A Great Day

6th of June, 2017

I had a great day of practice today. I trusted myself and trusted my instincts. That trust led to a good bit of success against the guys I competed against. Usually, on days like today, I leave feeling giddy – relieved that what I’m doing is finally working and excited that I’m making improvements. However, today’s on-field work against our offense had absolutely nothing to do with why today’s day at practice was so great. It’s what happened AFTER practice that made it special.

Today, 12 or so guys put their faith into action. As most people know, I go to Nigeria every summer to do medical mission work . I travel with over 30 medical professionals overseas and we spend two weeks in remote villages in Nigeria to serve people. But we can’t serve without medicine, and that’s where my team comes in. Some people heard about what was going on so they decided to help out. Jen, our team nutritionist, collected 681 bottles of multivitamins through a connection of hers. That’s 122,000 tablets. All donated by the folks over at Klean Athlete and all going straight to serve the people of Nigeria. That’s a lot of tablets. But that’s where my teammates come in.

Isaiah 58:10-11 says, “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

So that’s what we did. I called it Bible study, but I think a better name for that time would have been “faith in action.” A dozen or so guys showed up. All tired from a long day’s work, sore from the last few weeks, and with plenty of other obligations knocking on their door. But they showed up, and they stayed. And in a little over an hour, we packed up all 122,000 tablets, emptied them into ziplock bags so we could fit more, double bagged them, sorted them according to their kind, and didn’t complain. And cleaned all the trash when they were finished.

THIS was the highlight of my day. Seeing men who have it all giving to those who need it most. My prayer for them is the same as my prayer for you: that you would follow in Jesus’ footsteps and “pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted.” Just try God out and see if he doesn’t do what he says he’s gonna do. I can promise you he will.

Did I mention I had a great day at practice today?

#LFG

The Cheering Section

23rd of March, 2017

During the last couple of years in Chicago I became friends with a man by the name of Brian “Boomer” Roberts. Boomer coaches basketball at Trinity International University in Deerfield, just north of Chicago. We attend the same church in neighboring Lincolnshire, and instantly became friends after talking one Sunday.

Boomer’s team has become like family to me and have helped me realize what it feels like to be a fan. I come to games, I yell, I scream, I harass the refs – you know, usual fan stuff. His team made the NAIA DII tournament for the first time in 10 years, and I, being a fan of this team I now call family, had to come support them. I thought it was the perfect set up. Our team playing the host school in the prime time game: us against the world. Things couldn’t have been primed for a better situation as a fan. But boy, was I wrong.

I entered the arena in my blue and white Trojan shirt, as one of about 30 fans who made the eight-hour drive (or four-hour flight from Dallas, in my case) to come support the team. We were surrounded by a sea of maroon. From college students, to faculty, to locals and even out-of-towners, no one gave us a chance. And my job, as small as it may have seemed, was to cheer as loud as humanly possible, and bring others along with me. I was ready for anything that the opposing fans had to give me. But it is what I WASN’T ready for that almost had me leaving the game early.

About five minutes into the first half, a Trojan fan came up from behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. “Can you please sit down?” he said. “People behind you can’t see.” I was so confused. The one reason I came was to cheer on the guys in the best way I knew how, and now, someone who was supposed to be on my team was telling me to stop.

“No,” I replied. “There are plenty of seats in front of me. If someone can’t see, that person can move to one of these seats.” Needless to say, the other Trojan fan wasn’t happy with my response. A few minutes later, ANOTHER Trojan fan came up and asked me the same thing. “Please, if you don’t want to sit down, at least move to the front so we can see.”

Anyone that knows me knows that this kind of thing goes against every fiber in my being. We are FANS – you know, FANATICS. In other words, our job – especially in this single-elimination tournament – is to stand and cheer, not sit and watch. My reply was the same, “Sir, there’s an entire student section for the other team standing up and cheering. One of the players’ family members is standing and cheering. I’m not going to sit down. I’m here to cheer for my team.”

In the middle of our conversation, a SECURITY GUARD comes over and asks the guy I’m speaking with if there are any issues. Even the security guard, though he acknowledged my right to stand, asked if I would move to a different seat. This situation made no sense to me. I came to the game, waited in line, paid for my ticket – and in my opinion, I had every right to stand and cheer, no matter who else said otherwise.

I was starting to get a little perturbed and, quite frankly, a little bit angry. But it wasn’t until a gentle word from the person sitting next to me that I changed my approach. “Hey,” she said. “I’m totally with you. But this is such a great moment for the boys, let’s not let anything detract from that. How about this, if you move, I’ll move with you. That way, this doesn’t keep going on. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.”

She was right. This game was not about me, nor was it about the person behind me. It was about the team and everything they were trying to accomplish. They had come this far, and my emotions and frustrations had no place at the table that night. So subtly, but humbly, I moved. I went to a side of the stands where I wasn’t in anyone’s way and cheered my socks off for the Trinity International Trojans.

Sometimes, it was just me. Other times, the other Trojan fans joined in. But I made sure that our voice was heard and our presence was felt. The team went on to win that night and advance in the tournament. Though my pride took a blow, I knew I did the right thing when the players came up to me after and thanked me for yelling.

“We felt you out there, bro. Thank you for coming.”

Those are the ten words every fan wants to hear. Thanks guys, and Go Trojans!

#LFG

Why I’m a Trojans Fan

13th of March, 2017

These past few months have been a blast. Want to know why? It’s because of Trinity International University basketball.

TIU is well known in some circles for its notable alumni, including authors and leaders like Ravi Zacharias, Bill Hybels, and many others. But as a NAIA Division II school, it’s not quite as well known for its sports teams. Translation: it’s near the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the scholarships it can give, the talent it can attract, and the opportunities to build a championship program.

But don’t tell that to Boomer Roberts, the 30-year-old head coach of TIU’s men’s basketball team. Boomer and I became friends during my time in Chicago and I’ve watched him turn this “bottom of the totem pole” team to a national title contender.

It’s true. His team just set a school record for wins, beating teams it has never beat before, making it all the way to the semifinals – the furthest the school has ever been in the NAIA DII tournament. And while the team had set its sights on winning it all, no one can deny the magnitude of their accomplishment.

Boomer’s team is led by a young man named Grant Corsi. Grant may not be the leading scorer, or a first team All-American (he’s second team), but ask anyone and they’ll tell you: he’s the heart and soul of the Trojans. Grant is a natural-born leader. He and I developed a pretty cool relationship as well, and I’ve watched him mature over the past year from a junior who “wanted it” to a senior who was going to help his team go and get it. Grant and I attend church together and we had a conversation before his senior season. The dedication in his eyes was unmatched. We also had a conversation right before the tournament. He was sharing his heart for his teammates and his desire to see them grow as men. Not bad for a 22-year-old.

Then there is his teammate, Zach Kirschbaum. Zach IS an All-American and happens to be league MVP. None of that is by accident. Zach is as talented as they come, but he is surrounded by a coach who pushes him, teammates who motivate him, and a family who loves him. And don’t let his 6’10” frame fool you – Zach is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet, at least off the court.

Behind him is Henry French, the spark. People usually come to games just to watch him light up an arena with one of his gravity-defying dunks. He’s actually in the NAIA dunk contest, which takes place on March 18 during the NAIA DI championship game. Behind them is a host of playmakers, talented in their own right: Jeremy and Greg Carlyle (twins from Compton), Luke Mead (aka “Grandpa”), plus so many other great players like Sean, TJ, Will, DJ, Nate, Sam, Rick, Mark, and Nate. Each one of these guys brings something unique to the table, and each one of them plays a unique role on the team. But the reason they win is not because of talent. They win because they love each other. They love each other with a true, genuine love that is hard to come by in sports.

So hard to come by, in fact, that when you see it, you take note. And that’s what makes this team so special. It’s evident. Their love for each other emanates from the court and the bench. I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve even been in the locker room postgame and seen – win or lose – how these men stand together as brothers who do not criticize but compliment each other’s play. They build each other up. They care for one another. They see each other as more important than themselves.

As a professional athlete who is also a Christian, this is so refreshing for me. Jesus talks about us being the salt of the earth, to help preserve things that are good. This team is doing just that. Jesus also talks about us being the light of the world, and a city on a hill that can’t be hidden. This team exemplifies that better than I’ve ever seen.

So keep shining, boys. I know the season didn’t end the way you may have wanted, but what God did through you made more of an impact than any game ever could. Much love my brothers.

#LFG

Little Brother No More

29th of September, 2016

Ever since I’ve known Emmanuel Acho he’s been a creator – a bold, fearless visionary who saw something in himself and dared to dream.

Emmanuel willed himself from Austin, Texas to the NFL to the ESPYs . . . to PROM . . .  and now to even bigger and brighter things. But how he got to where he is now is a story worth telling.

Many people in my circle of friends see Emmanuel Acho as a little brother. I’ll never forget those chants ringing through our high school basketball court as we played our rival. “LITTLE BROTHER!” they screamed every time he touched the ball. Clever, yes, but hearing that chant hurt me because I always knew Emmanuel was so much more.

One story that shaped Emmanuel happened during his senior year of high school. I had left for college and he took over as commander-in-chief of our high school football team. And just like everything else he’s done, he turned the team around. He started by bringing them brand new jerseys, and finished by bringing them an undefeated season and a state title.

And as if that weren’t enough, he went on during track season to set the all-time school record for discus, taking the second all-time ranking in our division. He still argues that he’s the best thrower in school history (though, I should add, I hold the record in shot-put). By the end of that record-setting school year, he expected, as we all did, for him to win Athlete of the Year like I had during the year prior. I even came back to celebrate with him. But for some strange reason, though by every statistical measure he deserved it, he didn’t win it. I’ll never forget hearing the other kid’s name called and the devastation that ensued. But what I quickly learned about Emmanuel is that instead of getting bitter, he gets better.

He went on to play four years as a star linebacker for the University of Texas, then four more years in the NFL. And though his career may not be over just yet, I do want to take this moment to say how proud I am.

In fact, to say I’m proud would be an understatement. You see, for the last 28 years I’ve been doing my best to be my brother’s keeper, trying to set an example for him to follow. But what I’ve been missing all along is that Emmanuel is the tone-setter, the standard-setter, the example in and of himself.

Emmanuel, YOU are the reason I played football. I was a shy, timid, and scared 12-year-old boy. But I watched you – my “little brother” – demonstrate boldness. You did what you always do. You paved the way for those behind you. From the first time you put on the helmet all those years ago, I was watching. First on the sideline, then on a field next to you, then with you. Now I’m watching as you make as beautiful of a transition as I’ve ever seen into your post-football career – social advocate, sports psych expert, venture capitalist, TV personality.

