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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Written by: Torrey Smith

Thanksgiving Week

November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving is easily my second favorite holiday. You get to eat unhealthy with no conscience and spend time with your loved ones. I remember my mother getting us together to head down to my Aunt Shirley's house in little old Westmorland County, Virginia. It was always a great time. Now everyone has grown up and we started having it at my place, which is pretty cool (not this year because I'm in California). I have my own little family now, which makes the holidays even more special. I value the family bond even more now.

The best part about any major holiday for me is that it helps you put things in perspective. You get to sit back and think about what is really important. No matter what is going on in your personal life, job, or your finances, you realize how blessed you really are. You are ALIVE! This is the start of the season for giving.

I remember times when it was just my Mom, and we had Thanksgiving with my immediate family. We were really thankful because if it weren't for other folks’ generosity, our holiday wouldn't have been the same. That's one of the biggest reasons why our family aims to help others during this season because we know what it's like to need a little support.

So for those of you who give your time and money during this season, THANK YOU. It means the world to the people you are helping. It doesn't have to be a billion dollars or items, but any little thing you do adds up. Just remember you have the opportunity to make someone's holiday better. More importantly, remember that you are blessed regardless of how you may feel at the moment. Don't believe me? You are alive and reading this blog from your smart phone or computer. That's something right?

My family has a tradition of going around and saying what you are thankful for on Thanksgiving. Not that you weren't thankful yesterday, but it's a good way to remind yourself. I'm thankful for my God, family, friends, support system, all of my teammates and new relationships with the 49ers. By the way, things might not be going the way we want them to or I want them to, but I wouldn't change my team for the world. No regrets. Thankful and blessed.

What are you thankful for? 

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Written by: Justin Forsett

Fresh & Focused

November 13, 2015

This season is obviously not going the way we pictured it going a few months ago. It’s been rough. But I am staying positive because I know there is a lot of football left to be played and we have decided as a team that we can change our course. It’s going to take a team effort, and we all have to pull our weight, but we have faith that our goals can still be accomplished. We just have to go out and execute.

During the first half of this season, we lost too many games that came down to a few points or a touchdown in the final minutes. And when you experience so many of those games, where you know the final score easily could have been flipped, it’s frustrating. That part is tough because it always hurts to get a loss, especially when it happens that way. Wins are so hard to get in this league, so you want to be able to take advantage of them when you are in a position to get them.

Everyday we go out and practice and compete, and we know that we have a good team. We just to have to finish well. But for the most part, during the first half of this season, we haven’t accomplished what we wanted to…especially at the end of the game. As a veteran, I am trying to lead by example by working hard and encouraging the guys around me on a daily basis.

There’s one positive aspect to all of this that’s been amazing to witness. Regardless of how things have gone so far, we believe in each other and what we’re doing. I have been on teams that struggled early in the season, and those teams didn’t handle it or stick together nearly as well as this Ravens team. I’ve never been on a team with a losing record in the first half of the season that has so much faith. It’s inspiring!

The bye-week was definitely beneficial. To be able to rest and recover, physically and mentally, was really good for all of us. We’ve spent a lot of time away from home (both at the facility and traveling), so it’s always a bonus when you have some extra time to spend with family. It was nice to relax with my wife and kids and take a little break.

And I think the team was reenergized this week. We had great practices all week. Guys are flying around, looking fast and quick. For the second half of the season, we are set on finishing those games where we are on the cusp of winning. This next half is all about finishing and bringing home those W’s. We have the personnel; we just need to execute and start stacking up wins.

Our collective mindset is to go 1-0 every Sunday. This week it’s the Jaguars, and right now we’re just focusing on them. We only can control what we can control…and that’s our effort and play on the field. If we do that to the best of our ability, I think we’ll get what we want in the end.

I’m excited about this Sunday to go out and see what we can do when our bodies and minds are fresh. Ravens fans can expect to see a fast, physical team that’s going to finish. We’re looking to go out and get a W.

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Written by: Colt Anderson

October BCA Month Hits Close To Home

October 07, 2015

The month of October is a special month for my family, both my Mom’s and my Dad’s sides of the family. Both of my Grandmas were affected by breast cancer. Unfortunately my Mom’s Mom passed away Oct. 3rd, 41 years ago, and we always are thinking of her. My Dad’s Mom is a survivor, so to this day, we consider her a hero and a strong woman.

