My blog posts for NFL owners and NFL rookies produced some interesting responses (and a radio interview with this journalist), so I decided to devote an entire series of posts NFL rookies. This is one group of people I obviously hold close to my heart…I used to be one of them.
This series of blog posts will address some essential character-related topics every rookie – from Clowney to the undrafted free agent – will encounter as they are thrown into a new life in a new city with their names, faces and contract details on a platform for the world to see. The world will also be relentlessly offering their opinions and, in some cases, attempting to manipulate rookies’ newfound popularity and fortune for their own personal gain.
These blog posts are not camouflaged truths. I’m going there. I have the benefit (and the misfortune) of first-hand experience with every subject I will discuss. I’ll share some of those experiences for the sake of example because it’s one thing to mentor overnight millionaires in theory, but it’s another thing to mentor them with raw, unfiltered truth learned at the school of hard-knocks.
So every rookie, journalist and NFL front office exec that may stumble upon these posts should consider them a complimentary sampling of my consulting services. And these posts will really just scratch the surface. There’s lots more where this comes from, but to get it, I’ll have to be hired.
With that said, the theme of this series is distractions, and the first type of distraction I’ll examine is women.
Let me first say I am not judging or speaking negatively about women in general. I am identifying a specific type of woman that I personally encountered during my NFL playing days. I have the utmost respect for all women everywhere – especially my wife and the women in my family. I am writing this post to caution NFL rookies about the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. And the reality of NFL rookies being distracted by women never changes. This topic is hardly a news flash. But my first-hand perspective may help rookies bypass the hard lessons I learned about this topic.
I also want to disclose that I have already shared this post with my wife, and she is completely comfortable with this content. The idea here is to help people avoid the pain, headache and heartache I didn’t avoid.
New Levels; New Devils
As many rookies have already experienced on the collegiate level, attention from people – especially women – is common. But it gets downright ridiculous before the ink is dry after the first contract signing. It’s actually terrifying how far some women will go to be associated with an NFL player. There’s a certain segment of women who study every rookie class the way a law student would study to pass the Bar Exam. This segment of women will stop at nothing (including an NFL player’s girlfriend or wife) to “snag a baller” (yep…people actually say that). The attention rookies got in college is nothing compared to the “Vulture Culture” that will swarm around them once they’re no longer inhibited by curfews, rigid NCAA regulations and the confines of college campuses.
With every new level, there’s a new devil.
I am not calling women devils. I’m calling the behavior of some women who specifically target professional athletes devilish.
As a young kid growing up, I was taught that “manhood” meant having a lot of women. Since there’s nothing new under the sun (and there really isn’t), I know many rookies have been taught the same thing.
That is a lie.
From where I stand today, I now realize that the womanizing I did was a sign of my insecurity and inferiority. It looked like confidence, but it was actually the opposite. I was trying to fill a void. That void was the fact that I was not honoring my relationship with God, and I did not have a close relationship with my Dad. My Dad was always around, but we weren’t close. I craved that closeness, and when I didn’t get it from him, I tried to get it from women. Because I incorrectly processed all the attention I was getting, I developed an attention-seeking mindset.
Negative effects I experienced from having an attention-seeking mindset
- I became known as a “player,” and I attracted the wrong type of women. The “player” tag made me believe a lie about myself. I wasn’t really a player. I actually had a monogamous spirit. But my insecurities overtook me, and I fell head first into a lifestyle of only being around loose women with an agenda.
- I was the life of the party, so women were drawn to me. But because I was a passive people-pleaser, I learned to play the fast lifestyle game right along with women who only had my status in mind. Playing that game actually took my mind off the game I was supposed to be playing: football. Before long, I found myself thinking about my after-practice and after-game plans more than I was thinking about doing my job. I forgot it was a job, and I forgot I had an employer that had invested a lot of money in me.
- What started out as a “fun” lifestyle quickly turned into a dangerous game of emotional Russian roulette. After awhile, it stopped being about the physical part (that got old fast), and became all about dominating the women in my circle mentally. I began to only be interested in getting as many women as I could to submit to me mentally and emotionally. This is a toxic way of thinking, and it leads to nothing but trouble. I knew I was flirting with disaster, and it didn’t take long for the toxic thinking to spill over into every other area of my life.
- They say when two people physically connect, they are also physically connecting with everyone from their pasts (and their pasts, and their pasts, and so on). This is absolutely true. But what I didn’t know at the time was that it wasn’t just true physically. It’s also true spiritually. My pastor calls them “soul ties.” With every careless encounter, I was dragging the souls of countless people I didn’t know into my life. These ties showed up in the form of addictions, anger and eventually, in my premature retirement from football. When I rededicated my life to God, I had to get rid of those ties.
- My first year in the league, I already had a girlfriend. We had been dating for a year before I got drafted. She was the purest thing in my life. I knew she was the one, and I knew I would marry her. During my rookie season, she came to visit me in Pittsburgh for a game. After the game, she and I were walking hand-in-hand out to the car. Fans were everywhere. As we approached my car, we saw a woman lying on top of the hood. She was wearing a full-length fur coat, stiletto heels and nothing else (she made sure I knew she had nothing else on under the coat). In front of my girlfriend, while I was holding her hand, the woman said, “Great game. Who’s that? Your little sister?” My girlfriend – who trusted me completely – was shell-shocked. So was I. I said, “You need to get off my car and go.” The woman moved off my car and walked over to us. My girlfriend was still in shock (and totally humiliated, by the way). When the woman walked over, she handed me her phone number on a piece of paper and said, “Call me when she leaves.” That moment negatively affected my girlfriend for the next 20 years. It gave me a feeling of false security and power. It sent one message to me: “I’m the man.” It also scared me because my passivity kept me from being as assertive and protective of my girlfriend as I should have been. Even though I asked the woman to leave, I didn’t handle that situation in a way that would have made my girlfriend confident in my commitment to her. The good news? That girlfriend became my wife in 2010, and we are both completely healed from that – and many other – negative incidents involving women.
