Written by: NFLPE

Open For Business!

September 18, 2014


Throughout the years, I’ve thought a lot about what I’m going to do when football is over. I’ve been playing since I was 8 years old, it’s what I’ve done my whole life, but I know that playing in the NFL is a small portion of my life. It won’t last forever.

As some of you may know, NFL veteran Reggie Hodges and I opened up Pro Sports Performance Ohio two months ago. It is a sports performance training facility in Ohio (where I’m from) where we help athletes – young athletes and adults – with everything from their speed to their agility to strength and overall body conditioning. We help them reach their fitness goals and fulfill their potential, as well as become more well rounded people that are also involved in the community. There are some core characteristics, but it’s more than just training; we want our clients to feel like family.

Reggie and I opened PSP Ohio on July 18th of this year. It took us five or six months to find the right place, decide what we wanted in it, etc. and we are really happy with how it turned out. It all happened faster than even we anticipated, but we wanted to have it all ready before I left for training camp. We had high expectations of what it would look like, but the finished product has exceeded anything we ever thought!

Opening up a facility like this was something that both of us were looking to do. We played together at the Jets and the Browns and kept in touch ever since. We both grew up in sports, played in the NFL and wanted to have something that would allow us to stay involved with sports when our NFL careers were over. So why not create a sports training facility where we could share the knowledge that we’ve learned throughout our NFL careers? It’s been going great so far, and we are growing at a great pace right now.

During the NFL season, Reggie (who retired in 2011 after an 8-year career as a punter), is back there running it. Right now, football is my first and foremost priority. That’s really what I’m focused on. But I am staying involved and helping to make sure things are running smoothly by doing things like looking over the books, making phone calls to our marketing guy, catching up with Reggie on a weekly basis. When the next offseason comes, I’ll be more hands-on and back in Ohio helping out at the facility. For now, I am doing as much as possible from here, but playing in the NFL is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and my focus during the NFL season is football.

We have a lot of goals for the business. After the first of the year, we are looking to expand into more of a health and wellness center with physical therapy, and also offer maybe massage and chiropractic services. The more we can offer our athletes, the better. At the end of the day, we want to grow as a business. We’d like to be one of the premier training facilities in Cleveland, and possibly franchise out or open a second and third location, in Ohio or elsewhere.

So to be able to open this facility in my eighth NFL season (which is probably closer to the end of my career than it is to the beginning), I think it will make my transition out of football – and into a new career – a little easier. Plus, it allows me to stay involved in sports and help people and help kids, which I love.

It’s very exciting! Oh, and if you want to check out PSP Ohio for yourself, visit http://www.pspohio.com/.

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Written by: Nick Kasa

Finding The Silver Lining

September 17, 2014

When I first got injured, my mindset went to a negative place. It was an end to my year. But since that first reaction, I realized that there was no point in sulking, and I have been able to look past it and see some of the positives.

First, if it had to happen, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. I have the full year to rehab this, to get my leg right, and I can focus on that without having to worry about playing each week. Of course I want to get better as quickly as possible, but I’m not rushing it. I have the time to get it right. I have to focus on getting it right. At this point, it’s more annoying than anything since I’m not that mobile. I can walk a little bit, but I can’t straighten my leg all the way yet. My recovery is going well. I started walking around on it, and pretty soon I’ll be able to get rid of the brace that’s keeping it straight and start walking around like a normal human being. I kind of look like a pirate with a wooden leg right now! But it’s a lengthy injury, and I’m trying to be patient since it is what it is.

I spend about three to four hours a day with our team’s physical therapists. We’re doing a series of exercises to build up muscle and get my knee to bend and straighten so that my leg can have full range of motion. Then I do some exercises at home, which are not as intensive, mostly just walking around and trying to bend my knee while I’m on the couch. I am also using this time to finish school. I had three classes left to graduate, and now I can work on completing those. So I’m taking those classes online. The coolest class I’m taking is definitely a sociology class that focuses on criminology. My first major (before I switched to communications) was sociology, so I always find that kind of thing interesting. I’m not sure when, but I would like to walk at graduation at some point.

