A Lot To Be Thankful For

27th of November, 2013

Last Wednesday night was, hands down, the most authentic, real, and true experience I’ve had since breaking my fibula. Part of the goal in writing the fibula diaries was to “suffer with the city,” and this experience gave me the chance to do just that.

Phoenix Rescue Mission is a homeless shelter, a rehab facility, and a renewer of broken lives, all wrapped up with a bow. Except that this bow is not pink, pretty, or pretentious—this bow is downright dirty. And Cliff, a homeless man turned “Hope Coach,” wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our mission for the evening was simple: ride around in a white van with the word HOPE on it, and give away as much food and water to the homeless as possible. Cliff was the driver of the van, the deliverer of hope. He was patient, loving, and kind, because he had been there before. Though he had graduated from college and earned his degree, a few years ago Cliff found himself on the streets with no job, no home, and no hope. Eventually, he found himself at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, which was instrumental in getting his life back on track.

As we drove around Phoenix I asked him if he could tell me the main cause of homelessness. His answer astonished me. “That’s easy,” he responded. “It’s the result of a broken relationship, an addiction, legal trouble, or loss of employment—and often, some combination of those dynamics at once.”

So often, we jump to conclusions as to why someone is in the position they are in. We rush to judgment. But Cliff had been there before. He hurt for the homeless, and he wanted to give them the same hope he had found: a hope in Jesus Christ.

As I rode with this Hope Coach, I couldn’t help but notice his heart for those who had nothing. He was loving, yet fearless at the same time. In the course of providing food, water, blankets, and toiletries to those we met, there were three people who changed my outlook on homelessness. I want to introduce them to you.

MARIA
We saw Maria at our first stop, a nondescript parking lot. She was loading up on bags of food for her sister, aunt, and about eight other family members who weren’t there at the time. Cliff recognized her and asked how she was doing. That’s when her outcry began. She began pouring her heart out to us and explaining that she wanted to kick her addiction, but it had kept a tight grip on her. She had heard about Jesus Christ and the hope that he provides, and she wanted that hope. We proceeded to pray for her. In the midst of her tears and amens I could sense an overwhelming relief in that moment. Maria really wanted to change, as she realized that she was just a few decisions away from it. Cliff had been in the exact same position a few years earlier. He showed her that it was possible. He showed her hope.

STERLING
I met Sterling at our next stop, another parking lot near a city park. Sterling, like most of us, just wanted to be heard. So we listened. He told us that he had met a girl, and she was helping him turn his life around. “She’s a lot like my mom,” he said. “She pushes me. I need that.” Sterling’s girlfriend, like most good women, encouraged Sterling to do more with his life. So he did. He applied for a job in welding, a trade he had studied in school. Applying was a big step for him because he had been without hope for so long. He thought it went well and he couldn’t have been more excited. Just when we thought the story couldn’t get any better, he told us it was his birthday! I didn’t have any gifts, so I gave him my LFG wristband and told him it was time to “freakin’ go!” Haha! I hope he listens.

JENNIFER
Jennifer brought the story full circle. As we were headed back to the Mission, I asked Cliff to show me the Changing Lives Center, a one-of-a-kind facility that provides transitional housing for women and their children who are transitioning out of homelessness. As we pulled up, we ran into a woman named Jennifer. Jennifer was grinning from ear to ear. As soon as she saw us, she exclaimed, “I got the job!! Cliff, I got the job!” It had been eight months since Jennifer had moved into the Center, which tries to limit stays to about a year. With just a few months left, she was running out of time as well as hope. But now she was getting a new start. Never have I seen such a grin. “I start tomorrow,” she told us. “I’m working at a florist shop. The hours are good, and there’s an opportunity to grow in the company! I got a job, Cliff”

Jennifer wasn’t just happy; she had found joy. She found joy in something that she hoped for, but could not see. But that’s all hope really is anyways, right? Romans 8:24-25 says, “Yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”

Despite all the difficulties they have experienced, what Maria, Sterling, and Jennifer all had in common was hope. It was the thread that held their stories together. It’s what kept them alive and what kept them going. They found this hope in Cliff, the “Hope Coach” who had been where they are, and is now where they want to be someday. They point to Cliff as their beacon of hope. But Cliff doesn’t point to himself, he points to Jesus Christ, who chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and chooses the world’s weak things to shame the strong, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:27.

Whatever you do, never lose hope. Cliff didn’t. And neither will I.

#LFG

Believe

26th of November, 2013

We had just earned our seventh victory of the season against Indy, our fourth win in a row. Life was good. I was excited. Excited to be at the game and excited to cheer on my team. Yet the most exciting part of my day wasn’t watching the guys play, it was meeting an opposing player afterwards.

Robert Mathis was and is one of my favorite players. His pass rush and game play style is similar to mine. Relentless and unwilling to quit. My linebacker coach coached Mathis last year in Indy when he lead his team in sacks and made the Pro Bowl. Coach Bettcher wasn’t the only commonality in our story; he, like me, was an “undersized” linebacker. Standing at 6′ and some change—6’1″ to be generous—Mathis certainly didn’t look the part. Yet with 14.5 sacks so far this season, Mathis was getting the job done and doing it well. I had to find out the secret.. So I asked him.