I’m trying to think of the best way to describe you, but I think Ben Lyons of The Players’ Tribune said it best: “Ladies and gentlemen, this man is going to run the world someday . . . soon!”

Love you, E. Keep on creating.

#LFG

More Than a Number

2nd of September, 2016

As Long as There is Hope

11th of August, 2016

Recipe for Greatness

26th of July, 2016

Great teams have great sayings. And they live by these mantras.

In Arizona, Bruce Arians introduced us to three words that carried heavy weight: Trust, Loyalty, and Respect. Individually, these words were noble, maybe even weighty. But together they became a call to action. A mantra that we as a team lived by.

For Pete Carroll it’s Compete Everyday. For Mack Brown it’s Consistently Good to be Great. But each great coach has a great saying that means more than just the sum of its collective words.

I recently watched an hour long interview between Pete Carroll and Angela Duckworth about what it means to have “grit.” I’ll spare you the circumstance but suffice it to say that grit or even “great” is not developed overnight. Grit can be taught, greatness can be learned.

As a 13-0 Texas Longhorn that went from a national championship to a 5-7 season, and as an Arizona Cardinal that went from worst to first seemingly overnight, I’ve had a chance to be a part of some major turnarounds. And oddly enough I find myself in the midst of one now as a Chicago Bear. One thing rings true. The good teams know why they’re good. They know what it takes to be successful and they consistently imitate the same successful patterns. Some call it practice, but I call it a mindset – a winning mindset.

See, for Pete Carroll, Compete Everyday doesn’t mean finding someone you’re better than and outdoing them. It is actually the opposite. For him, to compete means thinking like a champion. It means finding ways to get better at your craft and not worrying about the guy next to you. For Mack Brown, greatness has nothing to do with what you do on Saturday afternoons. It has everything to do with what you do Sunday through Friday when no one is watching. For Bruce Arians, respect has nothing to do with his authority, but rather respecting the process – the process that it takes to be great.

For all of these coaches, being great has less to do with how you handle success and more to do with learning from failure. And that’s where a lot of us miss the mark. We want so much to be perfect, or to be great, that we disrespect the process and the work that goes into being great.

In the offseason I train at a place called Ignition. There’s another player who trains there every single day, but I never see him. He’s up early, gets his work in, and is out before most of us are even awake. He’s been training there the last few years. His name is Luke Kuechly. Guys like Luke respect the process, are consistently good, and are immensely focused.

In the football world – and in life – that’s a recipe for greatness.

#LFG

Glass Half Full

25th of July, 2016

I hate traffic jams. I mean, what good can come from being stuck in traffic? Especially when you’ve got somewhere to be.

Traffic jams are the enemy of progress – proof of entropy in what’s supposed to be a smooth-running world. I’m sure you’re with me, right?

But what if there was a way to turn traffic on its head? A way to laugh in the face of this so-called “adversity”? Well, I recently had that opportunity, and I learned it from a couple of kids.

I had just finished my last workout of the offseason before starting training camp. My body felt good and I was ready to go. Now all I had to do was make it to the airport for my 3:30pm flight back to Chicago. Easy enough, I’d done it a million times.

But this time was different. As soon as I got on the highway to pick up my family and head back home, you guessed it – I ran into traffic. But not just normal traffic. I ran into what turned out to be a five-car accident that blocked up a three lane highway. I was stuck. And with little margin for error, it was looking more and more like we were going to miss our flight.

Making matters worse, all the other flights leaving that day from both nearby airports were already sold out. This can’t be happening, I thought. I started to sulk and complain, but then something really cool happened. I looked out of my window and saw two guys walk out of their parked car (we had been there for a while) and they started playing catch. Then their mom came out of the car and did the craziest thing – she started playing with them!

I was hot, sweaty, and annoyed with the traffic, but seeing these three people throwing the football around, in the middle of such a frustrating situation, brought me joy. As a matter of fact, it brought me so much joy that I did what I do best. I got out of my car and started playing with them. Before we knew it, others hopped out and joined us in what turned out to be a 40-minute game of catch.

I told them who I was, and who I played for, and that made the situation even more exciting for everybody. By the end of the ordeal, I had made a couple friends, a few fans, and some faithful followers. But most importantly, I learned from two teenage kids that with the right mindset, ANY situation can be flipped on its head. What matters is how you look at it. Kind of a like a glass half full.

#LFG

Built for Something More

20th of July, 2016

Orlando

13th of June, 2016

My head hurts. My heart hurts. We live in a broken world.

In one night, 49 people died and 53 others were injured.

And yet, we still don’t get it. One human being specifically targeted other human beings at a bar. This person came with intent – intent to kill people who were gay.

There’s no way around it. Just like there’s no way around another human being who walked into a black church in Charleston, South Carolina with intent to kill black Christians.

This is not an issue of gun control. This is not an issue of politics. This is an issue of hate, of sin, and of death.

Stop using the deaths of others to push your agenda. Seriously, stop. Just imagine if your group was the one being attacked. Imagine if your friend or loved one, your brother or sister, was in that club. You would be scared. You would be infuriated. You would not make this about something that it’s not.

The only thing that brings me hope is the gospel – the good news that this broken, jacked up world is NOT MY HOME.

I was at the hospital today and my heart was broken again because of all of the flat out awful illnesses and diagnoses that people face. One was a 10-month-old with a brain tumor who has been in the hospital the last 147 days.

How do you deal with that? How do you deal with a gunman who killed or injured over 100 people?

This earth is not my home. It never will be. So my goal in all of this is to pray and to act. I’m going to pray that God would make it better. And I’m going to go and tell people the good news.

This is not how the story ends, people. It can’t be.

#LFG

The Big Pivot

16th of May, 2016

Have you ever been a part of something good? I mean, really good. I mean, so good that you don’t even want to interrupt it good?

Last week we had a team Bible study and it was amazing. The Spirit of God was there and you could tell guys were into it. The pastor was feeling it, we were feeling it, shoot, even God was feeling it. It was good. Then, all of a sudden, there was a pivot. A very awkward pivot.

Here’s the backstory. This year, as a team, we decided to try something different. We wanted to make Bible study more interactive and encourage players to help lead the studies by preparing a topic and interjecting when necessary. On this day, everything seemed to be on point. No input was needed.

Boy were we wrong. There came a moment when the conversation shifted. I encouraged my teammate to butt in, even though it didn’t seem like the right time. There were a few long moments of awkward silence, but finally, he stepped in.

He started talking about the character and personality of Jesus and how relatable he is to you and me. He started talking about how once you understand the approachability of Jesus, it takes your relationship with him to another level. He started talking about his personal story. Eyes were opened and lives were changed. By the end of the Bible study, wounds were being healed, tears were being shed and eyes were being opened. All because of this great pivot.

A day or so later I thanked my teammate for being bold enough to stand in front of guys and make such a bold pivot even though things seemed to be going so well already.

His response: “Man, that was so hard. The devil was telling me to stay on topic.”

I’m glad he didn’t listen.

#LFG

Promises Broken and Kept

15th of April, 2016

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Life is a test. And I’m trying desperately to pass. I don’t know about you but it seems like way too often, things don’t go the way I planned them. Though I play in the NFL and just signed a new contract, things haven’t been and still aren’t as rosy as they may appear. My road to the NFL – and time in the NFL – has been far from what I envisioned.

Coming into the draft I was graded as a “mid-round selection” and was told that if I performed well at the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and Texas Pro Day then I would surely climb up the draft boards. So I did that. I won Most Outstanding Performance at the Senior Bowl, set records at the 2011 NFL combine, and had an outstanding pro day. I even had a coach from the Raiders call me and tell me he was gonna draft me in the second round after meeting with the team!

Needless to say, I fell to the fourth round. Which, don’t get me wrong, is still an accomplishment, but more of a disappointment at the time because of all of the broken promises.

Fast forward to my first few years in the NFL, when, after a very strong start in seasons one and two, I was sidelined by a broken fibula in year three. Not to mention some of the injuries or other serious illnesses that went undocumented during my first few years, things have not been, and are still not always rosy.

I’m encouraged by stories of guys like Justin Forsett who, after seven years of “wandering” around the NFL and even pondering retirement, found a team that finally showed some long-term commitment. And who knows some of the trials he’s been through on his long journey. There are so many people in these shoes. Not just in the NFL, but in their day to day life. Living life wondering if things will ever turn. What I’m starting to realize is that in all reality, they may not. At least not on this side of eternity.

What gives me hope is the verse I opened with from John 16. “In this world you will have troubles…” Man, I couldn’t agree more. But I’m glad that’s not the ending. Jesus continues by saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What a relief.

And as to the question of whether things are sure to get better here on earth, I’m gonna rest on this laurel from 1 Corinthians 2: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

And I love him, and I’m gonna keep on loving him, until the end of time.

#LFG

Love Never Fails

31st of March, 2016

God’s been teaching me a lot over these last few months, through both free agency and fatherhood.

I wrote about those free agency lessons a couple of weeks ago, but basically I learned not to put my faith in other people. This has been a hard-learned lesson, since I’m a self-identified people pleaser. Somehow I had the idea that if people were pleased with me and my performance on the field, then I would feel great about the final result. As I now know, that’s not always the case.

But free agency isn’t the only thing God is using to break me of this people-pleasing mentality. He’s also using my experience of being a dad.

I have a 15-month-old son, and he’s the most calm, cool, collected toddler you can imagine. But he’s still a toddler. And I’m learning that kids of that age do what they want, when they want, whether you like it or not.

Here’s what I mean. Toward the end of last season, my wife and son went to Africa for a wedding. When they returned after 10 days away, I figured he’d greet me with his same old lovable smile. Boy was I wrong. Instead, I was greeted with tears, tears, and yes, more tears. Not tears of joy, mind you: tears of terror. The terror of a young child who is either being abducted or being forced to go to the pediatrician.

I came to find out later that this separation anxiety is totally normal for a kid of his age. But for the time being I was devastated, trying frantically to do anything and everything imaginable to make my son like me again. Needless to say, nothing magical happened. It just took time.

Fast forward to today, and we’re going through another one of those phases. One moment I pick up my son and he smiles, and the next moment he doesn’t want me to even touch him. As any parent will tell you, this kind of thing is hard. But I think God is teaching me something in it. He’s teaching me that no matter if I feel loved back, I must love. And no matter if my son “likes” me or not, I’m still his dad, and that’s not going to change.

