity. I was even at the State of the Union.

For me, I’ve always loved American politics and history, so to be able to go and do these things, it’s almost surreal. Sometimes I forget that I’m working, and walk around thinking, man, this it’s just amazing. Being able to see all the history on the walls of the Pentagon...again, surreal.

The office told me if I could find a story while I’m at Super Bowl, then to go for it. But if not, it’s fine. I’m trying to figure out how I can pull some kind of a political story out of this, and I’ve been back and forth with people at work trying to figure something out. Either way, I know that when I get back to DC, I’ll have plenty of work to catch up on! There’s never a day where I don’t have something to do, which I love!

I’m passionate about the work I’m doing, so it’s always fun. And that’s one of the things that I tell players who are in the league now or transitioning out of the league. I tell them that you have to find something you are passionate about that will keep you busy. It won’t necessarily take the place of playing in the NFL – nothing can do that – but it will keep you challenged. And that’s one of the things guys miss most when they are done playing. You miss the competitiveness and you miss the camaraderie in the locker room.

I’m so grateful to have found my next passion at this point in life. Even as a kid, I used to love to write. Back then I was writing movie scripts ☺. Now I’m able to combine my love for American politics, foreign policy and national security with my love for writing…all the while still doing my football work.

I’m in heaven. It’s a dream come true for me.

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Written by: Qadry Ismail

The Magic of Super Bowl

January 31, 2015

The Super Bowl experience is kind of unique because as a little boy you dream about playing in this game. For me, to not only make it in the NFL, but to be successful in the league AND have an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl…it’s an incredible thing.

It’s been 14 years since I played in the Super Bowl, and every year I remember it like it was yesterday. It never gets old. Any time I see a team win a Championship – whether it’s the Miami Heat or the Chicago Blackhawks or a collegiate team – I feel like I know exactly what they’re going through. You just know that feeling, and it’s amaaaazing! Everything you see as a little boy...it is that and then some, as far as the excitement and the joy of winning.

Now, I get an opportunity to be a broadcaster, and am going on my fifth season broadcasting games with the Ravens radio network. The Ravens won it again in 2012, so now I have a broadcast ring and a player’s ring. As a player I experienced it, then as a broadcaster I experienced it…that’s goosebumps-type stuff!

I did a little book reading at a local elementary school. There were kids who weren’t even born when I played in the Super Bowl saying, “I know you! My Dad knows you!” They remember hearing my voice on the highlights describing what Joe Flacco did against the 49ers. Not only am I a part of it as a player, but I’m also a part of the broadcast. And now the next generation is going to be looking at the highlight tape and hearing my voice. It’s phenomenal. I love it!

I think being here at Super Bowl is a good experience for the current Ravens players. They came up short in the divisional round, but being here makes you hungry. It’s one thing to be here, do the media rounds and go to the events, but it’s another thing when you’re the show. And I think that it helps them stay hungry to continue to work on their craft. I hope they are taking it all in, and I hope they are ready to take it to the next level.

Looking ahead to next year, the Ravens are a young team, there’s going to be some critical free agents that are going to be in play, and we’ll see how that all unfolds. But the Ravens are one of those organizations that will always be in the conversation, year in and year out, sustaining winning. That’s an awesome thing. I’m looking forward to great things next year.

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Written by: Justin Forsett

The Latest & Greatest From Arizona!

January 30, 2015

I’ve been to the Super Bowl five or six times, but this year is different. I’m usually getting to the Super Bowl Media Center on like Monday doing interviews, and it’s just some of the media people and me :). But now I’m here on Friday – it’s primetime; all the cool people are here!

It’s been a great year full of great accomplishments. I got to see some of my goals come to fruition. I’ve been blessed and I am just excited and taking it all in. Being here makes me so hungry to want to play in the Super Bowl. We were so close, playing against the Patriots, one game away. I’m definitely hungry to get to the Super Bowl next year.