“How do you do it?” I inquired. “And what tips would you have for a younger player like me who is trying to learn the game?”

“You just gotta believe,” he replied. “Believe in yourself and believe in your move. That spin move you’ve been working ALL WEEK in practice, do it in the game. Force yourself to do it.” His message really resonated with me because it was the only thing keeping me from being the dominant player that I am. I didn’t believe. The LFG wristband reminded me to believe in myself and to trust my move, and the guy whose film I study was telling me the same thing.

This conversation was a great reminder and a breath of fresh air. It reminded me that I’m not alone in living out LFG. People are living it out daily. And some people are living it out waaay better than I am. Talking with Robert reminded me that it can be done, whatever “it” is. It was being done and it was being done well.

What’s your “it?” Take some time to reflect and refresh your mind so you can reload and reach your goals.

#LFG

True Greatness

18th of November, 2013

Being great is one thing. Being humble is something totally different.

Throughout my life I have met, played with, and hung out with some of the most well accomplished people out there. From Presidents to Pro Bowlers, I’ve seen it all. Yet what has impressed me most about these men was not their accomplishments, but their humility.

Let me introduce you to three great men who are also genuinely humble.

Lecrae

Last weekend I went to a concert featuring the 116 Clique, a hip hop group comprised of accomplished rap artists who focus on honest rap, rather than rapping about what a lot of us hear on the radio today. The members of 116—Lecrae, KB, Derek Minor, Andy Mineo and Tedashii—are all great at what they do. But what stood out the most was their humility.

Backstage I met Lecrae, a Grammy-winning artist who just released his newest mixtape, Church Clothes 2. He surprised me with our first interaction. As I rose from my scooter to greet him, he proclaimed, “Don’t stand up for me!” Tedashii and KB were the same way. It’s clear that they see others as more important than themselves, and their commitment to kids from the inner city further demonstrates it.

Clayton Kershaw

A few weeks ago, at the wedding of some friends, I “met” Clayton Kershaw. Okay, I didn’t officially get introduced to him. Here’s what happened. I was in the wedding party, as was Clayton’s wife, so we saw each other at the rehearsal dinner the night before. I honestly didn’t know who he was. All I knew was that he and I owned the same pair of shoes, and that I had gotten mine through my Nike contract. I should have made the connection, but I didn’t.

Not once did he talk about baseball, not to mention the fact that he is the best pitcher in the MLB. As a matter of fact, had a friend not told me who he was the day AFTER the wedding, I never would have known he was even there. The reason why is that Clayton is humble. He was celebrating friends on their big day, not drawing attention to himself. The BEST PITCHER IN BASEBALL spent time detracting attention from himself. That should tell us something.

Benson Henderson

One of the reasons I have loved doing my weekly segments for EVB Live on 12 News is because I get to meet a lot of cool people on set. One of them was Benson Henderson. Benson weighs 155 pounds, but could probably beat the living daylights out of me. After all, he is the current lightweight UFC champion of the world.

Benson is another guy who emanates humility. When we started up a conversation, all he wanted to talk about was the mission work my family and I do in Nigeria. He wanted to know how he could help. I didn’t even KNOW the guy and he was seeing if there was any way he could serve those less fortunate than himself.

See, that’s the difference between perceived greatness and true greatness. Perceived greatness is when people tell you you’ve arrived, and you believe them. By society’s standards, you have arrived if you have fame, success, and glory. But true greatness is something totally different, and it’s way harder to achieve.

True greatness says that you’ve never arrived. It doesn’t deny the accomplishments you’ve had; it actually does the opposite. True greatness and true humility embrace those accomplishments and use them to bless other people. True greatness sees others as more important than yourself.

So next time you think of what it means to be great, think about Lecrae, Clayton, and Benson, as well as the many men and women who make sacrifices for the good of someone else. Think about those who humble themselves—because greatness and humility go hand in hand.

Do you wanna be truly great? Then humble yourself and consider others.

#LetsFreakinGo

Hang With The Stars

16th of November, 2013

I’m really excited for the second annual Hope for Life Celebrity Auction and Fashion Show on December 9 to benefit Living Hope Ministries in Nigeria. Did I mention that you’re invited?

Well, in case you’re curious which celebrities are going to be auctioned off and what kinds of experiences they’re offering, you’re now in luck. Here’s the lineup!

1. Patrick Peterson, cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals
Mr. Peterson will personally take the winning bidder on a $2,000 shopping spree!

2. Jay Feely, kicker for the Arizona Cardinals
This kicker will knock your socks off with his swing—and we don’t mean on the dance floor. The winner of this experience will have fun in the sun in a foursome game of golf.

3. Drew Stanton, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals
The winner of this experience will enjoy a night of wine tasting, good conversation and good company.

4. Carson Palmer, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals
Who doesn’t want to cross an item off the to do list? Hit the snooze button and let Carson take your kid to school. Carson is licensed and ready to drive. Heck, he may even help pack the lunch too.