That’s because our relationship is deeper than emotions and outbursts. And love is always better than like. Like is temporary and changing. Love never fails. It’s that love I hold on to when things don’t look like they’re going my way. I know God loves me and is using every tough situation to mold me and grow me into who he made me to be. And he’s doing the same for you.

So the next time that tough situation comes your way, whatever it is, don’t be too eager to get out of it. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.

#LFG

On Solid Ground

18th of March, 2016

To be quite candid, free agency sucks. That is, unless your last name is Suh.

People constantly let you down. Teams assign a value to you as a player (and intrinsically as a person) and that price tag, for the time being, is what you, as a player, are “worth.”

Let’s be real, there’s nothing worse than people assigning a value to you, especially when that value doesn’t match up with what you know your value to be. I had a coach a few years ago who always said, “You are what you put on tape.” The mindset being that you need to have great practices and great games because they define who you are as a player.

I always hated and still to this day hate that statement. It’s like telling a student, “you’re only as smart as your SAT score” or an employee that they’re only as good as their most recent compilation of work done. I’m a believer that you are much more than what you put on tape. And you are much more than your last grade, assignment, or report.

See, there’s a problem with big contracts and the little ones too. The problem with the smaller ones is almost self-explanatory. Teams don’t value you as much as you may think they should. Talk about a shot to the ego. But the problems with the bigger contracts are often worse.

If getting a big contract in the NFL is your ultimate goal, two problems may arise. First, you may never get it. And second, you may get it, but let’s say your production dips a little bit. Now, all of a sudden, you’re no longer worth what that contract says you’re worth. Or your salary, or your social status or your job title, or your JOB.

I’m done believing that I “am what I put on tape” because what I put on tape fluctuates too much. Jobs change, titles change, Twitter followers change, whatever other irrelevant measuring stick changes too. They always do.

There’s gonna come a day when I no longer play in the NFL. If my worth is tied up in that temporary job, I’m hopeless. Instead, I’m choosing to put my hope in one person, the “author and finisher of my faith.” I’m putting my hope in the one who loves me even on my worst day, not just if I have a few good games. I’m putting my hope in the one who will look at me and say, “well done my good and faithful servant,” simply because I believed in him and allowed him to take the lead in my life. I’m putting my hope in a solid rock that never changes and never wavers. I’m putting my hope in Christ, and I would love for you to do the same.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground (including the NFL) is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.

#LFG

Your Inner Kid

16th of March, 2016

People often wonder why I do the things I do. The short answer: Jesus. The long answer? That may take a little bit of explaining.

Growing up, never in a million years did I think I’d become a professional athlete. On the contrary, I quite literally thought that the world would come to an end before that happened.

Well, I was wrong. And now I’m here, playing in the NFL and living the childhood dream of millions of kids in America. Recently I got a chance to spend time with some kids and I asked them about their dreams. Some of the answers amazed me. When asked what her dreams were, one little girl responded, “I want to be a surgeon. My parents are surgeons and all their friends are as well. I’ve seen the people they’ve helped and I want to help people.” Another said, “I want to build a place where people without homes can live and have shelter.” When asked about where this desire was born, she replied, “I drive in the car with my parents and we drive by people with cardboard signs who don’t have food. I know they need help and I wanna help them.”

This is beautiful. So beautiful.

We all have dreams, big dreams to change the world. Yet somewhere along the line something happens. Fear, doubt, shame, and blame creep in. We go from caring for the homeless man, to accusing him of crimes or addictions he may or may not be facing, hoping he doesn’t make eye contact and playing out the negative he would do if we did in fact give him some spare change.

When I become that person, I want that little girl back. That girl who sees the man for who he is and loves him. Period. No blaming, no accusing. Just love. This is why I spend so much time around kids. Kids dream. Kids believe. Kids don’t fear.

I was asked by a student last week what was the biggest obstacle that stood in the way of me accomplishing my goals. My answer? Fear. Fear of failure. And, often times, fear of the outcome of success. I got blank stares. It was as if the kids thought I was crazy! “Why would you be scared to mess up?” I could hear them thinking, “Even worse, why would you be scared to do it right?! . . . Ms. Johnson, this guy needs some help.”

We laugh, but it’s true. Kids don’t care about the outcome. They enjoy the process. Better yet, the moment. All that matters is the moment. There is no calculation of pros and cons, whys and why nots, there is just DO. And while there are certainly downsides to this mindset (here we go with the pros and cons again . . .) the advantages far outweigh the costs.

So to anyone reading this post, do yourself a favor and bring out that inner kid. We all have him or her. And there’s always a right time. You’ll know it. And when it comes, just do it.

#LFG

Be Different

10th of March, 2016

Recently I met the most wonderful little girl while speaking to some students at a school in Dallas. We talked about dreaming big and setting yourself apart. Though I love public speaking, the highlight of my day was meeting this student after my speech. Her name was Farrah and she was the most interesting girl in the world.

Though she was currently going to school in the United States, Farrah had previously lived in Jordan and Australia. Her dad is a master chef and traveled around the world catering to kings, queens, princes, and princesses. Moving can be tough, but I can only imagine the huge worldview that she’s gaining and she doesn’t even know it.

I know, because I’ve lived it. I was born in Dallas to Nigerian parents. We lived in the United States, but our household was as African as they come. From the foods to the discipline, I grew up differently from my friends. We even traveled to Nigeria every other year to spend Christmas and New Years in the village where my dad grew up. From a very young age I had the chance to see, experience, and live a completely different culture. And this experience opened up my eyes to the great big world that exists outside of our country.

Words cannot describe the benefit of opening up your eyes and learning about people who look, act, or think differently than you. Steve Jobs, for instance, made sure to surround himself with people who thought, talked, and walked differently than him, and it made his company that much better. In fact, for a while Apple’s motto was “Think different.”

Being different is a good thing and an attribute that should be embraced. Embrace other cultures, ethnicities, and races. You’ll be shocked by the outcome. If fear is what is keeping you from opening up, I implore you: be different.

#LFG

Be You

4th of March, 2016

Comparison is the thief of all joy.

As part of my off-season conditioning, I usually find new places to train. In one of my recent sessions, I trained alongside a player in the Canadian Football League who has dreams of making to the NFL. Throughout the workout I could tell he was sizing me up, trying to see what, if anything, differentiates he and I. I could tell that he was doing that because I usually do the exact same thing.

One of the biggest lessons I’m learning in life is that I am much better off not comparing myself to the next guy. Often times when I do compare myself, I find myself either feeling less adequate, thus deflating my ego, or better than, thus inflating it. There rarely has been a time when I said, “I’m just like that guy!” Usually the response, whether verbalized or internalized, is one of disdain or a feeling of jealousy. Instead of being genuinely happy for the other person, usually – if they’re doing something really awesome in my eyes – I feel a little sense of loss. Like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do. It’s like the happiness I should have for them is replaced with a sadness for what I’m not or should be doing. Or I try to change to be like them, and that never works. Comparison is the thief of all joy.

We even see this phenomenon in some of our presidential hopefuls. Donald Trump is known, for lack of better terms, to speak his mind and badmouth people. Marco Rubio, for his part, hasn’t traditionally been known for this. However, as of recently we’ve seen Rubio attempt to take on some of these tactics. Badmouthing other candidates and being more “Trump-like.” This hasn’t worked and things have gotten even uglier than they already were. And let’s not even get started about Chris Christie

Needless to say, what I’m learning is that when I don’t compare myself or try to change and be like someone else, I get my joy back. I’m happy with what I’ve done because it’s what I’ve done and it’s my best. And there’s the key. Do YOUR best. Not someone else’s best, YOUR best. Once you do that, you can genuinely be happy for others because you’re not them, and they’re not you. Colossians 3:23 says “In everything you do, work as if you’re working for the Lord and not for man.”

God wants your best. Not someone else’s best.

#LFG

Choose Hope

27th of October, 2015

It hit me at the worst possible time. I had just started on a new team with a “prove it” contract. I was doing my best to prove to myself and to this team that I belonged. And to be honest, I was doing a pretty darn good job.

I came to this team with big dreams. I had hopes that in this, my fifth year in the NFL, I would finally play up to my level of expectation. As athletes, we rarely reach those lofty goals, but I was well on my way.

Two games into the preseason and I had put in two very solid performances – sack and interception in one, sack and forced fumble in the other. I’ll never forget running over to the sideline with the ball and hearing Coach Fox say, “Playmakers always find a way to make plays, they can’t help it!”

I had two solid performances in a row, following three months of showing this team what I could do in practice (or, as Coach likes to call them, “mini-games”). Things were finally trending in the right direction.

Then along came a surprise nemesis: cytomegalovirus.

I got the call on a Friday morning. “Sam, we just got your blood work back and things don’t look good. The enzyme levels of your liver are ten times the normal level. You need to come to my office ASAP.”

Being the typical football player I am, I responded, “Uh, doc, we have a game tomorrow and I’m about to go out to practice now. I need to be out there.”

But the doctor shut that notion down. “Sam, there’s no practice, no games, and no football for you until we figure this out. You need to come to my office now. This is non-negotiable.”

I hesitate to share some of the thoughts that crossed my mind during that 15 minute drive to the doctor’s office. Caught in the midst of nobility and pride, I talked with God, convincing myself that surely I was ready for whatever he had for me, whatever the diagnosis. But surely I was not.

In a moment like that, you want to think you’re brave. But I’ve seen true heroes. One true hero is Ryan Longoria, a 12-year-old warrior who lost his leg because of a cancerous tumor. That tumor has now been evaluated, and that research will help those fighting cancer get that much closer to a cure.

Ryan can’t say much, because he doesn’t have a lot of strength right now. But Ryan knows what took me so long to figure out. He knows that his pain has a purpose. He has seen it first hand. He knows what most of us are too fearful to find out, that “though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith –more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

He also knows that those verses begin by saying, “In this you rejoice. . .” Ryan can rejoice even though he’s going through a life-threatening trial. I can rejoice when my career is interrupted by a scary question mark. You can rejoice when your marriage isn’t going the way you anticipated, or you’re struggling to find a way to make ends meet. Or when you’re battling, like Ryan and so many others, with an illness that leaves you with nowhere to turn.

So, what will you choose? Will you choose fear or trust?Faith or doubt? Desperation or hope?

I’ve made my decision, and I’m sticking to it.

#LFG

#ThingsJesusDIDsay

24th of August, 2015

People often wonder what God’s plan is for their lives. They go through life lost and confused, searching for answers.

