Written by: Leger Douzable

Undrafted: A Blessing In Disguise

April 28, 2016

I went undrafted. And now I’m heading into my 9th NFL season. Even though things worked out for me, each April the NFL Draft brings back memories of feeling not good enough. That feeling lights a fire under me year after year.

Let me give you some background. Coming out of college, I was projected to be a third to fifth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Back then, the draft was only two days long (the first through third round was on the first day and the fourth through seventh was on the second). That has changed as the years have gone on. Anyway, it was an exciting time. I had just completed a solid, four-year college career at the University of Central Florida, where I was named first-team All-Conference two years in a row and second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. After going to school in Orlando, just two hours from where I grew up in Tampa, I was used to having my family nearby. Waiting to find out if I’d be going to a team somewhere across the country made it a nerve-wrecking – but exciting – time. I was ready for the next chapter in my life.

On the first day, I remember thinking how happy I’d be if my name was called, but I didn’t want to have too many expectations. I knew for sure that I’d be getting called on the second day. Now it’s the second day, and I’m sitting there watching the draft on TV with my family. When the rounds kept passing me by and the phone wasn’t ringing, it started getting stressful. I actually had to leave the living room and get away from everybody for a bit. I couldn’t believe that my name hadn’t been called yet. You see certain players that you played against and guys that you never heard of get drafted and you’re like, “What is going on here?!”

Toward the end of the draft, I started getting calls from teams telling me that they would either draft me in the seventh round or they’d be interested in me as an undrafted free agent. I was getting calls left and right about that, but at the time I didn’t want to think about what would happen if I didn’t get drafted. I was in disbelief.

When you are projected to get drafted and you don’t, it kind of makes you reassess your life and your work ethic. It was an eye-opening and humbling experience, that’s for sure. I was definitely depressed, but after that subsided, the feelings of being “not good enough” lit a fire under me…a fire that continues to burn and keeps me going heading into my 9th NFL season. Since day one, I’ve had the mindset that there’s nobody who’s going to outwork me.

Looking back, I think it was all a blessing in disguise. Sixth and seventh rounders are practically free agents too, but when you are a true free agent, at least you get to choose where you want to go. You can see what teams do and don’t have, and what might be the best fit for you. I think that it was a blessing that after the fifth round I didn’t get drafted. I was able to make the best decision for me.

Think about it…you’ve got guys like Damon Harrison and Victor Cruz, both undrafted free agents, who made those big second deals. And I think there’s only one first rounder from my class who plays my position still in the league, and that’s my good friend Chris Long. I’ve outlasted everybody else. There are probably more undrafted guys still playing from my year, like Wallace Gilberry. It’s funny how that works out.

So with the NFL Draft getting started today, I have a few pieces of advice for these young players, whether or not they get drafted. Bottom line – it’s all about putting in the work. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. If you can outwork guys, even players who may have more talent than you, you can outlast them. And make sure you are versatile because playing more than one position will keep you in the NFL longer. There are so many moving parts in this league, and you have to be able to adapt. People that play in a box usually find themselves out of the league pretty fast. Also, as a rookie, latch on to a vet, and learn as much as you can. That will help you get your foot in the door. That’s what I did.

If the draft doesn’t go your way, you’ve got to flip the switch right away. You can’t get down and depressed about it. You can’t cry over spilled milk. Okay, so you didn’t get drafted. What are you going to do about it? My Dad would always say, “How bad do you want it?” To this day, I have a piece of paper on my bedroom door with my goals written on it, and I’ve got that question at the top. I think about that – how bad do I want it ? – every single day. I refuse to lose because nobody is ever going to outwork me. And in my mind, nobody is going to do the job better than me. You’ve got to think (and act) like that if you want to make it in this league.

As for my current situation, I’ve had a few offers, but I’m waiting to find the best situation for me. I’m not really worried; I know my value and what I bring to a team. It’s year 9 for me, and teams know what I can do. Of course I’ll be interested to see how the draft plays out and which way teams may lean. I don’t usually watch the first round because it literally takes for-e-ver, but I’ll be talking to my agent to get a review of what players went where. I just want to make sure I make the best decision for me and for my family. It’s not something I take lightly.

Good luck to all of the potential draftees these next few days. And remember: it’s all about how hard you work, not if and how high you get drafted.

Take it from me.

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Written by: Torrey Smith

It's Time To Make A Change

April 20, 2016

What’s going on, y’all? It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been on here and a lot has happened. The charity game was awesome, Chanel and Baby Kameron are doing well, and we started back training with the team! I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am for everything that’s happening around me. It’s surreal in a lot of ways. I’m glad to be back in the Bay with the fellas. My family is back East, so I’m out here extremely bored when I leave the facility lol. I’ve been reading more and taking extra care of my body to make use of the time. It has been rewarding.