Patterns of The Female Distraction
Boldness. Some women will go out of their way to get a rookie’s attention. Some women will be bold in their speech, bold in their appearance and bold in their approach. I remember my very first day being welcomed into the city of Pittsburgh. There was a banquet, lots of news reporters, tons of photographers and all the hoopla that comes with being a first-round draft pick. That night, some friends and I went to a club. Five minutes into being there, a woman heard the DJ announce me, and she also recognized me from the news. She very aggressively propositioned me, and left nothing to the imagination. For a guy who grew up thinking I was unattractive, that was a huge ego boost. What I didn’t realize was that the woman was actually a predator hunting her prey. In that city, at that time, I was considered famous. That woman (and many others like her) wanted a “celebrity” notch in her belt. Today, that type of woman wants much more. They want access to an entire lifestyle.
Social Media Stalking. I recently read a blog post featuring an anonymous Q&A with NFL athletes discussing “secrets” about their interactions with the kind of women who create distractions. This response addresses the distraction of meeting women on social media best (expletives edited out):
“I met a girl on Twitter from Texas. She hit me up and asked me to mentor some kids. I told her I don’t live in Texas but I’ll do it in the offseason, which was around the corner. We exchange numbers, and I get a picture from her the next day. She says it was an accident and she meant to send it to her brother. It was a regular pic, I told her she looked nice. I was just being cordial, no flirting or nothing. We’re just talking casually, and then she hits me the next day and says, ‘If you liked yesterday’s pic, you’re going to love this one’…she was naked! All of a sudden, she wants to come to the city I play in and visit me, etc. I’m not biting though.
We continued to talk for about two weeks and it’s just not adding up. I looked at the people she followed and I swear everyone was in the NFL or NBA. I asked her if any of the guys ever helped her with her charity, and she said they all try to holla at her. I asked her why she still follows them then, and she said she loves sports and is a tomboy.
I remember hearing about a little scam some groupies had going on, so I asked her to send me a pic, which she did. I sent her one back. I asked her to send me a picture mocking the pose I just sent her. Guess what? She said her camera was broke. [Laughs.] I stopped talking to her.
Maybe two weeks later, I’m talking to my teammate and he describes the exact same situation. I told him to let me see the pics, and the same girl sent him all the same pics she sent me. It didn’t make any sense, because what if I had flown her to my city? What was her explanation going to be for not looking the same in the pictures she sent me? Maybe she wanted to ask me for money and thought I’d give it to her, I don’t know. That’s the craziest thing that’s happened to me though as far as groupies go.” – Pro Bowl NFC offensive lineman
First of all, anyone who is married, engaged or in a serious relationship, shouldn’t be engaging directly with women on social media. Period. When I was playing I didn’t have to deal with social media. It didn’t exist. But I did have to deal with hundreds of letters, women showing up uninvited and unannounced in different cities and stalkers following me home from clubs.
I had to eventually take responsibility for attracting that type of woman. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.
I came to realize that I wore my lack of self-esteem like I wore my designer clothes. I went from believing the lie that I wasn’t good enough to believing the lie that more than one woman was a stamp of approval. I was deceived and living a life of deception.
The Pack Mentality. Some women with less-than-honorable agendas to connect with NFL rookies have done their homework and have studied their targets. Many times, several women will make themselves a package deal. The danger of this scenario is obvious, but the subtle danger may not be. The subtle danger is that what begins as a mutually agreed upon “fun” time will quickly turn into unspeakable drama. This scenario never – and I mean never – ends well.
Check out this anonymous NFL player’s perspective from that same blog post:
“The attraction [to professional athletes] is more powerful than his character. They let you get away with a lot more when you have status. Some guys like easy access to a chick. They don’t want to have to work for a good girl. They want a chick on the side, you know, a show piece. The mentality is, well I got the money, I got the cars, I got the house, I GOTTA have the girl. Most successful men have the highest divorce rate. Did you know the NFL divorce rate after two years after retirement is 80%. Once the money doesn’t flow like it used to and the attention is gone, they bounce. The chick you with wasn’t with you for the right reasons. And she never had to really learn to love with you or live with you. An NFL player is always gone. Practice, games, charity events, you’re never there. You don’t have to be around someone 24/7, but after you retire, it changes. Once the stadium’s gone, the fame is gone….where’s my backbone? She gone!”
“[These kind of women are] opportunists in love with opportunity and not in love with the guy. It’s very rare to find a good chick. You’re not going to find them in the clubs. It has to be something that just happens. A lot of times dudes know these girls are up to no good, but they don’t want to pay attention to signs. Some of these dudes be falling in love with these girls, it’s crazy…With these women, you just have to be true to yourself.”
It took me further than I wanted to go, kept me longer than I wanted to stay and cost me more than I wanted to pay.