One way I recognize them is by wearing pink in October. When I first got to the NFL, I thought the whole pink thing was more – how do I put it? – about fashion, but I started wearing it in honor of my Grandmas. Every year, I still give my Grandma who’s alive a pair of my cleats and gloves to say thanks for being a role model and thanks for being so strong. And when it comes to my Grandma who passed away, we always talk about her and how strong she was. My Mom always talks about the kind of woman she was. It’s definitely a special month for us, and we are always thinking of them both.

Breast cancer definitely has affected our family drastically. The disease took one of my Grandma’s lives and my other Grandma had a double mastectomy. We’ve seen what breast cancer can do. We’ve seen the tragic affects it can have on families. And it doesn’t just affect women; it can affect men. I had a teammate in Philly, Kurt Coleman (he plays with the Chiefs now), whose Dad had breast cancer. That really opened my eyes to the fact that breast cancer doesn’t just affect females. His Dad is thankfully a survivor.

The NFL does a great job bringing awareness to not only breast cancer, but cancer as a whole, during October. I know we wear pink for breast cancer, but cancer in general is a terrible thing. It means a lot to me to be affiliated with a league that places such a high priority on raising awareness of the disease. Especially during the month of October, when all those women are out on the field, some that are fighting it, some that have fought it, the survivors…it makes you realize how special life is. It brings a tear to my eyes to see all the men and women out there in their pink. It kind of makes you realize how fast life can be taken away and makes you appreciate life more.

As far as my family goes, we are always talking about it and making sure we take the precautionary steps. And I try to volunteer as much as I can.

To anyone reading this that may be affected by breast cancer in some way: thank you for being so strong. What we do as NFL players on Sundays is minor to the battle you are fighting. I’d like to say thanks for being such great role models to us players.

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Written by: Cedric Thompson

An Impactful Encounter

July 17, 2015

It’s taken me a little while to get my blog going because I’ve been contemplating how to do it the right way. I’m a perfectionist with everything that I do, my blog included. And then, after having an interesting experience that really got me thinking a couple days ago, I decided that I’ll be using this platform to share what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling about various topics.

So here’s what happened that inspired me to finally start blogging:

I was coming back from our training facility the other day around 4p.m. and stopped at Publix to pick up some groceries. When I got out of my car, a man in his late 30s/ early 40s comes up to me with a pair of jeans in his hand and starts telling me a whole crazy story. He says that he’s been out of jail for five months or so after being locked up for nine years, and that his girlfriend broke up with him and left him out on the street. It was a crazy story. Anyway, then he tells me that he went in the store to buy a $5 chicken meal, but they kicked him out because they thought he was trying to steal.

At this point I ask him if he’s telling me this story because he wants something to eat. He says yes, almost in a relieved way, that he’s really hungry and just wants some food. So I tell him to come inside with me and I’ll buy him something to eat. We’re standing at the deli counter and I ask him what he wants. He says he’d like two pieces of chicken. I was like, “That’s all you want? Look man, if you want something to eat, you need to eat until you’re full. You’re a grown man, I don’t think two pieces of chicken are going to fill you up, so get what you want.” He was really shy and hesitant about asking for more. So I went ahead and ordered him a 20-piece chicken meal with a drink and three sides. While we were waiting, he told me that he has two daughters and was trying to feed them too. When I handed him the food, he was just so thankful and appreciative…he had tears in his eyes. I could tell this man was seriously hungry.

As I was getting ready to drive away, he stopped me and asked for a ride to the McDonald’s down the street. I agreed and while we were driving, he told me his life story, how he wrote two books, and about all that he had been through. At first, it’s easy to believe that someone like this was making the whole story up. But after hearing him speak, I could tell that this was a smart guy who was telling the truth.

He asked me my name and what I do. I kind of laughed and told him that I play for the Miami Dolphins. He was shocked. Then he asked if I could get him some tickets (haha) and I told him tickets are hard to come by! Before he got out of the car, he thanked me profusely and said, “Thank you so much for what you did. You have no idea what this means to me and to my daughters. Just know that you have my full support.”