With some of my extra time I’ve been more active on social media, following the presidential debates, and staying up to date on our current events…which actually inspired me to write this post. It seems like when I wake up every morning I read a headline about another senseless act of violence. While no individual situation is the same, most could be avoided. It may sound cliché, but I often look myself in the mirror and wonder what else I can do to help the problem. My non-profit is reaching kids, but what else can I do? I ask myself and talk to my wife about this all the time.

A few months back director Lee Morton told me about this film project he had been creating. He described it by saying, “Invictus 344 is a story that aspires to shed light on what is otherwise overshadowed...those in Charm City with heart and hustle. It's a story of a Baltimore teen, pushing through the noise of the inner-city environment through the motivation of basketball and inspiration of family. We created Invictus 344 to elevate and bring hope to Baltimore.”

I had no clue this short video could be so impactful. It felt real. I’ve heard a lot of the same words spoken by the young boy in the video myself growing up. And after spending a few years in the Baltimore area, visiting schools, and talking to students throughout the city, I know that too many kids are living this short film daily. Too many young men and women are trying to “make it out,” a lot of times with little support and limited resources.

The video is a simple, yet powerful, three-minute movie to inspire and bring awareness to this epidemic. A video alone won’t change what is going on, though. It will take a collective effort from everyone to change what is going on in the city.

There are so many great organizations out there trying to make a difference. So many people rallying against violence so that the kids in the city have a chance. There are people in the field, at schools, and in the community, who are acting on, not just talking about, bringing change to the city. The 300 Men March organization is in the trenches fighting against gun violence and mentoring young men. The Living Classrooms Foundation is all over the city providing opportunities for children and adults who are otherwise overlooked.

I admire everyone who is trying to make a difference in these neighborhoods. Keep pressing on. It is obvious that more needs to be done. How do you think WE can fix this issue? What are you doing to help? Please check out the video below and leave a comment letting me know what you think.

Video: https://vimeo.com/162841836

Website: invictus344.com

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Written by: Torrey Smith

Hooping For Charity

March 14, 2016

What’s going on y’all? I decided to get back at it with my blog. Before I go any further, I would like to say thank y’all for your prayers over the last few weeks. My wife and I really appreciate it. I didn’t think writing a simple blog would help us, but reading comments and emails from other folks who have been in our position was like therapy. I literally received text messages from people that I know who went through the same thing, which I had no clue about because people don’t talk about these types of issues. It is a sensitive subject; I get it. Having the ability to read other family’s testimonies was a blessing to us. Thank you again!

I’m actually writing this while on the airplane heading back to Baltimore. We just wrapped up another MBA session of school at The University of Miami. I swear I can’t wait until this is over LOL. Next big thing for us is planning this charity basketball game, which is coming up on April 2 in Baltimore. A lot of you all may have been to the games in the past.

It all started with me wanting to bring folks back to where I’m from in Colonial Beach, Virginia (but went to school in Fredericksburg at Stafford High). I wanted to do a fun event for families to attend and my high school was the perfect place because it had a big gym and good location. The first game we put on was a "Pros vs Local Legends" theme. The next few years we did a "Redskins/Ravens" theme (shoutout to Anthony Armstrong), and it was a great time. The only problem we had was that the game would sell out so fast because folks from all over would come. I was disappointed that many people were left out, so we decided to move the game to UMD because it could hold a bigger crowd. The game at UMD was awesome. We joined forces with Ryan Kerrigan and were able to benefit both of our foundations. The following year we decided not to have the game due to a lot of uncertainty with my future, working on my MBA, and dealing with a mobile baby. It was a lot of adjusting and moving, so I didn’t want to rush the game and do it the wrong way.

Now we are back! Each year we try to make the game better than the last. This time we will be doing it at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. The game itself has always been a great event for the family It’s pretty fun to watch some football players who think they should be in the NBA play basketball...lots of dunks and plenty of bad shots LOL! We do giveaways and have a pretty cool halftime show. We also announce scholarship recipients during halftime (if you have or know a college senior who has been admitted to a four-year university, visit torreysmith.org to apply for our scholarship).

It means a lot to me when the players volunteer their time to benefit my non-profit, and it means even more to me that the fans come out because it’s another opportunity to interact with them and help our community at the same time. It is our largest fund/fun raising event. This year the support has been amazing considering I don’t even play in Baltimore anymore. I’ve learned over the past year that a lot of people/businesses’ loyalties changes when you switch jerseys. I’m thankful for the people who are still with us and support our philanthropic endeavors in Baltimore, and we have so much planned that you will be proud of.

The love that we have received from fans from all over has been awesome. I’ve received messages from many 49er fans who are coming to the game and some who just purchased tickets to give away. That’s love! I can’t wait to see some familiar faces and meet some new folks as well on April 2nd. It is an amazing feeling to look around an arena with a couple thousand fans, knowing that they are all there supporting OUR community. It’s bigger than the game. I can’t wait to see y’all there. If you have been before, leave a comment and let me know what you thought about it. Stay tuned for some fun giveaways leading up to the game!

