Three Principles Behind Navigating an NFL Career as a Longshot

Three Principles Behind Navigating an NFL Career as a Longshot

It's 64 degrees on a breezy spring day in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I take a walk because the fatigue of staring at the NFL draft for the last two days wears on me. It’s now Day 3, the last day for a team to draft you or sign you undrafted. Afternoon melts to evening, evening melts to night. I lay in bed staring up at my popcorn ceiling in my run down college apartment. My phone remains silent. No one called. No one called the following day, or the following week, or the following month, or the month after that. Fast forward 6 years and I’m still slugging my shoulder pads on in NFL stadiums. While I acknowledge the significant amount of luck that facilitated my career to continue, from positive mentors, to fortuitous timing, to good genes… there still were some intrinsic principles that, as I sit and reflect, enabled me to make it.

Curiosity and Open Mindedness

"Hold your ball up near your ear" "Take the ball straight up from the ball carriage" "Take big steps on your drop backs". These coaching points have been handed down from generation to generation and all three are false. None of them are biomechanically sound. The only reason I figured this out was because I was obsessively curious at understanding the first principles of playing quarterback. My advice to all players is to question the intent behind what you are doing. This can range from schematics, to mechanics, to weightlifting to nutrition. Be curious about finding the experts in each field, and be open minded to change when the evidence for doing so is compelling. My continued presence in the league is a result of finding experts who explained the first principles of an efficient throw and the quickest ways to retool my motion accordingly.

Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, created the growth mindset framework and its best explained with this picture.

This mindset is how I operate, and it kept me focused on 1% improvements, day in and day out. I firmly believe in this, and it's applicable to all facets of your life from your job, to your interactions with family, to learning something new. This got me out of bed the morning after the draft, to throw, to lift and to keep pushing.

Hedge your Bets

Whatever your longshot plan is... from high school starter to making it in the NFL... hedge your bets and have a backup plan. For me, that was a job in New York, that kindly gave me a deferral to pursue the NFL. For others, your fallback may be your education, starting a business, running a charity, and so on. The hedge gives you two things:

  1. Freedom from tying your personal identity solely to football. It is inevitable that football will end, that your body will give out, and that you will no longer be hailed for your play. It's critical to have another interest to expend energy into and ensure your entire identity is not only tied to who you are on the field.
  2. Freedom to cut it loose. By having a backup plan in tow, you feel better about the downside scenario and can play a touch more relaxed. Granted, I was a nervous wreck my first game but big picture, this has helped my psyche over the years.


In football and in life, the odds are often stacked against you. I have found that these three principles, in regards to my football career, have helped me hit blackjack when the dealer was showing a 20. I hope you find them useful too.

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