I always participate in Super Bowl Gospel, which is a gospel celebration.. I usually take part in the choir of NFL players, but this year I presented a couple of awards. I also hosted a party with Lecrae and Sam Acho from the Cardinals. It’s a little fancy this year!

Pro Bowl was AMAZING! Dream come true! To be out there with the best, playing around, getting to know them, families connecting with other players’ families…it was an experience I’ll never forget. It was fun, but it did get heated at the end of the game, you see guys really going after it. Von Miller and J.J. Watt really stepped their games up. It was definitely a lot of fun.

Man, I am going into my 8th year, and I want to finish on top and have my best years come during these last couple seasons. I want to be better next year than I was this year and just continue to stack them up!

Oh, and don’t worry. The Band-Aid is not gone! The #BandAidGang is still alive, and it will be back next season!

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Written by: Dante Wesley

A Look Back, My New Book & More

January 30, 2015

Some of these players don’t realize the opportunity they are getting right now because they are young. But the older you get, you realize what a privilege it is to play in the Super Bowl.

I look at my two NFC Championship rings and think that even though we lost, I still feel excited because I was one of the few that had a chance to play in two Super Bowls. Playing in that game…it feels like a high that you’re never coming down from. It’s amazing and something that words can’t describe. It’s a feeling that comes over you, and you realize later how privileged you were to have experienced it.

When you are playing, you don’t see all of what goes on during Super Bowl week. I remember that all I was thinking about was the game. But now that I can actually see what goes on behind the scenes…there’s a whole lot going on!

Some people have asked me if being here makes me miss playing the game. The answer is yes and no.. I don’t miss the grueling practices, the film study, or the hours that go into it all. But I do miss the camaraderie of the guys. So I really love being here and the opportunity to see all these guys again.

I’m also here to talk about my book. It’s called FACTS Uncensored, and it’s a book about what life is like inside a professional sports marriage. A lot of people do not understand what goes on inside that particular kind of marriage, and this gives some insight into that. My wife and I open up and talk about it. It’s not all like what you see on TV; there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

I hope people take a positive message away from the book. It teaches a lot about patience and having an understanding of professional athletes. I think all women can relate in some aspects, but it has more of an emphasis on sports wives.

Today, being back here at the Super Bowl, I’m a totally different man. And that’s something you can read about in the book as well. I have changed my lifestyle tremendously. My wife and I have great communication and spend a lot of time together every day.

When I was playing, I kind of pushed her to the side. It was more about my time with the boys. But being out of the game and being together now, I think I’ve figured out a lot of things to help me succeed in my marriage. And we talk all about it in FACTS Uncensored…hope you check it out!

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Written by: Benjamin Watson

Humbled

January 30, 2015

It’s kind of bittersweet coming back to Arizona because the last time I was here for the Super Bowl we (the Patriots) were 18-0…and then lost in the Super Bowl. So this place brings back those memories.

It’s not only fun to be here for the teams involved, but it’s also fun for all the guys who come out because you see so many former teammates and opponents; it’s a reunion of sorts and a good time for the league to come together and celebrate the season. Surprisingly, when you’re not playing in the Super Bowl, it’s a lot more hectic because there are a lot of appearances and events. And then there’s Radio Row, which keeps you busy.

It’s amazing, but the media is still asking me about the Facebook post I wrote about Ferguson a couple months ago (you can also read it on my blog here: http://benjaminwatson.sportsblog.com/posts/1319724/my_thoughts_on_ferguson.html). I had no idea that it was going to have that type of impact. And I’m really humbled and flattered that it did. I really think God used it at that time to do what he wanted to do, and I was honestly lucky to be a part of it.

Since then, I’ve had a number of requests to speak, and it’s been really warming to my heart to hear the response and comments that I’ve heard from people. I went to the Super Bowl Breakfast yesterday, where Peyton Manning got The Bart Starr Award, and I was asked to speak a little bit. Part of what I talked about was the Ferguson post and my feelings of being encouraged. It was an awesome experience!