For more info, head to torreysmith.org or royalfarmsarena.com. If you are out of town and would like to donate a ticket for a youth group, please go to torreysmith.org and click the link at the top.

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Written by: Torrey Smith

Prayers Up

February 29, 2016

What’s going on y’all? It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog, but better late than never. I felt it was the perfect time for two reasons. 1. I just finished my “hurmwerk” (TJ’s voice) 2. There's a lot going on. As you guys all know based on my social media, my beautiful wife is pregnant with baby boy number 2! We are thankful for that. What you don’t know is that this last week has been stressful! It made me want to write about our experience and the strength of my queen.

Before we left California to head back east, Chanel had another doctor’s appointment. As any woman or man that’s been around pregnancy knows, you have to take a million tests. Everything seemed normal except the baby being a little bit smaller than he should be...but no red flags. A few days later we are back at our house in Baltimore when Chanel received a phone call from her doctor. I wasn’t really worried until I saw her facial expression and body language change. So I walked over to hear what she was talking about and I heard “1 in 25 chance of Trisomy." I just assumed she was talking about Down Syndrome and my response was, “Ok, cool." I was wrong. She was talking about Trisomy 18. I wasn’t familiar with it, so I began to Google it while she was explaining what it was all about. My heart dropped and my wife was in tears. I still had no worries because even though it’s high risk, I still viewed it as a 24-1 chance that he is fine.

The next day we were at the doctor’s office getting more tests done. We had the opportunity to get a new ultrasound and baby boy was moving and responding well to everything. I was excited. Then the doctor came back in and said a couple of things were abnormal and further testing needed to be done. After seeing what he saw, the odds increased to a 1-10 chance that our baby has Trisomy 18. The results wouldn’t be ready for another four days! For the first time I was actually nervous.

The first thing you do as a concerned parent is Google everything. I later found out that it makes things worse. You start to think you are a doctor, and it increases your anxiety and level of uncertainty with each click. I told my wife to stop looking up things. But any person who knows my wife on a personal level knows that she is a nervous wreck when it comes to stressful situations. She worries about EVERYTHING! She was struggling handling it all at first, but later on it all changed. I noticed this strength about her that I had only seen one time before; the same strength she displayed throughout TJ’s birth process. She proved that she could handle anything. Suddenly we were able to talk about what we would do with this situation knowing that her life, as well as the baby's, could be at risk. It was easily the hardest conversation I’ve ever been a part of. What do you do? Do you go forward knowing the outcome will be a miscarriage or death shortly after birth all while putting your life in danger? Or do you terminate the pregnancy? Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about abortions. I think that it should only happen in extreme situations...not because a couple was negligent in practicing safe sex.

Being in this situation has changed the way I view everything about it. I realized I have no right to suggest to her what she should do. I can talk about the pros and cons of each, or maybe even make suggestions, but I couldn’t pressure her one way or the other. When I realized that, it hurt me to the core. I feared that I could lose both of them. I also didn’t know how she could handle carrying a baby for months knowing what the ultimate outcome would be. Being selfish in that way made me think the only thing we could do is terminate the pregnancy. She still wasn’t sure and I would respect her decision either way.

Thankfully, we don’t have to make that decision because the results came back that he does not have Trisomy 18. It was the best phone call I/we have ever received. Although we could be happy for that moment, we know that he isn’t in the clear. There could be more issues. We are excited to know that our child has a shot at life and nothing else even matters. My wife is fearless waiting for the final test results. I never knew my admiration for her could grow any more than it did the day she gave birth to Torrey. My queen is the ____! She has been working hard trying to manage our charity basketball game, foundation, teaching little Torrey and working on her Master's degree. She is special!

We have been talking about what else it could be and have been preparing for whatever results lie ahead. I’m not worried about it a single bit! I always believed that it takes special parents to provide and show love to a kid with special needs. I’ve been around kids with “disabilities” my whole life and understand how special they really are. I can imagine TJ being the best big brother and taking up for his younger brother no matter what his challenges may be. I will teach Torrey that every person is unique just like him. I’m looking forward to grooming both of my young men.

Truth be told, we have no clue what’s going on with our child. It could be absolutely nothing. I do know that we are ready for whatever may come and my wife is leading the way. The prayer warriors have been working for us and we appreciate it. God wouldn’t put us in a situation that we couldn’t handle. We have been drawing strength from him and those around us. Now we are praying that our little fighter continues to grow and we can meet him. I’m praying for life, not for his health. A disability doesn’t make you unhealthy; it just means you may have different challenges. We all have challenges, and we are ready for ours that will soon come. Prayers Up for Kameron!

