Grant Mattos is a former NFL wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans. After struggling to find a new identity after his football career, he eventually competed on the television show, Survivor and found solace through practicing yoga. I came across Grant's Instagram account through Eben Britton, who was our guest in episode 75. It didn't take me long to notice that Grant had written a book called "The Fifth Down." Grant's memoir takes readers through his NFL journey, which was filled with adrenaline-charged highs and anxiously-depressive lows. Like many of the listeners of this show, Grant consistently sacrificed the health of his brain and body to acquire these highs. The book also sheds light on Grant's life after he was let go from the NFL where he had an excruciating journey to rebuild a new identity. He ultimately found yoga, and learned what it meant to actually love himself. This book is his account of what motivates someone to continue grasping for extreme experiences. And, conversely, finding the path to reclaiming a balanced life.
One of the first questions I asked Grant was, who is this book for? (even though I had a hunch it was perfect for you listeners). The Fifth Down is for anyone who has reached for certainty and stability through career, only to come up empty handed after decades of hard work. It's for those who have felt the sting of alcoholism, drug abuse, and broken homes. It's for those who have, or wish still, to pick themselves up while at their lowest.
“Football equaled time with my Dad”
Grant started writing the book about 5 years ago. Writing proved to be very therapeutic for him because it forced him to face all the things he wasn’t willing to face during his career and immediately after it ended. It gave him a better understanding of why he went through everything he did throughout his football career and beyond. Grant eventually realized that his NFL dreams went much deeper than just wanting to be one of the guys he saw on TV every Sunday in the fall. The more he wrote, the more clear his WHY became. During our conversation, Grant explained the revelation of realizing that football was never really his dream that he was going after, it was his father's dream. Ironically, the higher up in football ranks he got, the more he pushed his father away,
"I was a leaf blowing in the wind"
Like many athletes, there was no goal for Grant after the NFL. Many athletes who have come on the show often credit their one-track mindset for their success. After taking us through the final moments of his NFL career, Grant described himself as "a leaf blowing in the wind" when trying to figure out his next move after football. The wind eventually blew Grant to Las Vegas where he worked at a gentleman's club where he was once a patron. Grant and I dive into this difficult time in his life where he describes his thoughts as being an "internal civil war." If you are reading this blog post, you most likely know this exact feeling, I know I do. The learning lesson to take from this part of our conversation is that even at your lowest point, there is always a way out. That way out for Grant was a very good friend who pulled him out of Vegas. Removing himself from a negative environment led to some life-changing additions to Grant's life. These additions include meeting his wife, immersing himself in the practice of yoga and the opportunity to compete on the show Survivor.
It wouldn't be a Heads 'N Tales podcast if we didn't talk about injuries. Grant takes us through the various ailments he struggled with throughout his career and the "more is better" mentality that led to some of those injuries. Grant's injuries include a hip cartilage injury and broken collarbone in high school, concussions and knee injuries. Grant also echoed the statements of Ka'Lial Glaud from episode 95 in that there is a lot of pressure to play through injuries as an un-drafted free agent constantly fighting for a roster spot. Emotionally, injuries made Grant feel like he was weak and fragile. At this point in the interview Grant tells some behind the scenes stories on the pressures to play injured with NFL coach Steve Mariucci. On the contrary, Grant also talks about some of the great lessons and experiences he had with coaches like Marty Schottenheimer.
"Give yourself time and credit."
Grant's advice to transitioning athletes is to "give yourself time and credit." We only scratched the surface in this episode. If you enjoyed listening to our conversation and want to learn more, help Grant fund the publishing of his memoir The Fifth Down by visiting the link to his kick starter page. There you will find what the money will be going towards and what charitable initiatives are linked up with this campaign, which include recent hurricane and natural disaster relief and Team Gleason. I personally pledged 37 dollars which gets me both a paperback and kindle version of the book and recognition on the thank you page.