To me, the amazing thing about the post is that it had nothing to do with football. I think that’s the real cool thing. It was an American citizen watching something that was happening in America who decided to engage. I really feel like that’s what we need more of – to engage and express our feelings about these divisive issues like race. We need to be able to accept other people’s opinions without getting offended. That’s when we grow.

I didn’t even know how to post to Facebook at that time. I had to send to someone else to post it for me. I was just writing my feelings one by one by one because it’s such a layered and complicated issue when you talk about race. There are a lot of deep-seated feelings.

I’m just really flattered by the way everything has gone since I wrote the post, and so many of the things that have happened because of it have been very exciting!

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Written by: Will Allen

I Want To Win A Super Bowl As A Steeler

January 30, 2015

I am here at the Super Bowl for the overall experience. From Radio Row to networking to checking out some of the different events, you never know who you can meet or what you are going to be introduced to. That’s what I love about Super Bowl week. It’s about marketing and branding and getting your face out there.

I’ve been to a lot of Super Bowls in my career, probably only missed three in 11 years. But it can be hard to be here when you are not playing.. It’s hard to know you had the opportunity. But I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to play in it with the Steelers. A lot of guys can’t say that they’ve made it that far.

But I would like to be able to say that I’ve won a Super Bowl. I want one before I bow out. That’s one of the reasons I keep playing...I want to win a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I want to give Mr. Rooney another Super Bowl. I want to get him to 7 and be the only franchise that has 7 Super Bowls.

Being in this atmosphere really reminds me of how much I want to be back playing in the main event. What really reminds me is watching Media Day for the players, seeing the different personalities and watching them enjoy the experience.. You can’t ever get that back. The week of Super Bowl – being with your family, being with your teammates – these are memories you hold on to forever. Even though we lost, we have amazing memories to look back on in 2010. But it would have been so much sweeter had we beaten Green Bay.

Like I said, being at Super Bowl is about marketing who you are. I definitely like to speak about the Will Allen Foundation because I’m proud of the work we do. It’s very grassroots, and I’m very thankful that I have the platform to give back.

Our main program is “Quest for Real Life Success,” an afterschool program that helps kids be proactive about their future and about life after high school. We give them tools and resources to help better themselves and their community.

I’m trying to talk to as many people as I can about the Foundation because you never know who you are going to meet who can provide you with advice or information about how you can become better at what you do.

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Written by: Kamerion Wimbley

Super Bowl Highlights So Far

January 30, 2015

I always enjoy all of the festivities around the game. I’ve been to every Super Bowl since I’ve been in the NFL, and I really love the atmosphere of it all. I haven’t necessarily been to every game, but I travel to whatever city it’s in and typically go to some parties. Obviously, I would love to play in the game, but that’s not happening this year.

I come here to mingle with other NFL players as well, and it’s been fun. I just took a picture with Barry Sanders and saw Michael Irvin walk through here. Those guys are legends in my eyes and people that I looked up to coming up. They are part of the reason why I play the game. I know they are here to enjoy themselves as well, so I try not to bother them. They’ve been talking football a lot, so they probably just want to let their hair down and enjoy the festivities as well. Oh, and side note: I even met Miss America!

You see a lot of guys that you’ve played with when you’re here. It’s great to catch up with them. But nowadays we keep up with each other through social media and group text messaging if we’re not in the same city, and I still stay in touch with a lot of guys I’ve played with throughout the years.

I also go to Radio Row every year. This year, a lot of the media has been asking me about FSU since I’m a Florida State alum, and they’ve been in the news a lot the past couple years. They’ve wanted to talk a lot about Jameis Winston. I know the Draft is coming up, and he’s a guy that may be taken as the first or second pick. Either way, I think he’s had a phenomenal college career, and I’ve enjoyed watching him. 

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