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Written by: Justin Forsett

Beyond The Field

February 25, 2016

These days, I think it’s easy for fans to get caught up in fantasy football and think of us players as merely stats, sometimes forgetting that we are human. But we are real people…real people with dreams and aspirations. We are more than football players. So I wanted to write this blog about something unrelated to football that’s important to me so I could give readers a glimpse into who I am and what I aspire to be off the field. This topic is especially close to my heart these days since I just had an amazing experience giving back in Flint, thanks in large part to my passion off the field.

Football is a huge part of my life, of course, but I am also a dedicated entrepreneur. Our company, ShowerPill, was born about five years ago when I was playing in Seattle. It started from an idea that two of my friends and former Cal teammates Wendell Hunter and Wale Forrester and I had because we saw a need. Hold up, let me tell you what ShowerPill is first. Short version: it’s a disposable wipe that works like a washcloth to clean your body and kill 99.99 percent of all germs instantly. I’ll tell you more about it in a sec, but let me get back to where it all started.

During college, when we had VERY long days of workouts (with classes and studying in-between), our trainers gave us all kinds of support for our bodies. If we needed hydration, we’d have Gatorade. If we needed a snack, it would be a Clif Bar or a PowerBar. If we needed protein, they’d give us Muscle Milk. There’s a supplement for everything, but nothing for cleanliness. Of course we showered as much as possible, but nobody is taking five showers in one day. And with the amount of stuff we were doing, sometimes it felt like we needed 10 showers! We’d wake up early to work out, run and lift…and then go off to class and sometimes head to the training room for rehab after that. So if you didn’t have the time to shower, you’re left with a long period of time accumulating sweat and bacteria. That’s just not healthy. Not to mention, if you’re walking on campus, and you want to interact with a nice girl, you don’t want to smell like a bag of trash! One of my partners almost died in college from a bacterial infection that could have been prevented. Throughout the NFL, you hear about outbreaks of things like ringworm and staph infections all the time. Cleveland had it a while back. I remember Tampa had an outbreak. And it pops up everywhere throughout colleges.

We knew there was a need to prevent this, and we wanted to create something that would allow us to stay fresh, clean and healthy. Our answer to this problem was ShowerPill, the “supplement” you can “take” to prevent the health issues that can show up as a result of sweat and heavy activity. The name “shower pill” has always been around in football. Even back in the day, in the locker room after a long day of workouts, guys would say they wish they could take a magic “shower pill” and instantly get clean. It was an inside joke in the locker room. That’s where it started.

So we began putting the wheels in motion. We put our own money in and officially started the business about five years ago. It was a lot of work, especially for my two partners who did (and still do) a lot of the heavy lifting, particularly when it came to research, manufacturing, all the way down to the design of the box. When we first produced the product, we gave a whole bunch of wipes away. I remember after practice in Seattle, I would go out to local stores like a salesman. It wasn’t Justin Forsett, the football player. It was Justin Forsett, the business owner trying to get his product picked up in stores. We went all over the league sharing these with NFL players.

Just to be clear: these are not deodorant wipes. It’s not like how after sweating in middle school gym class, you’d spray some deodorant all over and go straight to math class. This actually kills germs and can prevent infection. It’s perfect for athletes who don’t have time to take multiple showers in one day. It’s been useful for people who are post-surgery and aren’t able to get certain areas wet in the shower. It’s also been useful for those in the military, who are out serving and don’t always have access to a shower. Soccer moms love to wipe down their kids before they get in the car after practice to make sure they aren’t tracking the germs from the field into their car and home. It’s great if you’re camping. The CrossFit community has also been huge for us, especially for those who work out during lunch and don’t have a place or time to take a shower before returning to work. And some people just like to feel fresh all day! It’s not meant to be a replacement for a shower, just a useful tool if you don’t have time or a place to shower at that moment.

I’m proud to say that ShowerPill is sold at a number of boutique vitamin shops throughout the country, as well as through our web site https://showerpill.com/. We are the top body wipe on Amazon, and we are used at many college sports teams (Cal, Baylor, SMU, Houston, to name a few). We’ve done some work with the Bills, Jaguars and Seahawks. I haven’t placed it in the big team bucket in the Ravens locker room yet, but guys know about it. Guys come to my locker and grab wipes all the time, but I haven’t done a deal with the Ravens.

Today, my role is really focused on the social media and marketing work for the company. I still go out and introduce the product to different gyms and athletes, but the brunt of the work falls on the other guys. This summer, I’ll be training in Berkeley, where the other guys live, so I look forward to getting a lot of work done with them.

Most recently, with the support of my NFL brothers, we were able to donate $100,000 worth of wipes and water to schools and senior homes in Flint. Torrey Smith and I went out there a couple weeks ago to help with distribution and talk to the people in the community affected by this crisis. It was an incredible experience, and I’m so blessed to be in a position where I’m not only pursuing my passion as an entrepreneur, but that it’s also allowing me to make a real difference.

