You’re Invited!

25th of October, 2013

As many of you know, my parents started a nonprofit called Living Hope Ministries, and the work this organization does means the world to me. Every summer I travel to Nigeria with a group of doctors and nurses who provide medical care to those who need it.

I have seen a lot accomplished on these trips, but realistically there’s only so much that can be done in two weeks. The people I’ve met in this part of Nigeria need a hospital they can go to, without waiting for another group to arrive. Because of this I’m working with LHM to raise $2 million to build a hospital that will provide ongoing medical care to these people I’ve come to know and love.

As many of you also know, I LOVE throwing parties. So I’m excited to host a party that will benefit LHM, the second annual Hope for Life Celebrity Auction and Fashion Show. Join me, along with teammates from the Cardinals, players from the Diamondbacks, and other celebrities for an awesome MoTown themed party. It will take place on December 9 from 6-9pm at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix (download the flyer here).

What can you expect? Expect food, fun, and fantastic items that will be auctioned off to raise money for my foundation in Africa.

A limited number of individual General Admission tickets are available through Eventbrite. For table reservations, as well as sponsorship and underwriting opportunities, please contact Karina Ybarra at 602-710-4281 or karina.ybarra@gmail.com.

This will be a once-in-a-lifetime party you won’t want to miss!

#LetsFreakinGo

Why I Turned Around

25th of October, 2013

Yesterday I went to Phoenix Children’s Hospital to hang out with some of the kids during their monthly “Birthday Party.” I got a chance to take some pictures and sign some autographs, and it was fun. The toughest part was seeing some of the kids so drained and tired and sad, and not really being able to do anything about it.

One kid in particular stood out to me. Her name was Madelyn. Madelyn had just come downstairs from her room. She had just had surgery that day and was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia. I could empathize with her. Madelyn’s parents rolled her wheelchair over to me and she slowly got out of her chair and sat next to me. Madelyn was tired.

I felt a special bond with Madelyn and it was almost as if I could feel her pain. I knew what she was going through, so I spent more time with her than I did with some of the other kids. I told her a little bit about my injury and how bad it hurt when it happened. I encouraged her with the fact that just like me, she was gonna feel better soon. After some talking, Madelyn and I took a picture. I didn’t realize the significance of that picture until after the fact.

At the very end of the visit, after all the kids had left, Madelyn’s mom came up to me with tears in her eyes and explained how much it meant for me to actually spend time with her daughter and how much it meant to see her daughter smile in our picture. “Smiles are contagious,” I told her. “So the more Madelyn smiles the better.”

I felt for Madelyn’s parents. I knew how much they were sacrificing to make sure their child was doing OK. As I left the hospital, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mady and her family. I kept thinking of ways to bless them. Ways to take some of the pressure off and ease some of the heartache. I turned around.

I had figured it out. What better way to bless someone who is struggling than to give them food! People had given me food during the first part of my injury, so I figured I’d keep the tradition alive. I drove around to find the perfect meal for her parents, along with a smoothie for Mady since she probably hadn’t eaten too much. This was one of the best feelings in the world. To actually suffer WITH someone. To be able to relieve some of their pain and make life a little bit easier on them. I returned to the hospital and was escorted up to Mady’s room.

When I walked in, her dad was asleep on the couch (similar to my dad during my injury) and her mom was resting in the chair. They woke Mady up and we got to give her the smoothie. She was smiling from ear to ear. That personality that was missing in the room downstairs had finally reappeared! Her mom and dad couldn’t have been more grateful as well. They thanked me for coming back, and her mom gave me a big hug.

Mady made my day, and it was all because I turned around.

#LetsFreakinGo

True Humility

21st of October, 2013

The other day I watched a 30 for 30 special on Sugar Ray Leonard and his Welterweight Championship bout against Roberto Duran. During this fight, Leonard ran circles around Duran to the point where Duran eventually proclaimed “No mas!” midway through and quit the fight.

Leonard was now the world champion. During the post-fight interviews, however, the story in the media was not about himself as he had hoped; it was about Duran quitting. All the headlines the next day had pictures of Duran and titles that read “No mas!

Sugar Ray had accomplished his goal, but no one seemed to care. The story wasn’t about him. Sometimes life treats us this way. We have huge dreams, hopes, and storylines in our head—we are the hero that gets the girl—but what happens when we’re not? What happens when our dreams are shattered, or even worse, achieved but without the expected high afterwards? What happens when we are not the hero?

