The ability to learn and apply healthy psychological practices was a deciding factor in the longevity of my career. I knew too many guys that were not so lucky. And I would not see this side of them until it was too late.
One of my dear Raiders teammates, loved by all, got drunk one night and died after he flipped his car. What pressures drove him to this end? We were all blindsided and crushed. Another fun-loving fourth-round picked teammate was cut after four seasons and blew his brains out. How could football be more important than his life? I would never get the chance to ask. A few others frequently got in bar fights, and still more took out their stresses on their girlfriends or wives.
The visible aftermath of domestic disturbance sauntered into the Cowboys’ locker room one morning during my rookie year. As the team suited up for practice, the toughest son of a bitch veteran player walked in, said good morning, and got dressed for practice like nothing was awry. Meanwhile, the rest of the team tried not to stare at his face. But like a car accident, no one could help themselves.
He finally narrowed his eyes and surveyed the room to be met with faces that looked to the floor. If we had nothing to do, we busied ourselves in a hurry. No one dared say a word about the fingernail scratches that consumed his face. He would have to convince us that he was locked in a tiger’s cage for it to make any sense. There were fresh scratches in every direction, some still bloody.
Being a young rookie, I did not say a thing, but I was left wondering about his wife's condition. I hated seeing something like this brushed under the carpet. It was a poignant reminder that the pressure casualties were too many to count, which is all the more reason to establish and actively manage a healthy mindset. It is as essential as building those muscles.
More on this topic and others in my memoir, Aggressively Human, available for pre-order now (Amazon: Aggressively Human) and to be released on all platforms in November 2023.