This business venture has also been a great learning experience. It’s been helpful learning how to communicate with people. I remember going to Norfolk, Virginia and speaking to several military branches at a conference. I was able to present and pitch our product. You only have so much time with people, and you never know who you are going to run into, so you have to make sure every word counts. The ability to do that will help me in other ventures down the road as well.

I’m glad to say that the business, which is growing, has been successful so far. We’ve learned a lot throughout the process and definitely had some challenges to overcome, especially during the first couple years. One major lesson and aspect has been making sure we are as efficient as possible. We put our own money up, so there is a limited supply and you have to be smart with it. We don’t really have a marketing budget, so we do things like giveaways and ask bloggers to review the product. We also learned that this business is all about partnerships and our goal is to partner with the major brands in our market to provide great products to the athletic/active consumer. Another one of our priorities is to serve the next generation. Of course we’d love to have a huge company, but our emphasis is about serving others…and that’s what I love about it.

My dream is to create a business that allows me to not only provide consumers with a quality product, but to also be able to create jobs and teach others. As a pro athlete (and the same goes for entertainers), you get all sorts of people pulling at you and wanting something. I want to be in a position where I can teach them how to fish as opposed to giving them fish, as they say. That’s the kind of mentality that I’ve had. And so far, I think I’m on the right path.

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Written by: Justin Forsett

Amidst Super Bowl Excitement, Let’s Remember That Football Is Bigger Than A Game

February 05, 2016

I’m out here in San Francisco right now. People are everywhere and there are tons of Super Bowl events going on. Of course it’s a lot of fun and I’m grateful to be here, but between an event I participated in yesterday and the work we are doing to help Flint, I’ve been reminded what this NFL shield is all about a lot lately. After speaking to kids and their parents (and throwing the football around a little bit) at an All Pro Dads event yesterday, I thought to myself, ‘Now THIS is what it’s all about.’ What this NFL shield gives us as players is a platform to reach and encourage a lot of people that are hurting and need assistance.

And so while I am here, I continue to focus my efforts on helping Flint, where I will be heading on Tuesday. Let’s rewind for a second. A little while back, I spoke to a friend in Flint who told me all about the water issue they were dealing with there. But it was before the crisis made the news, so at that point I didn’t realize the severity of the situation. A couple days later, everything hit the news. I began hearing about the color of the water, how people were bathing with bottled water and wet wipes, kids with lead in their bodies. I started putting faces to the crisis that was happening and decided that I needed to do something.

Since my company, ShowerPill, produces antibacterial body wipes, it was a perfect way for us to really help. I didn’t want to give random stuff; I wanted to give something they could use. I spoke to my business partners and talked to my friends around the league to see if we could get something going in Flint. I reached out to people who have hearts to serve and give. I didn’t have any expectations, but the response and support was unbelievable. From Mark Ingram (who is from Flint) to Torrey Smith to Marshawn Lynch to the practice squad guys who were willing to give whatever they could to show love, the support was truly overwhelming. As soon as I told them what I was trying to do, all I heard was, ‘No problem. I’m willing to do whatever I can.’ It was tremendous. And that’s when I realized that this is bigger than me; this is bigger than just a couple of guys getting together to help out a little bit. With this platform that we have, we can really make a huge impact on this community.

That’s when I started working the phones. By the way, I had a short stint working in community relations, so I have a lot of respect for the Ravens community relations department. Putting together a project like this is a lot of work! I knew I had guys who wanted to help and serve, and I needed to make sure we found a legit way to do it. So I made lots of phone calls (plenty of which were not returned!), and with the help of a friend, was able to speak to the President of the School Board there. They knew I had the wipe company and said they’d really be able to use the product in their schools. Then I spoke to some of the senior homes that were struggling, and they said they could use bottled water and body wipes. Many of these older people can’t go out to get what they need, so we wanted to make sure they were taken care of. We really zoomed in on the elderly and the sports programs in the high schools. It was definitely a whirlwind, but we got it done.

With the support of about 20 NFL players, I am proud to say that about $100,000 worth of body wipes and water has landed in Flint. We’ve teamed up with the United Way to help us distribute to the schools and senior homes. And Mark Ingram’s mother works at a local high school there, so she is helping us pass out product.

This coming Tuesday, Torrey and I (and tentatively Marshawn) are heading down to connect with the people of Flint in person. We are not trying to just put a Band-Aid on the situation, but are looking to make a real impact and hopefully work on long-term solutions. One thing I learned from interacting with those involved with the Baltimore riots is that people just want to be heard. When we spoke to the kids there, so many of them said they felt like they didn’t have a voice and that nobody cared about them. Giving them an ear meant a lot.

So we are planning to go out to Flint and listen. Our hope is that by spending quality time in the community and letting the residents know that we love and support them, we can make a real impact. It’s not like talking to a huge auditorium of people. Even if we impact one person’s life, it will be worth the trip. Many guys in the NFL came from difficult upbringings (including the three of us) and were still able to make it out and do positive stuff in this world. We are coming to deliver that message, encourage them and hopefully be a light for the people there.