Recently I saw #IfICouldTalkToGod trending on Twitter. People used this hashtag to post thoughts or messages they would tell God if they could talk to him. Here were a few of the messages I came across:

#IfICouldTalkToGod I’d thank Him for my many blessings and then listen to hear what He wanted to say to me.

#IFICOULDTALKTOGOD I would ask Him why my baby girl had to die and ask Him to help my son become the man he was created to be

#IfICouldTalkToGod I’d thank him for the strength he has given me for the life He has given me

There was another recent trending topic, #ThingsJesusNeverSaid, mainly aimed at people who misquote the Bible. Some of these tweets were humorous, and others revealed deep pain. But most of all these messages showed me that a lot of people are confused.

When I first saw #IfICouldTalkToGod popping up in my feed I thought, “If?! You can talk to God. And he can talk to you!”

People laughed at Russell Wilson after the Super Bowl loss when he said God told him he wanted him to be strong for others. They were shocked at the notion that God still speaks to people, perhaps supposing that because he’s Russell Wilson, God must really be on his side. I mean, look at the man’s history!

May I submit to you that God can and does speak to us? May I submit to you that we don’t have to quote #ThingsJesusNeverSaid, because we know exactly what he did say?

Just because things may not be going your way, doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. He does. He always will.

You know why I can say these things with confidence? Because God said it himself. We have a record of #ThingsJesusDIDsay, like this: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” ( John 6:40).

So don’t give up. Don’t be discouraged when people tell you that God’s not real and that he doesn’t care about you. When you have those doubts, turn to Philippians 1:6, which says, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

God has begun a good work in you. He knew you before he formed you in the womb. He started a good work in you, and He will complete it – not because it’s your will, but because it’s God’s will.

My World Tour

27th of June, 2015

There are many ways in life to approach a problem. And any different approach can give a different solution. My problem: I wanted to experience every culture in the world. My solution: Thunderbird.

For those of you who don’t know, the Thunderbird School of Global Management (now part of ASU) has been consistently ranked the #1 International MBA in the world. It’s also located in Glendale, Arizona, my own backyard for the past few years.

I know God put me in Arizona for a couple of reasons. One was to be a Cardinal. The other was to be a T-bird. It’s hard to say in words what Thunderbird has meant to me (which is why I’m glad we have this video) but I’m just glad that a few people – namely Max, Tania, Deanne, Gbemi, Paula, many faculty, staff, family, and friends – made my time there memorable.

Two and a half years later, I finished what I started. And I couldn’t be happier. I became a global leader without even leaving my backyard – besides the time I went to Hong Kong and Singapore for a class four days after our playoff game! Well, that’s Thunderbird for you!

Watch and enjoy.

Turning the Page

1st of April, 2015

These last four years have been the best four years of my life. I made friends, made plays, met people, met expectations, grew physically, and matured spiritually. These last four years have shaped me.

I came into the NFL not knowing what to expect. When I got drafted by the Cardinals, I was met with open arms. Welcomed by a Jay Feely tweet and a Sam Ponder direct message, I knew I had two friends in Arizona. What I didn’t know is that I would fall in love with a team, a city, and an amazing fan base.

To my teammates – Calais, Carson, Coopaloop, Richie B, Fitzy, Niño, P-twice, FIVE (or Fire… I’m still not sure how to say Tyrann’s nickname), Shaddy, and Money Mike – thank you all so much for always being there. I’ll never forget the times we spent. To the friends – Max, Lukas, Brian, Gokee, Bhatti, Jose, Ale, Mary – I loved our time.

To my Thunderbird family, my Chase Bank family, my 12 News family, my Freak Nation family, and all of those who I had the pleasure of interacting with, thank you for making Arizona such a fun place for me to live. I love Phoenix, and I will be back.

But for now, work is taking me in a different direction. A direction I couldn’t be more excited about. A chance to be a part of one of the storied franchises in the NFL in another city that everyone loves.

I’m now a Chicago Bear.

These last three weeks of free agency have felt like three years, with many ups and downs along the way. Now I’m ready to embark upon a new journey, a journey to the Windy City.

My goals are simple. First, to earn the respect of that team and that city, just like I did in Arizona. Second, to impact lives along the way. To those of you who have a relationship with Jesus, pray for me and my family as we take this journey. He hears your prayers.

To the Bidwills, coaches, and Cardinals staff, thank you for the opportunity to play for you. I loved every minute of it.

To the Chicago Bears organization, know that I’m giving you my all and plan to “prove it” as this contract suggests. Love you all, now let’s get to work!

#LetsFreakinGo

 

The Power of the Tongue

4th of January, 2015

As a high school athlete, I found joy in watching ESPN. In fact, I would finish my homework early (or not do it at all) just to watch these nightly sport shows. But it wasn’t just a show that drew me in. Instead, I was drawn to the TV personalities—and in particular, Stuart Scott.

Stuart Scott made you feel like a friend, like you were teammates who just happened to be talking sports. He made SportsCenter fun. He made the show interesting. He brought sports to life. Stuart Scott battled to break barriers in an industry that, for a long time, had been as vanilla as it gets. He stepped out on a limb and resolved to be true to himself. This hard-fought battle is what brought joy to millions of Americans, young and old, who wanted to see something new.

Stuart Scott also had another battle—a battle with an enemy that has taken the lives of more than its fair share of friends and family members. His battle was with cancer. For seven years he fought that battle, encouraging and inspiring us all as we watched. His face thinned and his strength drained but his resolve never wore out. He shocked us all by continuing to work (and work well) while still fighting this battle, all the while doing it with a smile on his face. He decided—as he had long, long ago—to live life to the fullest, and to not worry about tomorrow.

This 14 minute tribute to Stuart Scott will give a little insight to the type of man he was. But 14 minutes could never be enough to show the immense impact he had on an entire industry. He changed the culture of the sports world as we know it, and we will forever be indebted to him.

Stuart, though I never got a chance to meet you, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing me and those around me how to lead, love, and live life to the fullest. Thank you for showing us how to be brave, and for inspiring us in the times when we need it most. I’m praying for your family, especially your daughters. I know they will continue to carry on the legacy you left.

Love and respect,

Sam

TD-a-Thon for Nigeria

14th of November, 2014

As many of you know, my family and I have been working hard to raise $2 million to build a hospital in Nigeria. We’re not doing it to feel good about ourselves or to look like do-gooders. We’re doing it because for us Nigeria is home. Both of my parents were born there, as was my wife, Ngozi.

Every summer, along with a team of medical professionals who have bought into the vision, my family returns to Nigeria with Living Hope Ministries to provide medical care to those in need. Some of my teammates have even joined me on these trips. Now, I realize most of you probably won’t be able to fly around the world to join us in Nigeria. But that’s okay, because there’s an even better way for you to be part of it right now.

With some help from my friends at Anython.com, I’ve created a touchdown-a-thon—a revolutionary new way to raise money. With your help, each time the Arizona Cardinals score a touchdown this season, we’ll get one step closer to building this much-needed hospital.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Go to anython.com/cardinals and click “Give Now” to make a pledge.
  2. After choosing “Arizona Cardinals” as the participant, fill in your contact info.
  3. Then select how much you’re going to donate per Cardinals touchdown scored during the regular season, the playoffs, and yes, the Super Bowl! You can pledge $1, $3, $5, $10, or any other amount per touchdown.
  4. You’ll then be asked to complete your payment info.
  5. Last but not least, share the touchdown-a-thon with every Cardinals fan you know!

I’ve already made my pledge and several of my good friends have as well. I hope you’ll join us!

#LetsFreakinGo

Brotherly Love

31st of October, 2014

This week on the Sam Acho Show, in addition to the usual shenanigans with Bobby Mac and great insights from our other guests, we talked about our team’s big win last Sunday.

Obviously, I love it anytime we win. But this week it was extra sweet, since the win came against my brother Emmanuel and his team, the Philadelphia Eagles. I love my brother and I’m just about his biggest fan—that is, until we square off against each other like we did last weekend. At that point, it’s all about bragging rights.

I sat down with my brother to catch up and do a little pre-game trash talking, which I thought I’d share with you.

Shooting Pool, Singing Competition, and Football

16th of October, 2014

This week, I welcomed my teammates Rashad Johnson and Drew Stanton onto The Sam Acho Show. For those who don’t know, the show happens every Tuesday at 7pm at Native Grill and Wings in Glendale, and is streamed live at azcentral.com and azcentral.com/sports. If you haven’t joined us in person or watched online yet, please do!

During the show, Shad and I talked about the “memorable” halftime speech we got during Sunday’s game, and then Drew told us what it takes to be ready to step in as quarterback at a moment’s notice.

Also on the show, Bobby Mac and I shot an intense game of pool, Jeff Coruccini gave us a rundown of his fantasy football tips, and azcentral sports columnist Bob Young joined us as well.

Here’s the segment with Shad, including a no-holds-barred singing competition.

My New Show

9th of October, 2014

As many of you have heard through social media, a few weeks ago I launched The Sam Acho Show presented by The RoomStore. It’s a one-hour show filmed each Tuesday at 7pm with a live audience at Native Grill and Wings in Glendale and streamed exclusively at azcentral.com and azcentral.com/sports.

It’s been a dream of mine to have my own show and I’m loving the opportunity to host special guests, talk football with experts, do some trash talking, and especially the chance to interact with fans like you.

Each week, I invite teammates and other athletes to join me on the show. So far, we’ve had Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Antonio Cromartie, and Chandler Catanzaro, and we’ve got a lot of other great guests coming up. We also talk football each week with sports gurus like Bob “AZ Bobby Mac” McManaman, Paola Boivin, and Dan Bickley of azcentral sports, as well as Jeff Coruccini of Fantasy Football Starters.

For those who aren’t able to watch the show live, individual segments are also available on demand at azcentral.com following each show. The opening segment from this week’s show is below.

The Bigger Picture

4th of October, 2014

We are 3-0 and I could not be more excited. It’s hard to win in the NFL, and it’s even harder to keep on winning. One main reason that teams can’t win consistently is complacency.

We recently had a Marine veteran speak to the team. He talked about his time at war and how the game we play is very similar to that. Obviously there is no imminent danger of the loss of life, but he compared our preparation time, reliance on each other for success, and our intent focus on one singular goal: winning. He drove home the message that “complacency kills,” and that the reason great teams often fail is a result of complacency.