Life isn’t all about us. It’s about serving others and being a part of their story. That’s true humility. That’s true servitude. That’s truly a life worth living.

Have you made life all about yourself? Who are the people around you who you could serve?

#LetsFreakinGo

It’s Never Too Late

14th of October, 2013

Busting Out of My Shell

10th of October, 2013

If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty gregarious. I’ll talk to just about anyone, anywhere, at any time. Much of the talking has been made easy because of what I do. I play football, and everyone wants to talk about football (or at least fantasy football).

But what happens when I can no longer do the thing that I’m known for? When I can no longer talk about my main talking point?

To a certain extent, this injury has taken that luxury away. No longer are people sending congratulatory text messages after games, or tweeting at me on Sunday mornings to spur me on to victory. All of that is gone and I am left with who I really am. For the time being, I’m a man in a cast.

I’ve now had my first cast taken off, got my stitches taken out, and got a new cast put on. Through this experience I was reminded of a few truths. Playing football is what I do, not who I am. I AM gregarious, and a broken leg can’t change that. But what it can do—what it has forced me to do—is to come out of the protective shell that football has granted me.

This broken leg has allowed the real me to come out. The gregarious, encouraging, game-night-loving me. And I couldn’t be happier. This injury has been a tumultuous turn and a derailing detour, as injuries tend to be. But more than anything, it’s been an exciting adventure into the unknown. I’ll wear this new cast for a little longer, but then I’m coming out of it. In the meantime, I’m coming into my own.

What casts are holding you back? Which shells are you hiding behind? Whatever they are, It’s time to break out of them.

#LetsFreakinGo

Scooters, Pom Poms, and the Road to Recovery

7th of October, 2013

I knew Sunday was going to be tough. I just knew it. It was the first time since my injury that I would go back to our stadium and NOT run out on the field with my teammates. I didn’t know how I’d handle it. My fiancée told me to be strong, but I couldn’t make any promises.

When I arrived to the stadium, I immediately ran into two of the other injured players. Each of us had casts and scooters to get around. We decided to call ourselves the Street Crew. We scooted onto the field before the game and I got a chance to do what I do best—encourage my guys. It meant the world to me to have each guy come and shake my hand before the game. They made me feel like I was still out there with them, even though I was in street clothes.

A few minutes later, once the team went to the locker room, the Street Crew proceeded to our seats. It was weird and different, but still fun. I watched from afar, cheering on my team, and nearly jumping out of my seat after each big play. I think the highlight of my day was joining the fans in “the wave.” It was so cool!! Maybe this “From Field to Fan” thing isn’t so bad after all. I felt like I needed some pom poms and a skirt, because I was the biggest cheerleader out there. I couldn’t have been more happy about our win and more excited to celebrate with the guys in the locker room. Our head coach welcomed the Street Crew in with open arms, as did our team and our staff.

To be quite honest, I considered not going to the game yesterday. I didn’t want to face the reality that I would no longer be out there with my teammates again. But I had to go. Going was the first step in my road to recovery. Going meant facing the reality of loss. Going meant possibly realizing some emotions that I had held back. But going also meant supporting my team in a way that I can only do while present. Going also meant facing an unfavorable reality. Going meant looking uncertainty in the eye and not turning back.

What does GOING mean to you?

#LetsFreakinGo

Unsung Hero: Marion

2nd of October, 2013

“I thought getting diagnosed with cancer was overwhelming, but what was even more overwhelming was the support I got after the diagnosis.”

Today’s unsung hero is Marion. A while back she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It went into remission, then came back again.

And I thought I had it tough.

In talking to Marion last night, I learned a few things: Marion is strong. Marion is beautiful. And Marion is human.

She knows she’s going to overcome cancer, but right now it hurts. Right now it’s not easy. Her biggest complaint, however, in the midst of all of this, is that she has to miss work at the Justa Center, a job in which she provides housing for the homeless. And she’ll be the first to tell you, she’s GOOD at what she does.

Meeting people like Marion puts life into perspective. In the midst of her trial, she is trying to find a way to serve those less fortunate than herself. That’s why Marion is today’s Unsung Hero. Thank you Marion. We love you.

Who is your Unsung Hero?