So, I’m trying to preoccupy and distract myself with positive things and not worry about what I cannot control. I’m finding some positives in a very negative situation. And I’m trying to see this as an opportunity…an opportunity to focus on football without playing football each week, an opportunity to focus on getting better without preparing for the Denver Broncos or the San Diego Chargers next week.

Plus, the team has been really great about helping some of us injured guys get around. And they set a few of us up with a suite at the game last week since we can’t be down on sidelines. Since I’m on IR, there’s only so much I can do with the team, but I’m doing everything I can. 

 I’ll live and I’ll be back. This is not the end of my career. I just need to stay on track. My goal right now is to get in as good of physical and mental shape as I can so that come training camp next year, I can compete for that starting position again. My goal is to be that guy, and I’m going to work toward that every day. And if I do get that starting position, I will keep climbing from there. 

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Rhyme and Reason

September 14, 2014

If life were to be consumed by meeting new people, exciting adventures, and ensuing happiness, how would you say your doing so far? As human beings, uniquely we are constructed, one by one with a purpose behind and through every ligament, tendon, and fiber in our being. We smile differently, walk diversely, and even get out of bed in a way unique to only ourselves. As strange and rare each one of us are, we are all very similar in the sense of our curiousness towards life and what it holds in store. My name is Kerry Meier. I hail from the rural waters of Pittsburg, Kansas. Nestled in the southeast corner of the state, I was raised under a rock solid roof and guided by two of the most unbelievable parents. The youngest of four boys, I found my way through humble curiosity, elder experiences and just walking in the footsteps blazed by three awesome dudes. Meet Shad, Adam, and Dylan. My brothers and I share a bond unlike anything imaginable. As deep as Big Brutus (Google it) dug back in the day, this bond we have runs deeper and thicker than every dig that piece of metal ever completed.

We all were fortunate to play the game of football. Football is a breed of its own in that there is nothing that quite compares to the in’s and out’s of it. The physical demands that couple with the mental challenges make this crazy yet special concoction that only certain folks enjoy to drink. We brothers gulped it with pure enjoyment and it became our purpose for a good while. Shad, the oldest, was the one who got the fun started. He laid the foundation. Adam (Ace), next in line, brought the “pop” and hard hats, and then I was the one that took the last big drink, smiled, and put the glass down. In between Ace and I there was a shift in the approach to how we played the “game”. A natural, born world shaker came to work in Dylan. He brought an entire new meaning and approach to this game that took it to a new level that none of us ever envisioned. Dylan saw football as a microcosm of life. He had this aberrational approach to a lot of things and he welcomed the unknown because he felt, it allowed him to figured out who he was as a person. He was and is our catalyst. He was and is our cornerstone that we all kind of looked to even though he was third in line. Dylan passed away back in 2010 but left behind his mark that echoes deep in the mind, body, and souls of people all over the world. It’s never more present than in the bodies of my family. As shaken, stirred, and blended my world was, my life was about to take another turn before long.

A week after his passing, I explored the waters of the National Football League (NFL) draft. Each year, there are a fortunate group of, give or take a few, 256 guys that get selected to continue their dreams of playing football. The Atlanta Falcons made me one of those lucky guys that year in the fifth round. With a torn and beaten soul, I wrapped my heart and body around a commitment I made the night I was drafted and made my way south to Atlanta. As adventurous and wild Dylan’s 26-year ride was, he never quite lived the NFL dream. That night in Pittsburg as I looked to the nights sky, I made a commitment to him that’d I’d take him on that adventure. We’d live it, love it, and soak every ounce of it up as possible, enjoying the good and learning from the not so good. I was fortunate to partake in the fun for three damn good years. This may sound odd, but with a happily beat up body, a change in heart and passion towards the game, I decided to step away. The happily came from me knowing that I gave my entire being towards the game and that there was not a drop of football left in me. It was on the field. It was now time to embark upon the world, post football, and to find my next challenge.

