The following is a true story that happened to a person I know very well. I remember when I was in the sixth grade and all my friends where playing sports. I was sitting on the sidewalk pissed because I wasn’t picked to play on either team. This was a pattern that repeated itself for years before I made a promise to myself that not only was I going to get picked to play the games, but I was going to do it on the biggest venue that sports had to offer—the NFL football field.
I grew up in a tough, blue collar town in southeastern Massachusetts. As a young person, I wasn’t very athletic. I was very out of shape and had the self-esteem of a wallflower at the high school dance. I wanted to be good at something, anything! For years, I was ridiculed and made fun of. I wanted to take it out on everyone. At this point, you’re probably thinking, did this kid go postal? Not really. I needed an outlet and weight training became my obsession. I had this activity that combined dedication, discipline, and intensity to let out all my excess energy.
I loved it. I trained as hard as I could, and when I was exhausted, I trained a little more. I loved pushing myself and gaining strength. I committed all my free time to getting my body in top shape. When all the other kids were pounding beers and smoking up, I chose training.
Finally, it came time for me to channel this training into actual performance. Growing up, I loved football. I watched as much as possible and pictured myself making the plays I saw on television and in videos. I thought about making plays all the time, 24/7. It consumed me. Football became my thing. I could run full speed and smack someone in the mouth. Not only did I not get in trouble, but I was rewarded with a high five. This was an amazing feeling, the kind of feeling that I couldn’t get enough of and it always left me wanting more.
When I wasn’t playing football, I occupied my fire with weight training. I had to do something to release my rage. I followed one rule—go as hard as humanly possible and hit everything that moves. I planned on joining the Marines out of high school, but that plan fell apart once I was offered a full scholarship to play ball at a great school. I ended up starting as a redshirt freshman and a 235-lb defensive tackle. If you don’t know anything about football, that’s really small. I had an amazing head coach who believed in me enough to stick with me as a starter.
Eventually, I learned some pass rush skills, and my strength went through the roof. I gained some weight and played at 255 lbs. I loved my athletic advantage over the opposing offense linemen. I racked up some great stats, and along with a great coaching staff and tough ass teammates, we went from 2-9 to 9-2 with a conference championship. NFL scouts came through the school and wanted a look at the undersized All-American. I ended up getting drafted by the New York Jets and bounced around the league for a few years. Crazy how lifting weights sparked this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Every now and then, I wonder what my life would’ve been like if I hadn’t picked up that first set of dumbbells. Maybe I would’ve remained shy, out of shape, and lazy. What if drinking became my vice instead of training? Who knows if I would even be alive? I’m so thankful that I stuck it out in that weight room and continue to train today. It absolutely made me who I am.