With our NFL shield on us, and as guys that people look up to, we are able to go to out and make a difference. Whether it’s in Flint or Baltimore or wherever, we are blessed with this opportunity for a little bit of time. It’s up to us to use it in the right way so we can have a positive effect on the world around us.

Truth is, in 30 years from now, we probably won’t remember amuch of what happens this coming Super Bowl weekend (other than maybe the winner). But the things that last are relationships and the impact you make on people’s lives. So while we are having fun and celebrating Super Bowl Weekend, it’s important to remember the responsibility that comes along with the blessing of playing in the NFL. And it’s not just a football thing. I have a platform, you have a platform. You have a platform as soon as there’s a person looking up to you, and that can be anybody. I believe that we all have the responsibility to serve.

If you are looking to support ShowerPill’s initiative in Flint, please e-mail giveback@showerpill.com for more information. 

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Written by: Chris Conley

A Rookie Season Full of Ups, Downs and Everything In-Between

February 05, 2016

To come so close, to be just a couple games away from competing in a Super Bowl…that’s hard. But you have to be proud of every game you win in the NFL because it’s such a difficult thing to do. You don’t realize how difficult it is until you’ve played in games, especially post-season games, where it’s so close and everything counts. So you’re proud of every victory. But at the same time, you’re never satisfied. And that feeling alone is enough to provide us with a great amount of motivation and perspective going into next year.

Even though it still hurts a bit, I’ll be watching the game this Sunday. I have friends on both teams, and of course a general football interest, so I’m interested to see what happens. And now that I’ve played the game, I understand all of the tremendous preparation and work that’s going into it. As for the team, at this point, we’ve come to terms with our season. Now it’s time to for us to work on the areas where we fell short. We have to fix those things before we have another opportunity to play for something of this magnitude.

When I look back at my rookie season, I think it was a huge stepping stone and a big learning experience for me. I’m proud of it, but it was difficult. You have to learn some things the hard way, you have to make mistakes, and the pressure is on from the get-go. I had to learn those things. I had to learn how to play, how to set my game up while learning an offense, while learning to be on the quarterback’s timing. And I had to produce immediately. It wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t trade those lessons for anything.

There’s nothing that can prepare you for what an NFL season is until you go through it for yourself. You can hear about it and do as much training as you want, but it’s something that you can’t truly understand until you do it. You can be in shape and you can be mentally fortified – these things can help prepare you – but you are still going to encounter things that you didn’t account for and the season will take turns that you didn’t expect. It’s completely unpredictable. And that’s just the nature of the game. You can’t just hear about it; you have to experience it.

I think the biggest thing that really struck me is just how long the season really is. You can see it on paper, but actually going through it is a whole different story. Managing your body, your physical health, your mental health, having to step your game up every weekend and be at your best. There are no games when you can play at 80 percent. It’s got to be at 100 percent every time. Learning how to do that for that many games in a row – without being able to go home or see your family – is difficult.

One of the highlights of my rookie experience was being in that locker room with such great guys. We have a very good core of guys and being able to learn from them is something I will not forget. These guys really taught me how to be a pro, how to practice, how to play, how to carry myself. That’s very important because the transition from college to the pros definitely comes with its own set of challenges. All of my teammates are great, but I was particularly fortunate to have vets Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin in my corner. They have years of experience and weren’t shy about sitting me down and letting me know what’s necessary to succeed at this level.

I’m excited about this offseason. So many areas of my game were exposed this year, and I’m ready to get to work on that and fine-tune my game. It’s the first time in a long time that we’ll have the opportunity to rest our bodies and get healthy, especially for us rookies. The time between the first and second year is a key point of transition, and it’s really about what you make of the offseason. This is a year-round sport. Right now I’m in Atlanta, but as soon as we start our workouts in Kansas City, I will be there.

After participating in an NFL season, you realize just how big this game is. You realize how many people this game reaches and that this platform that you thought was big is even greater than you can fathom. Once you realize those things and all of the time, effort and work that men years before you have put in to put this game in a place of prominence, it holds a certain weight and gravity that you didn’t expect. Even more so now than I did before, I have a great respect for the shield.

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Written by: Justin Forsett

My Epic Night Meeting POTUS (Photo Proof Coming Soon)

February 02, 2016

Let’s just say that last Thursday night was no ordinary Thursday night. In fact, last Thursday night will forever go down as one of the best nights of my life. Why, you ask? Well, that’s because I met the President…as in Barack Obama, the President of the United States. And now we’re pretty much besties LOL!