Our team has taken this saying to heart, and though we are 3-0, you would never know it behind the scenes. We are being coached harder than ever and being held to an even higher standard than when we started this journey. Meeting these standards, though necessary, can be grueling. There is a lot of pressure to perform and I found myself getting lost in it all. Trying so hard to get the job done and not focusing enough on the process. The bye week could not have come at a better time for me.

During a bye week NFL players are required to have at least four days off. Every person spends those days differently. Some lift weights, some watch film, some rest their bodies. I took those four days and went to New York with my wife.

More than a vacation, New York was a time for me to take a step back and see the bigger picture. Sometimes you get so caught up in this conundrum that you lose sight of what’s really important. In our league, it’s winning. It’s also about focusing on getting better every day and affecting the lives of those around you. New York reminded me of two things. First, it’s a LONG season, so I shouldn’t get overly caught up in the now. And second, it taught me to be patient, trusting that God is in control. Things are gonna happen on His timing, not mine.

In the meantime, let’s go get win number four!

#LFG

Making The Cut

4th of September, 2014

Last week I finished the four most grueling weeks in football. A period of time when 90 players are fighting for 53 spots. A period when you leave family, friends, and normalcy behind and devote your all to Making The Cut.

Everyone knows about the glitz and glamour of the NFL—the money, the celebrity, and the privileges the game affords you. But what few people realize is that many hopes are shot down and dreams are crushed on the way to simply making the roster.

Though I’m not a big fan of reality TV, HBO’s Hard Knocks does a pretty good job of shedding light on what really goes on during training camp. Players have a few short weeks to show the coaches their skills, and if they don’t get the job done, they are cut from the team with their NFL dreams being very short lived. People may think that it’s easy to focus one’s attention for a few weeks on something so important, but let me give you a few real examples of how it’s not.

As we started our morning Bible study, I asked if anyone had anything going on that they would like us to pray for. One situation in particular stood out the most. “Yeah, well today is our first practice, so pray for that. And also today is the day that my mom starts chemo. Please pray for her during that process as well. Thanks guys.”

Another teammate experienced the joy of seeing his child born, but, in an effort to continue to show his stuff, left the next day to play in a game.

Countless other NFL players suffered season- or career-ending injuries. Or, most likely, they were among the many who heard the dreaded words, “Coach needs to see you. Bring your playbook.”

It’s a tough, grueling experience—it stretches you further than you think you can go. But I’m here to tell you it’s totally worth it.

The reasons why it’s worth it varies for everyone, but for me, it’s all about Week 1. Monday Night Football against the San Diego Chargers. Fighting together with my teammates for victory. And then Week 2. And on it goes.

The memories, the friendships, the journey—this is why I do what I do. Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? You better believe it.

See you on the grass.

#LFG

Changing My Mind

6th of August, 2014

My friend and teammate Larry Fitzgerald once told me, “The game of football is 90% mental. It’s only 10% physical.” This statement was telling because it was a response to my question about what made him so great. This answer was also telling because it was coming from arguably the best wide receiver in the game—and a future hall of famer for sure. At first I didn’t understand it, but now, that revelation is as clear as day.

After breaking my leg last year and momentarily losing the game I love, I changed my mind. I made a promise to myself that I take advantage of every opportunity I had while on the football field. That I wouldn’t be afraid to make the big play and that I would capitalize on EVERY opportunity. I made a decision that day. I decided to be great.

I decided to win my 1-on-1 matchups, to be a playmaker, and to be a finisher. I decided to do all the little things right on the football field. I decided never to take the game for granted again. I decided to change my mind.

Though on the football field we’re all physically talented, only a few people realize, like Fitz did, that the game is less about your physical statute, and more about your heart and your mind. I believe. Do you?

#LFG

Pads Popping

29th of July, 2014

The Pygmalion’s Journey

24th of July, 2014

My morning routine has been pretty, well, routine lately. Wake up. Pray. Brush teeth. Wash face. Take shower. Put on workout clothes. Get to work. Repeat. Day after day after day.

But one day recently, the routine was a little different. I had been invited to speak at SXSW V2V in Las Vegas as part of a panel on similarities and differences between risk in the NFL and in business.

So I woke up and repeated the first few steps like usual. But then I ditched the workout gear for some new digs: a white button-down shirt and a fitted grey suit with blue and black stripes. This is my go-to suit anytime I have a big event. Needless to say, I was looking good, and that notion was reaffirmed by my wife (thanks babe!) and others around me.

When I got to the airport and boarded the SkyTrain, a man sitting down immediately got up from his seat and moved to the other side so I’d have room. I kindly accepted his gesture. When I arrived at the security line, the TSA agent asked if I was an A-list member—even before he could look at my boarding pass. A few seconds later, after the agent and I laughed and joked because he kept calling me Traveler, he responded, “I work for YOU Mr. Traveler!”

I was being treated like an all-star, all because of the suit.

While there’s value in dressing nice, I’m not primarily concerned about that. What this experience caused me to ask is this one simple question: what if we treated each other like this every day? What if we treated one another as if each one of us were a first class citizen, suit or no suit? What kind of an effect would that have on our world?

In business, there’s a common theory called the Pygmalion effect (or Rosenthal effect), which says that people tend to reach the level of expectations placed on them, whether high or low. The theory goes back to belief. If you believe someone is excellent, and treat them as such, they will more often than not meet that expectation. It has been proven in business settings with bosses and employees and in classroom settings with students and teachers.

What would the world look like if we took this theory into our everyday life? If we believed each other to be excellent and treated them as such? That would shake some things up. It did for me the other day. I felt the effect of the Pygmalions around me and my day was made. Now it’s time for me to have that effect on someone else.

#LFG

Starting Over

23rd of July, 2014

Remember when I talked about feeling like a rookie? Well it’s true. Although training camp doesn’t officially start until Friday, the rookies on our team reported today—and I joined them too.

Each season represents a new start, but this time around it’s an even bigger deal for me. Having spent time on the injured reserve last year, I have to fight for my position. In football, nothing is given to you because of what you may have accomplished in the past. It’s all about “what have you done for me lately.”

But I have the opportunity to win my spot back. It’ll take faith, hard work, and perseverance, but it’s a fight I’m ready for.

Training camp is underway. Let’s Freakin’ Go!

#LFG

The Man Who Changed the Game

8th of July, 2014

The Main Ingredient

16th of June, 2014

We all want to experience success, don’t we? Whether it’s in sports, in school, or in work of any kind, no one wants to fail. And while we’d prefer it if success came easily, it doesn’t normally work that way. In fact, it almost never does.

Whether you like it or not, struggle is necessary for success. It’s true. I’ve learned this first hand. So today I want to  tell you about three life experiences when I struggled, and how they led to future success.

First, a personal example. Many of you know that I recently got married to the woman of my dreams. What many of you don’t know, however, is the struggle that came in the years before. Without going into too much detail, a few years ago I was in a relationship that I thought had potential. Things were going great and I was excited for our future. However, a few months in I found out that I was being lied to, manipulated, and used. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I ended that relationship and it left me with a feeling of frustration and disdain. But instead of hopping into another relationship, I took time to be by myself. Time to figure out what was important to me and what wasn’t. Time to grow as a man and as the husband I desired to be. It was hard and draining, but it paid off. A little while later I met the woman who is now my wife and I couldn’t be happier. But if it wasn’t for that situation—for that struggle—I would not be the man or husband I am today.

I’ve had my professional struggles too. As many of you also know, I broke my fibula last season in a game against the New Orleans Saints. I’ve gone on and on and on about how this situation has helped me grow as a person but what I haven’t talked too much about is how it helped me grow as a football player.

Injuries give you a new perspective on life, especially when you can return healthy. In the football world, it’s like one of those near-death experiences when your whole life flashes before your eyes. In this case, it was my football life. In an instant, every snap I had played that game flashed before my eyes. I thought about what I could have done better, how I should have taken more chances, and trusted my ability. I vowed that when I returned I would take those chances, believe in myself, and play with reckless abandon.

Well, that time has come. And the timing could not be better. This season is going to be great. And the main reason for that stems from my “near death” football experience. I was given a second chance and you better believe I’m gonna make the most of it.

Finally, I want to share about an academic struggle. I graduated from the University of Texas as a business major in the honors program, but at one point I got kicked out of the program. You see, the honors program required that I maintain a 3.25 GPA. But my first semester coincided with football season, which meant I was up at 6am every morning lifting with the team before class. I thought I could carry both loads like I had in high school, but I was wrong. I got an A, a B, and a C in my three honors classes, which didn’t cut it. I was out of the program.

But fortunately, that isn’t the end of the story. I appealed that decision, not once but twice! The first time I appealed, I gave excuses. None of them were accepted. The second time around I vowed to make actual change, and I did. I signed up for tutoring, took my homework with me as our team traveled week to week, and I spent time actually LEARNING all of the material, rather than just trying to get by.

Needless to say, these changes paid off. I finished with over a 3.6 GPA, won the Campbell Trophy and other awards, and was named to Sporting News’ 20 Smartest Athletes list (a distinction my friends still rightly insist is up for debate).

But despite these successes, what fueled my fire was the storm. All along it has been the struggle that has led to true success. This narrative has been the story of my life, and if you look back, I bet it’s been the story of yours too. Nothing worthwhile that you’ve ever earned has come easily. Growth involves change, and change is hard.

So my challenge to you is this—next time you’re in what seems to be a hopeless situation, write down your own story. Think back on the times in your life that seemed impossible, the times when you had a choice between accepting defeat or continuing to struggle. And if you chose to keep fighting, write down how it paid off.

Maybe you’re in a time of struggle right now. If you are, I’m asking you to persevere. It may not feel like it today, but this struggle is the main ingredient to your future success.

#LFG

Book Me to Speak at Your Event

6th of June, 2014

Many of you know that one of the things I most love to do when I’m not playing football, serving in Nigeria, or spending time with loved ones is public speaking. I’m grateful for chances I get to speak at all kinds of events, from classrooms to board rooms to auditoriums, from businesses to churches to groups of athletes.

I enjoy these opportunities because they give me a chance to encourage and inspire others to fulfill their calling, whoever they are. I know I always come away from these events encouraged as well.

If you’re interested in booking me for your event, please fill out the booking form here and we’ll be in touch.

Thanks!

#LFG

A Good Day

19th of May, 2014

Today was a good day.

Just about eight months ago, I broke my fibula, which left me unable to play football for the first time in my life. I was also unable to run, walk, and jump for the first time as well—at least since my days crawling around carpets as a toddler.

Most of you can imagine how frustrating this would be for someone who loves being active. So much so that I wrote a blog post about it, venting my frustration. It was the first time I had been sidelined. The first time I had been forced to watch helplessly as my teammates went to battle.

