I know hustle. I have always known hustle.
When you were 16, you had me, your first child. My dad was locked up and it was your responsibility to take care of me. Now, my goal is to give you back what you sacrificed for me.
You were a track star in high school but had to give it up for me. Instead, you worked multiple jobs while also going to school. Grandma used to watch me. That’s where my cousins and I would play football and tag, among other sports. We were always active and having fun.
You might have thought I didn’t notice how hard you were grinding, but I did, mom. Hard work and hustle was all I knew because that is all I saw.
School was tough for me. In fourth grade, I found out I had this learning disability, grammar comprehension. That’s when they put me into a special education class.
But like you, I didn’t stop.
I didn’t let my disability define me. Instead, it motivated me, as I always did my best.
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You encouraged me. You supported me in everything that I did, turning me into a tough kid. I came to believe whatever I put my mind to, I could achieve. What I wanted was a better life both for you and for me. Football appeared to be a way for me to make that happen.
When I was getting ready to go to college, I was getting interest from top Division 1 schools: Michigan, Buffalo and Syracuse. But I wasn’t academically eligible. I didn’t have the grades.
I decided to go to prep school so that I wouldn’t lose any years of eligibility.
I had a coach tell me, “Don’t do it. You ain’t going to pass.”
But I believed in myself.
Like you, I went to work, studying in the office, getting tutors and doing whatever I needed to do to get my grades up and make it happen. And I did. I found out on the last day of school that I was eligible for a scholarship. I was shocked and called you.
The only problem was I didn’t have any offers. Every night I stayed up until four or five in the morning, working out and emailing coaches until finally Wagner College called and told me they wanted me.
Mom, I got a scholarship, a free education. I know you were happy because you were crying. You were with me every step of the way. During my freshman year, I became an All-American and when I graduated, I got a few opportunities with several NFL teams, but I kept getting cut.
After my last time getting cut, I had a mental breakdown in my car.
I thought to myself, “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.”
I wanted to pursue something that could be a lifelong journey, something that would allow me to give back what you gave to me. That’s when it came to me. I wanted to do fitness. I started studying influencers and making videos and posting content of my own. Regularly, I was in the gym. And soon enough, I built up my own following and even got a supplement contract.
I bought you some jewelry with the extra cash. For me, that gift was symbolic of being one step closer to getting you what I want to buy you.
Football led me to where I am right now and I am never going to give up because you never gave up on me. You are my motivation now and always. It was never about what you said. It was simply the fact that you were always there, cheering me on in football and life.
Mom, it is my turn to work. It is my turn to grind. While I was a kid having fun at grandma’s house, you were hustling so I could have a future. Now, I want you to be the one having fun while I work.
You sacrificed every minute of your life for me after I was born. Now, my dream is to buy you the free time you deserve.
Thank you for always being there. Our time is coming.