5. Calais Campbell, defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals
Strike! Enjoy a party with eight of your closest friends. The highest bidder will Bowl at lucky strike with Calais. Yummy eats and soft drinks included.

6. Bruce Arians, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals
Finally! An opportunity to “coach” the coach. Calling all golfers! The winning bid will “swing” it out in a foursome game of golf with Coach Arians. (Note: Coach Arians will not be able to attend the auction.)

7. Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver for the Cardinals, and Nicole Castrale, golfer on the LPGA Tour
Two of the nation’s greatest athletes, Nicole and Larry, will play golf with you and two of your friends at the LPGA Founders Cup Pro-am (at the Wildfire Golf Course in Scottsdale on Wednesday, March 19, 2014). Can it get any better? This package also includes LPGA Pro-am pre-parties and all the other LPGA festivities.

8. Carson Palmer, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals
Here’s another chance to bid on Carson and another opportunity to show off your skills, along with two of your friends, in the LPGA Founders Cup Pro-am (same date and location as above) with Carson and an LPGA pro to be named later. You will also go to the exclusive festivities and pre-parties the night before.

9. Adam Eaton, outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks
Grab the cracker jacks and peanuts! Watch America’s favorite pastime with 4 exclusive tickets to a Diamondbacks game. You’ll also get to go to batting practice for a meet-and-greet with your favorite ballplayers.

10. Ryan Slowik, defensive assistant for the Arizona Cardinals
Coach Slowik will take a front row seat with popcorn in hand watching your favorite star’s film, including a review and critique on defense/special teams. (Note: Coach Slowik will not be able to attend the auction.)

11. Lorenzo Alexander, linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals
Peddle away into the sunset with Lorenzo Alexander on a cycling adventure. Training wheels not included.

12. Frostee Rucker, defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals
Watch some hoops with Frostee at a Phoenix Suns game! Make sure to bring your foam finger and be ready to cheer on the Suns along with one guest.

13. Benson Henderson, UFC lightweight champion
Mr. “Smooth” Henderson will lead you in a private workout session of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. You will then get to stick around and watch a live sparring session.

14. J.J. Putz, pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks
The winner of this experience will get to take in a Diamondbacks game in 2014 from an 18 guest suite at Chase Field. Rumor has it, field passes for batting practice just might be thrown in. (Note: package does not include catering and is not eligible for Opening Day.)

15. Calais Campbell, defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals
Call this one “the suite life with Jordin Sparks.” That’s right, you and a friend can watch the Cardinals play the 49ers in a suite at University of Phoenix Stadium with singer-songwriter/actress Jordin Sparks!

16. Me
Enjoy a full VIP access pass, including 4 tickets to a Cardinals game. The package includes a meet and greet. You won’t want to miss out!

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to secure your spot at the Hope for Life Celebrity Auction and Fashion Show before it sells out!

Man’s Best Friend, My Worst Enemy

7th of November, 2013

So… I’m scared of dogs. Ahh I’m glad I finally got that off my chest. This phobia wasn’t innate; it was onset as a child when I saw my sister get attacked by a neighbor’s German Shepherd. “Saw” actually isn’t the best descriptor, considering I ran inside and hid as soon as the dog started chasing her.

Let me set the scene. My oldest sister had just gotten a bike and was riding around the neighborhood. She got off of training wheels pretty quickly, so she was happy to show off her new skills. We had a neighbor who, as far as I could tell, was the bully at his school. He was the kid that would look you in the eye, make a fist, and pound that fist into his hand, as a representation of what he would do to you if he happened to be having a bad day. His German Shepherd was much like him.

One day, this neighborhood bully felt like picking on someone, and this someone happened to be my sister. I don’t remember exactly how it happened; all I remember is him saying something along the lines of “Fido, sick ‘em!!” The rest was history. I ran inside and the dog began to chase my sister until she eventually fell off of her bike. I wasn’t sure if she had been bitten or just fell, but either way the trauma had already set in. No other dogs were going to get a chance. And so, my phobia began.

I began choosing alternate walking routes, based on whether a dog was in the area or not. I also began asking friends to put their dogs up before I came over. Earlier this year even I remember being invited to a friend’s house multiple times, but never going because I had met their dogs once and didn’t like them. Even Chihuahuas scared me! This phobia was getting out of hand, so I decided to do something about it. I started my own personal dog-therapy.

My version of therapy consisted of weekly visits to friends’ houses to play with their dogs. It also consisted of walking these pets on my own without the owner around. Eventually, my love for dogs grew, but the fear was still there.

As I was telling one of my friends about this fear, he recently reminded me of this simple truth. “Since the fear is all in your mind, there’s not too much training you can do to fix that fear. Just change your thinking.” I’m working on it. Jax, Riley, Dapper, Bella (or “Shedog” as I like to call her) and Lira have all helped with this process. Now I’m asking for your help too.

When those of you with dogs see me, help me get over my fear by asking me to pet your dog. If I don’t, I’ll hand you an LFG bracelet. But I may have to throw you the bracelet because I’ll probably be on the other side of the street!

What fears do you have? Are they hindering you from every day life? Ask someone close to you for their help in getting over them.

#LetsFreakinGo