Today I put the cleats back on and went back out to practice with my teammates. Today was a good day.

There’s an old adage that says, “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Truer words have never been spoken. For the first time in my life I realized how much of a blessing it was to do something that I REALLY enjoyed and that I was REALLY good at.

See, I had been playing football, basketball, and track since I was a kid. I always rose to the top, enjoyed the challenge and loved the camaraderie. I chose football—or maybe it chose me—and by the grace of God I got a chance to play in the NFL.

There was no turning back. I was going, going, going, like the Energizer Bunny. Going so fast that I never took the time to realize that I am living the dream. And that dream, for a time, was taken away. That temporary setback made room for major growth and maturity in my life, and eight months later I have come out a better man for it. Today was a good day.

Something was different about today. As I mentioned to a friend, “I have the mindset of a starter but the hunger of a rookie.” I mentioned in my first blog post that when I got back, I would stop taking things for granted. I would make the most of every chance I got. I would play, with even more passion, the game I have grown to love.

And though today was the first day, I could sense something different. A newfound joy. A renewed strength. There’s a well known verse in the Bible that talks about something like this: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Though it may not have seemed that long to some of you, I have been waiting for what felt like a very long time. Today that wait was over. Today was a good day.

I can’t wait until tomorrow. Another day to strap on my cleats and go to work with my teammates. My prayer each and every morning, along with many other things, is that I would seize the day. Because I know from experience that tomorrow is not promised. But I have faith. That though today WAS a good day, TOMORROW will be an even better one.

#LFG

Playing the Back 9

5th of May, 2014

It was a clear, sunny morning in mid-April. The grass was green and the greens were greener. It was that time of year again—the dreaded time when I’m forced to embarrass myself in front of four or five other people for hours on end. The time when I look unathletic, unreliable, and unteachable.

Yes, it was time to play golf.

Most of my golfing experiences take place at charity golf tournaments to which I’m invited to show up, and in some cases, to play 18 holes. I usually choose the former. Not because of time constraints or other obligations so much as fear and inevitable frustration. It’s the fear of being “that guy”—the guy who chucks away at the ground with his eyes closed, hoping desperately to hit something. It’s the frustration of being “that guy” too—when the coaching tips like “keep your eye on the ball” and “don’t try to kill it” seem to go in one ear and out the other.

It doesn’t help when everyone keeps saying, “You’re an athlete, it should be easy for you” or “It’s really not that hard once you get the hang of it.” The worst part is that I usually listen to all the coaching points, but when the time actually comes to move from practice swing to real swing, something else takes over and I just want to hit the ball as hard and as far as I can—you know, to show the other golfers just how good I really am. Obviously, this backfires on me 99.9% of the time, yet I can’t seem to shake the idea that it might finally work.

One day I decided to play a full 18. The first seven holes were the same as usual, with me listening to pointers, demonstrating “beautiful” practice swings, and then missing the ball completely on the actual swing. Frustration levels were high and by the ninth hole I was ready to jet. But I took a moment to reassess the situation and figured, why not practice and hope that by the end it’ll get better? As a matter of fact, it did.

My focus that day was just to make contact. Not to kill it, not to have perfect form—just to make contact. I decided that would be a win for me, no matter where the ball landed. And little by little, swing by swing, I started to get better. I started to see progress. And by the 17th and 18th holes I finally got the hang of it. No longer was I hacking away—I was actually golfing! It was a beautiful feeling.

I share all this with you because it taught me a big lesson. I learned that patience really is a virtue. So many people turn down certain fun, exciting opportunities because of fear and anticipated frustration or embarrassment. For a long time that was me. I was missing out on a lot of good times by opting out of those back nines. I was too busy worrying about the front nine to actually make it to the fun part.

Don’t let that be your story. Don’t let anything or anyone keep you from playing the proverbial back nine in your current situation, whatever it is. See it through. Be patient. It’ll be worth it, I guarantee it.

#LFG

The Problem at Home

26th of April, 2014

We live in a cold world. As Americans we believe that we are immune to trouble and that the real evil is outside of the contiguous 48. We couldn’t be more wrong.

I go to Nigeria each and every year, and every time, some of the people I invite turn down the offer because of the danger over there. Granted, some in Nigeria have committed ruthless, heartless, and evil acts. But there is imminent danger in the U.S. as well. People remind me of the atrocities that occur at schools in Nigeria, but then I remind myself that schools here experience attacks too. These atrocious acts of violence in Nigeria are appalling, but what may be even more gut-wrenching are the evils that go on right beneath our noses.

Recently I watched 12 Years A Slave, which won numerous Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and BAFTA Awards. This movie is a true story about a free black man from upstate New York who, in 1841, was abducted and sold into slavery. He spent the next 12 years of his life as a slave in the South before he was finally vindicated. This sad, true story was a reminder of some of the atrocities that African-Americans faced many years ago. But what is even more appalling is that the same mindset of racism is still prevalent today.

Donald Sterling, the owner of the LA Clippers, recently went on a rant to his girlfriend about his dislike for African-Americans. He says things like, “Don’t bring them to my games” and “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” These comments are offensive, appalling, and hateful. Yet there are many more Donald Sterlings all around us. Though outward acts of racism, sexism, and bigotry have decreased, inward views and feelings of hatred still prevail.

Pray for Donald Sterling and those like him. Pray for those whose hearts are filled with hate. And finally, stand up against injustices. Not just abroad, but at home as well.

#LFG

Wear Your Passion on Your Sleeve

15th of April, 2014

I’ve been told many times that I can get pretty passionate. It’s true. As a linebacker in the NFL, passion comes with the territory. If you’re timid, you won’t last long in this job.

But you don’t have to be a professional athlete to be passionate—to care deeply about what matters and to work hard to achieve whatever you set your mind to. Anyone can wear their passion on their sleeve.

Many of you know my rallying cry: LET’S FREAKIN’ GO! It’s something I say all the time—whether I’m surrounded by teammates in the huddle, speaking from the stage, or just running into people on the street. I say it to inspire myself and everyone around me to be the best each of us can be, to refuse to settle for small dreams. I say it—and I wear it—just about every day.

Now I want to give you the chance to wear your passion on your sleeve as well. I had some LFG t-shirts designed and they’re now for sale online at skreened.com. You can choose from a variety of colors and shirt styles, and Skreened will send you the shirt directly.

I’m not making any money off of this—I just want to make available to you a great t-shirt with a great message so you and everyone you know can be reminded to never give up, no matter what. LET’S FREAKIN’ GO!!!

#LFG

The Toughest Job in the World

10th of April, 2014

Playing in the NFL is tough. Going through grueling two-a-day practices in the 100 degree Arizona heat. Fighting with all your strength to PRACTICE well enough to make the team. Working even harder to earn a starting spot. Hoping you don’t get cut after those three intense weeks. And that’s just August.

Follow that up by putting on heavy pads and a helmet and running full speed into 300 pound men who all feel like they’re made of steel. Injuries abound, pressure mounts, and friendships dwindle. And you haven’t even played a game yet.

When you finally get to the games that count—the fun part—even then you are endlessly scrutinized by analysts and criticized by fans, amplified all the more by social media.

Don’t get me wrong. The pay is great and the fame definitely has its perks, but playing in the NFL is not an easy job. And up to three weeks ago, I would have said it was the hardest job in the world.

What happened three weeks ago, you ask? I got married.

Let me say that I have the utmost respect for every husband out there. In fact, before I got married, I took a poll and asked every man I knew who had been married for more than a few years to tell me what had been the toughest part about marriage. I heard answers like, “You finally realize how selfish you are,” “You’re not only making decisions for yourself, now you have to take someone else into consideration,” and even answers like, “She is a reflection of you, like a flower. If you water her, prune her, and shed light on her, she’ll blossom. If you don’t, she won’t. And you take responsibility for that.”

These were some heavy statements, that I THOUGHT I was ready to tackle. Boy was I wrong. Marriage is single-handedly one of the hardest things in the world. It takes sacrifice, it takes leadership, and quite frankly, it takes guts.

I have a biblical view of marriage, in which I’m called to love my wife the way Christ loved his people, the church. How did Christ love the church? He DIED for it. Jesus asked God to forgive them as they were killing him. That’s some deep stuff. That’s what marriage is about. But there’s more.

See, I also asked my friends to tell me about the upsides of marriage. I heard things like, “You get to do life with your best friend,” “You get to serve your wife and see her grow,” and one guy even said, “You get to have sex as much as you want—without feeling bad about it!”

Since our wedding day, I’ve learned that marriage is very hard, but it is also well worth it. As a matter of fact, I think the challenges are what make it worthwhile. The blood, sweat, and tears you put in to make it work. To stick it out even when things look bleak. To never give up on your wife, and to lead her well. To die for her. THAT, my friends, is the hardest job in the world.

At least until we have kids, that is…

#LFG

Take a Stand

27th of February, 2014

In 2005, Thomas Friedman wrote a book called The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. This best-selling book opened our eyes to the increased globalization going on in our world today. No longer in existence are the looming national barriers that kept us from communicating, trading, and doing business in other countries. Friedman made some astute observations, and we would do well to take them into consideration. After all, concerning ourselves with international issues should be a part of our everyday lives.

That may be a strong recommendation, so here’s how I back it up. Over the last few weeks we have (or should have) heard about all that is going on in Venezuela. These riots don’t just affect Venezuelans; they affect all of us. We live in a world of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, allowing information to be spread in milliseconds. Indeed, we are bombarded with information—information about our friends’ lives, information about celebrity breakups, and even information about new high scores on games like Candy Crush. Information in itself isn’t the problem. What’s important is what we do with it.

Over the last few years you may have heard about the End It Movement, an advocacy campaign to end sex slavery, a global multi-billion dollar industry. But you see, sex slavery isn’t just happening in other countries—it’s here in the US as well. That’s why we should care. Just because we may not see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Many times we’ll hear about events like the protests in Venezuela or even the End It Movement, and our response is to simply “like” the post, or if we’re bold enough, we might retweet or share it. But what if there is more we could do? What if there was a better way to care for our brothers and sisters abroad? I believe there is a better way.

This better way is different for everyone. For some people it’s as simple as spreading awareness—in the case of Venezuela this is necessary because the government is actively censoring media outlets. In other cases it’s as simple as taking a picture with a red ‘X’ on your hand, signifying that you’re “in it to end it.” This awareness is important in the sex slavery industry because the men, women, and children who are victims need a voice.

