A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share my story on the Morris Sussex Sports podcast and I enjoyed my experience so much I wanted to post it here for you guys too. I feel this episode is a good measure of my personal growth over the last three years from serving as host of this podcast and absorbing the wisdom taught by my guests. One of the questions I was asked in this interview was "what would you say to your 17 year old self?" I gave this question some more thought after I began putting this post together because I don't think I would have listened to me or anyone at that age. So I thought of a way to phrase it that may have penetrated my extremely thick skull (no pun intended).
"Treat your body like you treat your car."
A few months ago I leased a new truck. Before getting this truck I had only ever had one vehicle and that was a 2005 Toyota 4Runner that has been with me throughout all the ups and downs my injury and life dealt me. I wanted to share the pictures below to show how far I have come since October 5th, 2007.
The picture above was taken by my mother on a Friday morning before what was (I'm guessing) our first game of the season in my senior year playing for the West Morris Central Wolfpack. No smile, backwards hat, black socks (I thought they made me look more athletic), exuding what I thought was "toughness" at the time. However, this definition of toughness, with a focus on physicality and masculinity was a fleeting bar to base my self-worth on. There was always going to be someone who was bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic than me. Unfortunately I was willing to lay it all on the line to prove the impossible, which was that I was the "toughest" guy on the field. Who was I trying to prove this to? Why did I care? I still can't quite answer that, but I know the quest cut my football career much shorter than anticipated.
This picture was taken a few months ago just before I drove off the lot in a new truck. This is the same vehicle I stood in front of 11 years (holy hell) earlier just with a different license plate, a lot cleaner windows and about 140,000 extra miles. This is also the same guy standing in front of the car, just with a few more battle scars, longer hair and an eyeglass prescription. However, thanks to the wisdom I gained from my podcast guests and a fully developed frontal lobe, I measure my self worth much differently today than I did in the first picture.
Toughness is actually a lot like buying a new car. There will always be cars that are bigger, faster, flashier or my luxurious than yours. Unfortunately, you can't control what other people choose to buy or modify on their cars. The only thing you can control is how you take care of and drive your vehicle. If I took care of my own body like I took care of my 4 Runner over the last 11 years, there is no doubt I would have played football in college. I regularly changed the oil, didn't drive aggressively, gave it rest for a couple years in college and washed all the salt off during harsh New Jersey winters. When something was feeling off with the car, I addressed it. If all athletes treated their bodies like they did their cars, I am sure they could add at least 11 years onto their careers too.
We all know a squirrel-lover or two who swerve all-over the road to miss their furry little friend. I think the risk of swerving outweighs the benefit of missing the squirrel in most cases, but I hope people attempt to avoid deer and other large animals that cross their paths because of the destruction it can do to both your vehicle and the animal. If I treated my body like I did my car I would have done anything I could to avoid contact. However, I took the opposite approach in football and tried to hit everything in sight because I thought it made me "tough." That mentality when translated to behind the wheel is like seeing the biggest deer in the history of all deer and driving your vehicle right into it. Who would do that? The major difference between a car and your body is that cars are replaceable, your life and body aren't. What good is a broken Ferrari anyway? What good are you to your team when you're hurt? Treat your body like the asset that it is. You are only given one brain, heart, set of shoulders, and knees. How long they last is up to you.
I traded my 4 Runner in for a Ford F-150. Ford's slogan for their line of trucks is "Built Ford Tough" for their reputation of being long lasting and dependable. It doesn't matter what car or truck you buy. If you beat the crap out of your car and don't take care of it, it is not going to be long lasting or dependable. Prove your toughness through your dependability. There is only one way to do that and that is by taking care of yourself. You control your toughness.
Below is a list of conversation topics I touch on throughout this episode:
- Why I am not anti football.
- What it was like playing football growing up in Long Valley.
- Talking about the glory days.
- How the tough guy complex worked against me.
- What led up to second impact syndrome.
- How my athletic trainer saved my life.
- The aftermath of the Second Impact Syndrome.
- The Evolution of the Heads ‘N Tales podcast.
- The true definition of toughness.
- What I would say to my 17 year old self.