How does an ex pro football player go from the field to the trash dumps? That’s a great question – and just so you know, I have the answer.
It all started with my incredible family. They always had a bed open for the drifter to sleep in and a couple of bucks for the homeless guy on the corner. They were good about upholding the Golden Rule. I remember them giving me a dollar to give to ‘pan-handle Joe’. They always made sure that I said “God bless you.” They would go to low-income sub-developments and deliver food to single moms and the elderly. We even took care of foster kids for 8 years. They were (and still are) the Cosby family for sure.
Just because my parents were writing chapters for mother Theresa it didn’t mean that I initially caught the bug. I was somewhat of a nice guy, but I would turn away when someone was holding up a cup full of change. I would create a scenario in my mind for the homeless man on the corner – if he really wanted to get off the streets he could get a job; I know McDonald’s is hiring! Or maybe he should get off drugs and then he could make something of himself. I even caught myself thinking I was exempt from taking care of the poor, because surely my family had done enough good for people in need.
With that said (and the germinating seed of social responsibility firmly planted by my family), I started playing football. I grew up in Round Rock, Texas, a suburb of Austin, about 25 miles from the famous 6th Street and the live music capitol of the world. Our town shut down every Friday night for football games just like the hit TV show Friday Night Lights. Needless to say, I had a great high school experience, and continued playing football for the Longhorns at the University of Texas (Hook ’Em!). I spent 5 exhilarating years bleeding orange and putting bowl rings on my fingers. We won almost all the games we played. I was a champion. Then I went to the Detroit Lions, and we lost as many games as we won. I basically lived the high life and became really good at throwing cold-shoulders to the hurting. I was a Rock Star with a football. I had no faith or moral compass to lead me. After a freak knee injury and a slew of other injuries, my promising career was cut short. I found myself back in Austin. I was hurt, frustrated, and had a classic case of athlete abandonment issues. Oh, how the friends disappear when there is no more money or status!
I think the worst part in believing money and fame would make me happy was actually getting what I wanted…and still being desperately unhappy. I spent my money and my heart on things that didn’t matter, and when that was over and there was nothing left, I decided to return to the only thing I had known. I returned to my faith, and helping people just like my parents. My plans changed. I began to love God – and His people.
With renewed purpose, youth, and the world in front of me, I turned to a little passion that I’d had practically since birth. I turned to music, and making a living as a musician, and a songwriter. You must be thinking, ” A jock that can sing and play the guitar? Is this a Glee episode?” It’s crazy, I know. Music has always been the thing that makes smile. I always loved music more than football, but football taught me so much.
After football I went through a bushel of jobs. I sold cell phones, tried real-estate, was a youth counselor, and worked in camps for kids but nothing stuck until I ran into an organization that raises money for orphaned kids, widows, and the poor. They took me to some of the poorest places on the planet and for some reason I found a deep, fulfilling joy that I didn’t have when I had money and fame. These people had no food, but they would dance and play music and laugh all day long. They had nothing, but they were showing me how to live. My priorities changed in the trash dumps and the poorest communities on earth. I realized that money and fame can’t bring happiness. Love, and loving people well is what is truly valuable. Through the ups and downs of life, and all my experiences to date, I have finally found what makes me smile. I love making great music, and helping the poor.
I have been working with trash dump communities in very impoverished places around the world. I am starting a non-profit that brings fresh food to people and plays music to them to lift their spirits. My plan has been to feed people and then play music for them. I take shows around the globe to people who may never be able to afford a ticket to come to a music venue. There is no better way to make a connection than to eat a meal and listen to some great music. I have found my way, my niche, and my personal angle of impact on this planet. I also plan to take people with me to see these places and do the same as I have; to help put life into perspective. Not everyone needs to sing or play an instrument. Everyone can bring a smile to people who don’t have anything.