My time in Atlanta brought a world of change. Through the good and bad, I tested the change and learned an entire lot from it. Under the big city lights, I met a girl who brought a change of lens that I view through now with the greatest and most precious clarity. She goes by the name Alexandria Martinez. She grew up about 40 minutes south of Nashville in the town of Columbia, TN. Upon completing her undergrad at Middle Tennessee State, she took a job at Emory University in Atlanta as an event coordinator. See there are people that come into our lives, say hello and pass by as fast as they came into it. And then there are others who come in, drop the anchor and leave an irrevocable impact for the better. The good man above places these people in our lives for a variety of reasons and I say thanks, twice for this one. She brings a subtly, interesting approach to life that works. She challenges me just as much as I challenge her and through it, we’ve learned to live and love as greatly as possible through the reason we are all here, in our God.

(Alexandria) I think the balance we bring each other couldn’t be more perfectly met. It just seems to work know matter the situation. I knew this would be true when we lugged bags around Barcelona for three hours one day while finding our new resting point. Kerry and I have found a great joy in discovering new things. If there is a locked door, you can bet we’ll try to open it. Give us an unknown path and we’ll gladly explore it. Every new thing we share brings deeper conversations about the meaning of life and where exactly we want our lives to go. I’ll greatly admit my soul has never been more awaken then when we are sharing new experiences whether it’s an up in coming restaurant in Atlanta, trying out churches, or sipping wine on the coast of Spain. That is where I truly experienced another culture for the first time and since I have craved the excitement! About a year ago, watching the sunset in Jamaica our conversation kept leading to moving to a new country, experiencing the culture, and learning a new language. It seemed like a thought so unrealistic I couldn’t get too excited about it. This March, Kerry was fortunate to shadow a mentor of his at Notre Dame. He was gone for about a month learning about student welfare and development in college athletics and that gave me plenty of time to plan mini trips throughout the year! When he got back to the south we headed to a wedding and as I was laying out ideas he came back with,” What about teaching in Seoul far a year?”

Ok, prior to Dylan’s passing, he was locked into a contract to teach English in South Korea for a year. And just like I wanted to enjoy the NFL adventure with him, I wanted to take the Korean adventure with him as well. Alexandria and I continued to discuss this idea of teaching abroad and our once casual and audacious thoughts became realistic desires we whole-heartedly wanted to pursue. Added to our desires, the fact that this was logistically and professionally possible made it even more compelling to embrace. With our list of needs checked, we decided to commit all of our being to a new chapter. After a couple months of extensive searching, document certifying, and more than a handful of interviews, we found a position in the town of Jeonju, South Korea. The journey was about to begin.

There are things we want to do in our lives and then there are things we just need to do. This is one of those for me and I am just thankful to find someone that was curious and spontaneous enough to take the ride with me. The joy of fulfilling a brothers yearning is a big enough reason alone but I embark upon this adventure for a multitude of my own motives. To live and grow in foreignness, un-ended learning, and to have a blast blazing a trail behind that leaves this culture changed for the better. This world we live in that’s so wholesome and plentiful in it’s entirety, we humble ourselves with foreign horizons. Dylan once told me, “the world is just as much yours as it is mine. Go. Seek. And find what makes your heart come alive.” So meeting new people, exciting adventures, ensuing happiness, I welcome it all. Let’s set sail shall we...

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Written by: Tony Covington

My Captain, My Captain...UVA Coach Mike London is a WINNER

July 18, 2014


Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Coach Mike London is embarking upon his fifth season as the University of Virginia's head football coach.  He has compiled an 18-31 record in four years and has had only one winning season during his tenure.  But then that really depends on your definition of winning. 18-31 is definitely not indicative of a winner on the field and ultimately he will be judged, by the powers that be, on his wins and losses. However, if you could take a look behind the curtain at the coach himself, you would find a man of honor, integrity and character.  You would find a father, a man of God and a passionate leader of men. That's six wins right there. On top of that, he is a man that is dedicated to service, to the uplifting of his community, and he lifts others as he climbs with a loyalty that is unmatched.  He is a giver of second chances because he understands that no man is perfect and that all make mistakes.  He is honest and he is trustworthy.  That's twelve wins and I could keep going.  