It all happened because I challenged a friend of mine who seems to know everybody to introduce me to the President. I was mostly joking. But the next thing I know, he calls his friend (who works for the President) and my wife and I are invited to meet him at a private event. It was all super secretive, so we had to wait to find out the what, where, when. Of course my wife was freaking out about what to wear and needing to buy a new ‘presidential dress.’ We found out the day before, via a formal email invite, that we’d be meeting the President at a hotel in Baltimore (as part of his address to the House Democratic Caucus). Oh, and to top it off, apparently the President told my friend of a friend, ‘Let Justin know that I’m excited to meet him!’ I know he’s probably a Bears fan, but it’s still pretty cool that the President knew me. We were SO juiced.

After working out and rehabbing on Thursday, I hit the town looking for the perfect outfit. I didn’t have “presidential slacks,” so I drove to Zara in Annapolis to get me a pair of presidential slacks...which means three things: smooth, chic and a little bit regal. We got ready, took a couple pics to show off just how sharp we were looking and headed to Baltimore around 5 p.m. We figured it was going to take a long time to get through security, but we didn’t know just how much! It was crazy!

We pull up to the first security checkpoint, and they check our IDs to confirm we’re on the guest list. About 500 feet later, another checkpoint. This time there are K-9 dogs running around the car. We move about another 500 feet, and yup, a third checkpoint. We finally get out of the car and are greeted with a metal detector and some wanding. Phew, we made it into the lobby. At this point, somebody from the White House staff comes down to escort us into a special waiting area with a small group of people also waiting to meet the President.

We’re getting very excited. My wife and I are discussing what we are going to say. And I’m trying to find out if I can take a picture with him. We’re told there’s a White House cameraman who takes your picture, so secret service asks you not to take out your camera phone. Man, this is likely the only time I’m going to meet the President and I can’t take a selfie?! I was already thinking about how that was going to be my new profile pic. I tell my wife, ‘I’ve got to get this selfie with the President of the United States!’ I figure, if I pull out my phone, what’s the worst that can happen to me (yikes, don’t answer that)? She’s afraid that the secret service are going to put the smack down on me, but I’m feeling determined. Plus, the people next to me are egging me on. So I convince myself that I can pull it off. I’m all pumped up and getting ready to rebel…all for the sake of the selfie!

A few minutes later, I hear his voice. I’m still at the point where I’m feeling confident and bold and ready for my big intro. A few minutes after that, I can now hear and see him. Once you get in the room with the President, there’s security EVERYWHERE (maybe 12 secret service agents in this small room). We’re on deck. My heart starts beating, my palms are getting a little clammy. Our names are called by an announcer, which strangely reminds me of pre-game intros or something. ‘Mr. President, this is Justin Forsett of the Baltimore Ravens.’ At this moment, every plan that I have goes out the window. I was like a little schoolgirl. ZERO SWAG. I may have passed gas. Just kidding, I didn’t pass gas, but it was that type of moment.

The first thing I tell the President is how starstruck I am, and of course introduce him to my wife Angie. He says that we look great, makes some small talk and asks what I’m up to this offseason. I explain that I broke my arm, but am trying to get better so I can get in on his White House pickup basketball game. So he says, ‘No, I couldn’t handle you on that court, man. You look like one of those explosive 5’10” guys who’ll dunk on you. I don’t want any part of that embarrassment!’ He had the whole room laughing. My takeaway from the exchange?! The President just gave me two inches! I’m 5’8”, but if the President says I’m 5’10”, then I’m 5’10” from now on. I’m going to have to put that in my bio. I was given a presidential two inches. This might be the most important part of the whole story LOL.

When we left, we were given some presidential chocolates, all wrapped up like American flags, to give to my boys. I can’t actually give it to them because my oldest Judah will try to eat it, and we can’t have that. Hey, that’s our souvenir from the big night! I was so excited, I did a Periscope right after.

I have one word to describe the President: swag. He was looking a little tired, but that man has swag! I was kicking myself a bit because I meant to tell him about the work a bunch of us NFL guys are doing in Flint. I guess I’ll have to call him on his cellphone – since we’re pretty much besties – and let him know all about it. Yeah right, I wish LOL!

I’m not normally a political guy, but I do respect President Obama tremendously as an African-American who has broken barriers and done a lot for our country. He will forever go down in history as the first African-American President. To know that we met and spoke to him, not to mention that he knew who I was, was unbelievable. It was a moment we will never forget and an experience that we will remember and talk about for a very long time.

The only President I ever met was Dick Cass, the president of the Ravens. No disrespect to Dick Cass. He’s a great man, but meeting President Obama was definitely a highlight of our lives…and he gave me two presidential inches!

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Written by: Chimdi Chekwa

Big Things To Come

December 29, 2015

2015 was a year full of ups and downs. Regarding football specifically, I went through some difficult things, including an injury that got me on IR and eventually released. But I look at it all as a character builder for me. When unexpected challenges come up, I always feel like it’s an opportunity to see how you respond to it. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to respond in 2016 to some of the things that impacted me in 2015.