For others, the better way means getting involved socially, physically, or even emotionally. It means getting off of your couch and going to these cities, these homes, these street corners, and standing up for what you believe in.

I recently met some people who are doing this very thing. My friend Jason has two jobs. The first is selling life insurance. The second is traveling to West Africa, undercover, to find and save sex slaves. Another man I met is named Ben. He has a few vocations as well—one being making movies in Hollywood. The second is helping create safe houses for the men, women, and children he has helped free from sex slavery.

Ben and Jason are “in it to end it.” I am too. So whatever cause it is that you’re fighting for, make sure you’re fighting for something. That’s what life is all about.

#LetsFreakinGo

What makes it ALL worth it

17th of February, 2014

Remember that time when you did a traditional Nigerian wedding in Africa and then didn’t get to see your “wife” for seven and a half months?

Also, do you remember that time when you filed a fiancée visa for her, then found out that 80% of fiancée visas out of Nigeria get rejected?

Remember that time when you only got a chance to spend a total of five weeks with her over the last year and a half?

Those are some pretty tough memories.

But do you remember the time when you CELEBRATED that traditional Nigerian wedding in the middle of a village in front of 2000 people—friends, family, and loved ones—and how it was the best day of your life?

Or that time when you got the call from your fiancée saying that the US embassy had APPROVED the fiancée visa that you had been waiting for for nine months?

What about the time when she came into the United States of America for the first time EVER, and you got to see her, hold her, kiss her, and show her your world?

The first three scenarios could be some of the toughest moments in someone’s life. But those last three make them all worth it. The joy you feel in those last three can’t even be compared to the heartache you felt in the first.

That’s how life is sometimes. You go through some of the toughest times and you think that you have nothing left in the tank. You think there’s no hope. Then you see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you run towards it full speed ahead. That light makes it all worth it…

But what would I know? None of this has ever happened to ME before… ;)

#LFG

The Super Bowl Story You HAVEN’T Heard

2nd of February, 2014

It’s that time of year again and many of us are getting ready for the biggest holiday of the year: Super Bowl Sunday. We’re buying food, purchasing drinks, and preparing our homes to watch the most-watched event in America.

The past two weeks have been riddled with Super Bowl storylines. From Peyton Manning’s famous (and lucrative) “Omaha” call to Richard Sherman’s post-game rant to Marshawn Lynch and his Skittles. But there’s one Super Bowl storyline that I guarantee you haven’t heard, and it’s that of my former teammate O’Brien Schofield.

O’Brien and I played together for the Cardinals during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. We had started as the Sam linebacker and the Will linebacker in 2012, and had dreams of an even better 2013. “We’re gonna be the best line backing duo in the league!” He exclaimed. And I agreed.

We had put in the work, built up the trust, and showed on film that we had a chance to be great. We were primed and ready to turn heads during the 2013 season. But all of that changed the day we started Training Camp.

We were in the locker room of University of Phoenix stadium, getting ready to take the dreaded “conditioning test” which consisted of three 300-yard shuttles. OB and I were laughing, joking, and dreaming of the journey we were soon to embark on. I walked out a little early to get a feel for the the field. About five minutes later, OB walked onto the field, with his head down. The news I heard next would change the storyline forever.

“They cut me, bro,” he said dejectedly.

“You’re kidding?!” I exclaimed. I couldn’t believe it. What about our hopes, our dreams, our PLAN?! It was squandered, or at least he thought.

Within 24 hours O’Brien Schofield was claimed off of waivers by the Seattle Seahawks. And in a couple of hours he will be playing in Super Bowl 48. What started off as a horrible and hopeless situation turned into fulfilling a childhood dream.

So for those of you out there who are discouraged, keep on fighting. Trust that things are going to work out even when things don’t seem to be going your way. And who knows, you may be playing in a Super Bowl of your own some day.

#LFG

The Most Dangerous Safety Net Around

28th of January, 2014

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “I’ve been a Christian my whole life.” It’s usually in response to a question about where someone stands with their faith.

Understandably, it is an idiomatic phrase, but it drives me crazy. Because the underlying mindset behind this response is one of security and comfort. It’s like a safety net that we as Christians throw out if anyone challenges us on our faith.

The problem with this phrase is not in its matter-of-fact nature, but in its tendency to cause stagnation in spiritual growth. What we are really saying when we repeat that coveted phrase is not that we know our need for a Savior, but rather that we no longer have need for one.

The reason I can speak so candidly on this topic is that I’m the main culprit. I couldn’t even count how many times I’ve thrown out that phrase at someone, causing both of us to think that I’m OK living a joyless, hopeless, satisfactory life. But Jesus.

Jesus said that He came so that we could have life and life more abundantly. This stands in direct contrast to the lives many of us live today. So if that’s the case, what or who is keeping us from “living life to the fullest?”

We are.

By saying that we’ve been Christians our whole lives, and not actively seeking revelation of God’s word, we are doing ourselves and our Savior a disservice. “I paid the price for your sins, now live freely with faith, hope, and love!” That’s my paraphrased version of what Jesus said. But instead of living lives free from guilt and condemnation and fear, we are living lives FULL of those things.

The only way to live the life of joy, peace, and grace is to have faith that Jesus’ death and His blood shed on the cross was enough to cover each and every one of our sins—once and for all. Until we realize this, we will continue to live life unsure and unfocused.

So if we have “been a Christian our whole life,” it’s about time we started acting like it. Not by our good works, which are like filthy rags to God, but by our faith in the fact that God loved us enough to sacrifice His own Son to pay the penalty, once and for all, for our sins. There’s freedom in that folks. Let’s start living like it.

#LFG

With Friends Like These…

22nd of January, 2014

Have you ever had a group of friends who you can’t imagine living without? A few people in your life who you KNOW are there for a reason, through both your ups and your downs?

I have been fortunate enough to find a group of friends like this in Phoenix. As you may know, the NFL can be a lonely world. Once off-season hits, you’re basically on your own and left to fend for yourself and find your fit for the next few months until the team reconvenes for practice.

Thankfully for me, this isn’t the case. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to make friends outside of my main call of duty on the football field.

These friends have spent a lot of time with me, and vice versa. They’ve started to see my rhythms and my rhymes and even sense my humor. They laugh with me, cry with me, and care for me—they care for me enough, in fact, to “embarrass” me in front of 50 strangers at an improv show.

Allow me to set the scene. A few days ago I received an email from Ale, a good friend of mine, who claimed she was writing a blog post about people who “really inspired her.” She wanted me to fill out a questionnaire. I was flattered, and my ego was blown up, so I gladly filled it out. I was as honest and open as I could possibly be. She mentioned that it may be made public, but I had no qualms about being vulnerable… or so I thought.

Questions included, “What is your fondest childhood memory?” and “What Is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?” Even this question was included: “Describe, in detail, the most embarrassing moment of your life.” I finished the questionnaire and sent it back to Ale within minutes. I then completely forgot about all of this. That is, until Saturday night.

We hadn’t hung out in a while so we planned a get together. This time we decided to check out Jester’Z Improv, a 90 minute comedy show. Everything was going normally until the emcee walked into the crowd and asked if someone named “Samuel” was in attendance. I sheepishly crept my hand in the air and said that I “had been given” that name.

The scene was set. He proceeded to read aloud ALL of my answers to Ale’s “questionnaire” as I thought to myself, “This is gonna be bad…” Oddly enough, however, I could not stop smiling. I looked to my right and saw my friends Max, Mary, Brittany, Jose, and Ale laughing uncontrollably. It was a Kodak moment.

Once the emcee finished embarrassing me, he asked the four performers to make a skit based on the life events that I wrote about. Life events such as inventing a game called Floor Football and playing it with my brother. Events such as sneaking into high security buildings, and events such as being teased in middle school for my weight and lack of style. They acted, we laughed, and everyone had a good time.

The whole time sitting there I couldn’t stop doing two things. First, I couldn’t stop smiling. Second, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “I have the best friends a guy could ask for.” You see, my friends know me. They know me well—well enough to allow me to be vulnerable around them, and well enough to allow four hilarious actors to celebrate these highs and lows of life with me.

My point is that life isn’t meant to be lived alone. Whether you’re married with kids, or single with friends, live life to the fullest. Live, laugh, love, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You’d be surprised how freeing it can be. Thanks guys, y’all are the best!

#LFG

When I Was a Child…

16th of January, 2014

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish things behind me… except for game nights.

Off and on for the last few months, I’ve been inviting some friends over to my house for game night. No, there are no video games, nor are there even card games. It’s better than that. The games we play on these epic game nights create a bond between friends that is not easily broken.

We eat, we talk, we catch up, we play… then we do it all over again. We have done it so often, that Friday night game nights have become a staple at my place of residence. We usually start the night with Signs, Big Booty, or Catch Phrase, which get people loose and allow them to interact. After these games are done, we get a little more serious. We get to know each other by introducing ourselves and, believe it or not, by sharing our addictions.

People usually hear something like this, “Hi, my name is Sam…” To which everyone replies, “Hi Sam!!” I then continue, “…and I’m addicted to game nights.” This Game Nights Anonymous session is actually pretty informative. I’ve heard about addictions ranging from M&M’s to socks, and everything in between. This is a fun little ice breaker that allows everyone to get to know each other before we play the game that surpasses all games.

That game, of course, is Mafia.

If you don’t know how to play Mafia now would be a good time to learn. This game is life changing. We usually finish up with a game like Contact or Charades and call it a night. These game nights are pretty incredible, and even though I’m 25 years old, I STILL enjoy getting together and playing games with friends.

I think what makes game nights so unique is the diverse types of people it attracts. People who were once thought to be quiet end up bursting out of their shell when defending themselves in Mafia. People once thought to be calm typically jump out of their chairs in Big Booty. These games bring out the fun, competitive side in everyone, and even though I am growing up, game nights are growing along with me.

Send me some of the games you’ve played at your game nights! I’d love to incorporate them into mine!

#LFG

Things Aren’t Always As They Seem

3rd of January, 2014

Thank You For The Best Year of My Life

31st of December, 2013

God,

When I think about the year 2013 I can’t help but to say think you. I spent the beginning of 2013 in Nigeria, spending time with the woman of my dreams, a woman who I would soon propose and later celebrate with amongst 2000 friends, villagers and voyagers in Nigeria. I came back to the US only to have the opportunity to speak in front of 1000 of my peers, encouraging them that our time is now. Soon thereafter I started a voyage at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. A voyage in which I met some of the COOLEST, most diverse people in the entire world.. Well basically the entire world was on campus. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love other cultures. I made friends from France, Germany, Kuwait, Ghana, Morocco, Sudan, Kenya, Iran, India, China, Trinidad and Chile. These people taught me so much about what it means to live with a global mindset. They broadened my world view.