Coach has a great football mind and kids love playing for him.  They love playing for him because they know that he genuinely cares about them. Not just as football players but as family.  Coach London goes into a recruits home and tells that young man and his family that he will treat that young man like his own son...and he actually means it.  How else do you think that his recruiting classes have consistently ranked in the top 30 nationally despite a UVA winning percentage of only fifty-eight percent? He inherited a program that was not headed in the right direction athletically or academically.  He had to clean house of those that did not value the blessing of being a student-athlete at the University of Virginia, hence having only six seniors on a 2013 team who's schedule was ranked as one of the toughest in the nation. The 2014 schedule does not get any better with three out of the first four opponents having a combined record of 30-9 in 2013. Now be clear, I am all for playing top notch competition but I sure would like that level of competition to be on the back end of the schedule giving the team a chance to build confidence and momentum on the front end.  All schools not named UVA play that kind of schedule.  People like to talk about the turnaround at Duke, and with all due respect to the job that David Cutcliffe has done there, but their scheduling has helped them tremendously. Dukes first two games in 2013 were against North Carolina Central and Memphis and UVA opened with Oregon and BYU.  In 2014 the Blue Devils first four games are against Elon, Troy, Kansas and Tulane.  They should be 4-0 after that "cupcake run" and full of confidence as they move on into their schedule.  Virginia opens the 2014 campaign with UCLA, Richmond, Louisville and BYU. Not a whole lot of time to build confidence to start the season especially after ending last season with nine straight losses.  

The crazy thing is that UVA is not bereft of talent, as I discussed earlier, but they have had inconsistent play at positions that are critical to be successful.  The quarterback play has been shaky for about 10 years now and it is difficult to win at the major collegiate level without a solid "trigger man" under center.  So as the Cavaliers roll into a 2014 season that is uber important for Coach London, they will again have a new starting quarterback in Greyson Lambert.  He looks the part and has proven himself a leader in the off-season by being named a team captain.  Now he needs to produce during the regular season and understand that he does not have to do it alone.  There is talent all around him and he just has to make his plays and lead the troops. As a fellow coach once said, its all about one/eleventh.  One of eleven guys on the field doing HIS part and staying in HIS lane will make for a successful TEAM effort.

Another factor is the turnover in the coaching staff the past few years. That will hamper the development of players when they are having to learn a new system every couple of seasons not to mention the disruption in the coaches cohesiveness. It takes time for players to gel just as it takes time for coaches to gel together. New philosophies, new ego's, just everything new and different.  From the radio booth, where I've sat each week for the last two seasons, the coaching staff didn't appear to be on the same page and they need to be on the same page as the head coach. That takes time too.  This season is a make or break year for Coach London and I trust that he will have his staff on one accord.


So the long and short of this blog is that I am a fan of Coach Mike London. He is a good coach, a good father and an even better man. He is concerned about his players overall development as students, as athletes and as men.  I would run through a wall for the man just as his players would.  If I had a son and he played football, I would trust Coach London with my child. I wish the best for him and the Cavaliers this season.  I am very optimistic about the season and I don't care if I'm one of a few because at the end of the day you only need a few good men in the foxhole willing to fight for you.

Thanks for reading this blog and I hope that you will share it.  I would enjoy some dialogue about the content of the blog so please feel free to comment!  GO HOOS!!!!!!



Geoff Burke/Getty Images

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Written by: Jerod Cherry

The Company you keep

July 02, 2014

A very wise man once said the following: " if you hang out with a contemptuous and easily angered person, his ways will become your ways."

I wonder if that principal applies to Johnny Manziel in regards to who he hangs out with? For example, if Johnny continues to hang out with Justin Bieber, will he eventually drag race down a residential street? Or if Johnny routinely parties with Floyd Mayweather, will he become a high stakes gambler?

