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 email@example.com for more information.
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.
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!