Soon thereafter I got a chance to meet and connect with people who would change the course of my life. As a matter of fact, these guys inspired me to create this very blog you’re reading. I met men that believed in me, challenged me, rejoiced with me, and pushed me to newer heights; even greater challenges. That was nothing but God.

At the same time, this year posed some challenges, with a broken fibula being at the forefront. You’ve read enough about my injury, but what you haven’t read about is the amount of joy I’ve found despite it. I got a chance to spend time at schools, homeless shelters, state fairs, hospitals, and mentorship centers. I got a chance to get to know the city that I’ve spend the last 3 years in. I got a chance to see the people who keep the world spinning. I GOT A CHANCE to live and to love, to laugh and to cry, to crutch and to scoot, all around Phoenix. And I couldn’t have been happier. AND I got a chance to document all of it thanks to my friends at Channel 12 who believed in me enough to give me a chance.

But what I’ll remember the most in 2012 are the people I met and the friends I made. Callixta, Barry, Christine, Gbemi, Deanne, Dayvisson, Patricia, Carissa, Max, Brittany, Mary, Jasmine, Mike, Jeff, Coop, Ben, Patti, T Money, Caleb, Avery, Justin, YB, Los, Zo, JB, JB, the other JB, Carson, Drew, Jose, Ale, Lukas, Earl, Jessica, Cassie (the glue), Scott, Jill, Tram, Caribe, Jordin, Coop, Jason, Brian, Brian, Oye, Crae, T-da, Andy, D Minor, Andy, Andy, Jackie, Liz, Lea, Greg, BA, themanacho, Reech, OBIM, Chef, Tim, Karina, Johnny, Criselda, Dave, Jayna, Cody, Ben, Noelle, Dallas, Tillie, Mikey, Brog, Ra, 5’10”, 5’11”, Jami, Anna Montana, Jeff Jacket, Octavia, Benson, Madelyn, Bruna, C Cam, Jared, Sev, Fisch, Jakey, Elijah, Steph, Hayden, Victory, Nkem, Corinna, Analina, Gretchen, Bri, Chacha, Natalia, Marion, Darlene, J leezy, Christina, Matt, Evan, Amara, Gabe, Alva Khai, Mr. Josh Reibock, Pres. Billy Jeff, Mom, Dad, Pete, Rob, Rocio, Randi, Akanksha, Kulnuttha, Cheeks, Cuppy, Destinee, Sam, Rich, JC, KB, Adam, and EVERYONE else who I did not mention, THANK YOU for a great 2013.

God, thanks for putting these wonderful people in my life. This year was better than I could have ever imagined, and I pray that I can trust you even more for the year ahead.
In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

My PhoenixONE Story

30th of December, 2013

Have you ever been a part of something awesome? I mean like truly awesome—something so cool that it starts redefining what “cool” is. Well, I get a chance to be a part of this every first and third Tuesday night at PhoenixONE.

I first heard about PhoenixONE at a different young adults ministry which I thought was awesome. As they put it, “PhoenixONE is like this gathering… But on steroids!” I knew I had to check it out. I went a few weeks later and was blown away by the passion, fun, and authenticity that PhoenixONE brought to the table.

After that trip I was hooked. So hooked, in fact, that I asked if I could support in some way. Thankfully, they let me. PhoenixONE gave me an opportunity to share my passion with the people I love. PhoenixONE allowed me to sing as loud as I wanted with 800 other people my age.

PhoenixONE allowed me to sit in silence for an entire hour, something that I don’t think I’ve ever done before. PhoenixONE allowed me to find “community”—or as I like to call it, to make friends. PhoenixONE helped me get plugged into a church which fit me well, while also giving me an opportunity to spend time with hundreds of other people my age who, like me, are just trying to figure it out. PhoenixONE is shaping my young adult life, and I’m very grateful for that.

But PhoenixONE needs help. Just like we need PhoenixONE, PhoenixONE needs us. In order to continue to make cool things happen, they need our support and our money. So if you’ve been impacted by PhoenixONE, please join me in donating to keep PhoenixONE up and running. Giving helps PhoenixONE and it helps us practice generosity in a society full of selfishness. Anything helps.

Finally, share your own PhoenixONE story. I want to hear how it has impacted you. After you donate, of course. :)

Taking Time

20th of December, 2013

So, without getting into too much detail, my mom had a pretty serious surgery earlier this week. She is a nurse practitioner, so she frequents hospitals. But this was her first time actually being a patient in a hospital in 23 years. It was very odd seeing her receive care rather than giving it. To be quite honest, this situation was eerily similar to my From Field to Fan incident. We prayed, we believed, we gave God glory, and He came through in the clutch like He always does. One lesson I learned through this ordeal is that God’s plan really is better than our plan, but that I need to TRUST in His plan even when things look grim.

Another lesson I’ve learned through this hospital stay with my mom is how to suffer with those who are suffering.

Throughout my stay with my mom in the hospital, I saw people come in and out, sit down and send flowers, text and talk. But what stood out to me—and to my mom—the most were those who stayed and listened. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a knock on sending flowers to those who are sick, but there is something special about just sitting down with someone who is suffering. No agenda, no moral obligation, just plain spending time. That time spent together meant the world to my mom, and to me.

There is a tradition in Jewish culture that emulates this very well. Sitting shiva is a week long period in which friends and family sit and mourn with those who have just lost a loved one. Very few words are exchanged. But much time is spent. And this time speaks volumes to those suffering.

Time is quite possibly our most valuable asset. When we spend it with others in their time of need, lives are changed and love is spread. Make sure to spend some time with those in your life who are hurting, and don’t be afraid to sit shiva with them. You will be shocked by the results.

Oh by the way, my mom wore her LFG shirt into surgery too!

#LFG

Help Me Build a Hospital in Nigeria

12th of December, 2013

One of my biggest passions in life is to give back to the people of Nigeria. My parents were born and raised in the country, and as a family we return every year as part of medical missions trips through Living Hope Ministries.

But there is an urgent need for ongoing medical care in the remote part of Nigeria where we serve. The people in this village need a hospital they can go to, without waiting for another group to arrive. Because of this need I’m working with LHM to raise $2 million to build a hospital that will provide ongoing medical care for these people I’ve come to know and love.

In addition to the annual Hope for Life Celebrity Auction and Fashion Show that I host in the Phoenix area to raise money for the cause, I would like to invite you to join us in this story of hope by helping to make the Living Hope Clinic a reality for those in need.

You can make your tax-deductible donation to the hospital fund through Living Hope Ministries here.  

Thank you!

Fight On Nelson

5th of December, 2013

Few people have the capacity to change the world. Even fewer have the desire. Fewer still are willing to sacrifice their lives for their beliefs. Nelson Mandela had and did all of these things. He was an ordinary man, with extraordinary impact. This impact started from the day he was born.

Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to many, including me. He was tired of seeing his people oppressed, so he spoke up for them. He spoke up for those who could not speak for themselves. He fought for those who could not fight for themselves. He spent 27 years in prison for a people he deeply loved. Four years after his release from prison he was elected as President of South Africa. The first black President of a nation that had been stifled by racial inequality.

See, Mandela knew what he was fighting for. He knew who he was fighting for. He was fighting for his people, he was fighting for his nation, he was fighting for his love. Fight on Nelson. Thank you for paving the way for people like me to fight.

#LFG

Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, and You

4th of December, 2013

I’ve already written about the celebrities who will be auctioning off exclusive experiences at my big party next Monday night to raise money for a hospital in Nigeria, and I’ve extended my personal invitation for you to get in on the fun. Now I want to share a few extra details about two of the auction packages I’m most excited about.

At the auction, you’ll have two chances to bid on experiences that will take place at the LPGA Founders Cup Pro-am in Scottsdale on March 19, 2014.

One winning bidder, along with two friends, will join Larry Fitzgerald and Nicole Castrale as a team competing in the Pro-am. Another winning bidder, again with two friends, will join Carson Palmer and two LPGA golfers to be named later (who will each play nine holes with your team).

As if those opportunities weren’t enough already, check out all of this fun stuff that will be included with both experiences:

  • Four (4) commemorative tee gift package
  • Four (4) Invitations for two (2) to the Tuesday of Tournament Week Pairings Party and Wednesday of Tournament Week Kick-Off Reception following completion of Pro-Am play
  • Forty (40) Good Any Day Tickets, allowing access to the Tournament grounds and public access areas (valid any one day Tuesday – Sunday of Tournament Week)
  • Four (4) Founders Club tickets for admission to an open-air hospitality area located near the 18th green on Tournament Site (valid Thursday – Sunday of Tournament Week), which includes complimentary food and beverage
  • Four (4) sponsor parking pass, valet service included, valid during Tournament Week, Tuesday – Sunday.

Once again, the full list of celebrity auction experiences is here, and you can register now through Eventbrite. Don’t miss out!

#LFG

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

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?

From Field to Fan

29th of September, 2013

Helplessness, Servitude, and Love

26th of September, 2013

Post-Surgery Update

25th of September, 2013

The Fibula Diaries

24th of September, 2013

Sunday was a bad day. But on the flight back to Arizona from New Orleans I was reminded that I was well equipped for what was to come after breaking my leg, a season-ending injury (technically, I fractured my fibula, but it hurts—a lot).

I haven’t watched film yet, but from what I can remember two 300+ pound guys fell on it and bent it in a way that it wasn’t supposed to go. I told you this sport is dangerous, but like I said, my pain is voluntary.

It’s been surprising to learn that the hardest part about having a broken fibula is putting shorts on. Taking showers is probably next, though I’ve been avoiding the shower because of the anticipated “fear of falling.”

Despite everything, I couldn’t be more thankful for the family and friends I have around me.

When I got back to Phoenix, my friend Max picked me up and basically took care of me that night. I woke up the next morning and my friends Jeff, Mike, and Criselda brought me breakfast, spent time with me, and helped me get stuff done around the house.

My friend Mary picked up my parents from the airport, and once they arrived, they immediately sat by my side, talking and praying with me. Simply having them with me during this time is what’s most important.

You can’t beat family and you can’t beat friends—real friends. I don’t know what I would do without you guys.

LFG!

Keepin’ It Real

6th of September, 2013

Why I Wear This Wristband

6th of September, 2013

Let’s Freakin’ Go!

6th of September, 2013