We learned from Kevin Garnet that "anything is possible!" Thus, is it possible that Manziel may learn from hanging out with Bieber and Mayweather what they know and do to stay at the top of their very competitive professions?

I do not know about you, but, I tend to consider the negative before the positive; so I will give Johnny the benefit of doubt, right now.

However in a few weeks with the start of NFL training camps we will be able to form a more accurate opinion on if the maxim is true, that the company you keep influences your behavior. Currently, the only thing we can claim definitively is that similar to a football player that plays offense and defense this situation with Johnny Manziel and the company he keeps and their influence on him can go both ways.

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Written by: Tony Covington

My World Cup Runneth Over

July 02, 2014

 

So when did I become a soccer junkie?  I don't even know all of the rules.  I think it happened some time around the beginning of June.  You know around the time of this thing called the World Cup.  I mean I hung out with the men and women's soccer teams at my beloved alma mater, THE University of Virginia, and we had one of the best soccer programs in the country at that time.  I watched some of those guys go on to star internationally and then gain fame with the birth of Major League Soccer.  But I still didn't buy in.  There were too many competing sports and besides I had never played the game.  I was even crazy excited when the Women's National Team defeated China in 1999 to win the Women's World Cup as Brandy Chastain slid into America's living rooms ripping off her Team USA jersey in celebration.  I admit that I was caught up in the moment of euphoria but the excitement was short lived.  I've flirted with watching later World Cup matches but my interest has been like a candle in the wind.

Then suddenly the 2014 World Cup was approaching and I felt like I had loved soccer all of my life. Now don't get me wrong, I have always appreciate the skill level and conditioning of soccer athletes, but I find that my level of appreciation has grown immensely during this years Cup. I find myself watching the games on my phone, my IPad, my work computer or whatever local watering hole that I can quickly run in to watch. I'm paying closer attention to the strategy of the game and witnessing the greatness of Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and a host of other international stars.  As a former professional athlete, I am not easily "wowed" but these players possess a talent and skill that I have never before witnessed. Oh and on top of that, they carry the hopes and dreams of the entire country for ninety minutes or better each and every game.  It is a sight to behold.

But as much as I respect the talent of the players from other countries, I am all in with Team USA.  We are the underdogs every time we step onto the field and I hope that our team knows that they have a nation behind them that is chanting, "I believe that we will win." We as a nation believe and I hope that when this World Cup is over, that I will remain a soccer fan.  Only time will tell but I'll remain optimistic.

I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!
I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!

Thanks for  reading and if "you believe that we will win," then let's talk about it and please feel free to share this blog with your friends.


 

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Written by: Marcus Cooper

Advice Worth Taking

June 27, 2014

I was here to give back to the young guys. I wanted to tell these guys that it's really important to listen to the information that's presented because it is going to help them. A lot of rookies think, well, that's not going to happen to me, but there's always something that will happen in your first season that the Symposium has taught you how to deal with.

I don't think I necessarily handled anything poorly my rookie year, but there are things I could have handled better to create a better outcome...like finances, my ticket situation, housing, things like that, all things you go through as an NFL player. And you can apply a lot of what you learn here to those experiences.

Coming from my experience, I was a seventh-round Draft pick, and I got cut and moved on to Kansas City pretty quickly. Don't hang your head or anything like that. Make sure you have a tight, close support system, people that you can listen to and will be honest with you. Hang your hat on those coaches, those players and those family members who are going to have your best interest at heart and instill their belief in you. That's what I did. My parents and my sisters were really supportive, and my teammates and coaches allowed me to stay uplifted and I was able to prosper.

My biggest advice to the rookies is to listen to what these speakers have to say. They are definitely here to help you, teach you how to handle adversity and truly want to see you succeed. If you take the information they give you, trust me, you will be better off. 