I have several goals I’m hoping to accomplish. One of my main goals includes building up Camp One, the non-profit that I started last year. We are aiming to teach at-risk youth to be entrepreneurs through programs that introduce them to technology and computer science. Our first programs are scheduled to kick off this summer in Oakland. My inspiration came as a result of being introduced to so many tech companies and venture capitalists out here. I really want to inform kids in this area about what’s going on in their environment. The tech industry is huge out here, and many of our at-risk youth don’t know too much about it. I’ve also taken a liking to the whole tech space and have actually been an angel investor in one company and met some top VCs. That’s gotten me excited and interested in tech.

It’s funny because I’ve had these plans for my non-profit for a while. But it’s been just that – plans – because I’ve never had the time to really commit myself to it. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right, and I want to know everything that’s going on. It’s difficult to do that and focus on football. You never want to be injured or out, but being out has given me the opportunity to get all of this set up. Football is very, very important to me, but what I do with what I’m blessed with is more important. This is something that I really want to accomplish, so I’m happy to be moving forward with this initiative.

On the football field, my goal, first and foremost, is to stay healthy. I’m very confident in my abilities, and I know that if I stay healthy, I’ll be able to do all the things that I want to do on the field. I feel like I can accomplish anything that I set out to do, and I am 100 percent confident that I will sign with a team as long as I stay healthy. These past weeks I’ve gotten to the point where I’m about 100 percent. I’m ready to go.

I’m excited about what’s to come in 2016. When you play NFL football, you are used to a lot of unknowns. That’s just what we deal with. For me, I get excited about a lot of unknowns. I’m not sure what’s going to happen this coming year, but I’m excited for the experiences to come. I enjoy the journey.

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Written by: Justin Forsett

Injury Update!

December 18, 2015

As Ravens fans know, I broke two bones in my arm during our game vs. St. Louis almost a month ago. I had surgery the next day. While the prognosis for my recovery was about six to eight weeks, I’m happy to report that because I also have wolverine in my blood, I will probably be back in four to five weeks. I won’t be able to play of course – I’m on IR – but I’m a fast healer and normally come back earlier than expected…I hope this is no different.

My current daily routine right consists of waking up and getting some treatment in the morning. Aside from that, there’s not too much I can do right now but the let the bone grow. I have two plates in my arm, so I have to let the bone do the work. There’s not too much pain anymore. I can move my arm around. The cast came off, and I’m in more of a splint, which I can take on and off. I was really happy about getting that thing off because I really didn’t like having something covering body that didn’t let me scratch an itch! Thankfully I was only in that for four days.

Now, when it comes to my kids, they think I’m a human jungle gym. I keep my splint on when I’m with them and try to keep my arm out of the way. My oldest says, “Daddy’s arm hurts.” It’s funny.

It’s definitely frustrating not to be out there, especially after finally getting my shot last year and having another good season this year. Having it get cut short…it’s frustrating. But I believe everything happens for a reason. Even though I’m on IR, I still have a purpose and a role on this team. I’m always trying to help as many of my teammates as possible, on and off the field. I am doing my treatment at the facility, so I’m still around all the guys, which is nice.

Now that Buck Allen is our starting running back, I’m trying to encourage him, help him. I let him know when I see things that might be able to assist him. And then there are other guys on IR who have never been here before. I am trying to encourage them by letting them know that this is not the end and they still have football left in them. Another one of our running backs, Lorenzo Taliaferro, is injured – his second time on IR in his two-year career – so I’m trying to be here for him and the other IR guys, and lift them up as much as possible.

I’m definitely staying positive, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard to watch my teammates play on TV. I’ve been watching from my couch in my basement…my little man cave. I watch and know that there’s nothing I can do to impact the game at that time. I get very emotional watching. Aw man, that Browns game. Who would have expected a kick-six blocked field goal to end the game? I went crazy! Thankfully, I didn’t wake the kids up!

Anyway, I try to pick up on some things that can help the young guys who are taking over in the running back position now. I’ll text the guys after the game and let them know what I thought they did well. I’m usually in a lot of the downs, and now we have a third-down guy and a fullback who we are using for blitz pickups. So I’ll let them know they did a great job recognizing what was coming in the schemes, etc. I’m trying to encourage them as much as possible.

The bright spot in all of this is that I’ve been able to spend more time with my family. I’ve had a lot of time with my boys and wife, which is unusual during the NFL season. I’ve also been doing a lot of reading. Right now I’m into “The Purpose Driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren. And Netflix. Lots and lots of Netflix. I’ve been watching this new show Jessica Jones and just started with Sons of Anarchy. My wife and I have also been watching The Black List. We’re into it.

I’m keeping busy, but I’m definitely focusing on getting back out on that field. I have to come back a stronger, healthier, better me. My goal is to come back, make an impact and lead this team to a Championship. That’s my mindset. 

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