This experience made me think about what’s wrong with the world we live in today. We tend to judge people by skin color or status or sex or power or how much money they make. If we can come to a point where we realize that none of these things matter as much as people think they do, then this world would be a much better place. We can’t judge people that we don’t know because we have no idea what they’ve been through. And everybody needs a helping hand every now and then.

Yes, this man did tell me that he went to jail for 9 years, and I didn’t ask him what he did because it didn’t matter. He served his time and is trying to make a life for himself. Some people end up in his position for doing something bad and some just get dealt a bad hand. The reality is I didn’t know. And I’m not saying that if somebody commits a horrible crime we should automatically do something to help him or her. But before we judge, we should look deeper, rather than judging the book by its cover. That’s a huge problem with our society, and it’s just not fair.

This interaction reminded me of something that happened when I was young, maybe around 10 years old. I was at a McDonald’s (again a story that involves McDonald’s!) and there was a homeless man there who you could tell was on drugs. He was asking people for money and this lady told him that she wouldn’t give him money, but that she’d buy him some food. He got upset and walked out. So you could tell that he wanted the money for other reasons. But you never know. She took the time to ask.

And what’s what I wish we could all do more of as a society. Get to know people and get to know their story before jumping to conclusions and passing judgment on them. Instead of judging and labeling people, how about we use that same amount of energy and effort to get to know them. I may have helped this man feel a little less hungry and a little less alone the other day, but the truth is, he reminded me of a lesson that was just as – if not more – important. And for that, I too am thankful.

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Written by: Jordan Matthews

Switching Seats

June 26, 2015

I can remember sitting in the seats at the Rookie Symposium last year, watching the player panel and thinking, “This is probably the most important part of the whole entire event because this is where I’m going to be in a year.” I knew that if those were the guys sitting up there talking to the rookies, then obviously they’d gained enough respect from the NFL and their peers to be in that position sharing their experiences with the rookie class. And I said to myself right then, “I want to be on that panel next year. And even if I’m not on the panel, I want to have done enough to be deserving of being on it.”

So I took the opportunity to participate in this year’s player panel very seriously. I wanted to share what I’ve learned in one year with a group of young men who are about to go into that. I think that’s awesome, and I looked at the opportunity as a blessing.

There are two key nuggets of information that I really wanted these guys to take away from this. First, stay even-keeled. Never get too high and never get too low. Create a positive environment that allows you to stay in a mindset of peace and focus when it comes to football and your life…and then stay there. If you can stay in that lane, then the game of football is going to come a lot easier. Go to work, study film, spend time with your family, but stay in that lane.

The second thing is don’t ever compare. Don’t look at what this guy over here is getting paid and start changing the way you act in the locker room based on what somebody else has. Don’t look at what another team is doing in OTAs and start wondering why your team is running so much. If you start comparing, you’ll start slacking, and then you’re going to find yourself looking for a different team. Focus on what you have to do and go get that done.

This next month is important. Go get your body healthy. After OTAs and mini-camp, you need a soft tissue specialist or some type of doctor that can put you on a table and tell you what you need to do during the next month to make sure you are healthy for the start of the season. Figure out the ins and outs of your body, what it looks like and what you need to work on.

Then go find somewhere you can train and vacation at the same time. Don’t go to South Beach, kick it all month and think you’re going to come to training camp and take a job. Mentally and physically you won’t be ready. Go to, for example, a place in Cali, where there’s an API, and you can train every single day. And on the weekends, spend it how you want. I would never tell anybody to go into a hole and train because that might get you too stressed out. That’s not for everybody. But you can find a nice place, where, for four hours a day, you’re making sure you’re getting stronger, faster, better at your skills and focusing on taking care of your body. And then you can relax.

I like the quote “The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” There have been enough NFL players who have gone up on stage and talked about how they went broke or how they didn’t take their jobs seriously or how they had to drop out of the league. Let them be the last guys to tell those stories. You don’t have to go through something bad to understand what that experience feels like. Let those guys go through it and you learn from it.

If you take the approach of an undrafted free agent that has to make it everyday, then you can’t help but be successful. It’s a blessing to be able to catch footballs for a job. Just don’t waste this opportunity.

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