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Written by: Jahleel Addae

Defying The Odds

June 27, 2014

It was important for me to be here because even though I'm entering my second season, I wasn't at the Rookie Symposium last year because I wasn't drafted. I wanted to come back and tell these guys that it doesn't matter if you're drafted in the first round or the seventh round, it can be done. The NFL is a big league, and as long as you stay focused, study, stay serious about your craft, and realize that this is now your job, then you'll be fine.

This is your job now. In college, you had school, you had tutors, you had projects. This is strictly football 24/7 and it's a business where everyone is trying to get in. It's slim pickings, so you have to do everything to the best of your ability to stay.

Look at my story. If I can do it, any of these guys can do it. I'm no different than they are. They obviously have the talent because they are here, they've been drafted. If they continue to strive for the best, learn, and learn from their mistakes, they will succeed.

Jumping into my rookie year, I knew I needed help. I went to my player development guy, and I watched how a lot of the veterans took care of their bodies and went about their business. We had a lot of good leaders who helped me learn how to be a professional, on and off the field.

Eric Weddle no doubt took me under his wing. He would stay late watching film with me. The way he takes care of his body...he's in probably two to three hours earlier than anybody on the team. He might turn on the lights at the facility! I followed Weddle – he taught me the defense, he taught me the things to do on and off the field, he's pointed me in the direction of other people who could help me.

I'm still a young guy, but I'll be looking out for the rookies this year. 

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Written by: Derek Carr

Going All In

June 27, 2014

The Rookie Symposium is one of those things where you are going to get out of it what you put into it. I'm putting in my full effort, whatever I can take from here to be a better football player, a better husband, a better Dad, a better Christian...whatever I can do to be better. If it's one quote or even one word that sticks with me, and it makes me better, then that's what I'm looking for.

Having an older brother (David Carr) who played in the NFL has helped prepare me. He's talked to me about what he's been through and how he handled things. He told me to make sure I don't get pulled in a whole bunch of different directions and to remember why you are there because as soon as you start going off in other directions and not studying as much as you should, those interviews and all of those other things stop when you stop completing passes.

Now that I'm going through it, it's nice to know a little bit going in, but I'm still eager to gain knowledge in whatever area I can. There are things that I'd like to learn more about.

So far the transition is going great. A great quarterback room, great coaches. They are all supportive, and they are hard on us and expect a lot out of us...and it's been great because that's what I'm used to coming from my college coaches. It's really been surreal; you're on the field with Hall of Famers. Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, it's unbelievable. But at the same time, you go out there and compete against them...and you want to beat them, every single day. I dreamed of playing like Charles Woodson when I was seven years old, and now I'm playing on the same team as him. It's been really cool.

My mindset is doing whatever I can do to help the Raiders win. No matter what my role is, my goal and my focus is for the Raiders to win a Championship. And that will be my mindset this year, the next year, hopefully 16 more years. 

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Written by: Luke Willson

What I Learned During My Rookie Year

June 27, 2014

A lot of the stuff that happened to me personally last year was spoken about at the Symposium. And I remember thinking to myself, hey, this stuff doesn't apply to me. But, it really did. I wanted to come back this time and help anyone in that room that I could.

There are so many things that come up – the checks being stopped, the friends, the people that look at you as an asset, how to save, how to financially plan, ticket fees. All of that happens to you in one way or another.

You don't need to be here taking notes and acting like it's game film, but just sit here and listen...everybody here is trying to help you. Listen so that if something negative (or even something positive) does happen, you can revert back to what other people have taught you if you need help handling it.

I think money is a big issue. You go from college where you live off of $800 a month and are taking meals home from the cafeteria. Then all of a sudden, you're getting thousands and thousands of dollars a month, and if you start getting careless, you'd be surprised how fast that money can go. Set a healthy budget. I'm not saying to pinch every penny, but come up with a plan about how much you are going to spend and save each month...and try to live within that budget that you set for yourself.

I don't consider myself a vet by any means, but it's one of those things where, when you've already lived something that other players are about to go through, that in a sense can be a mentor. And I think I'm ready for that role. 

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