I know the future is unclear, but I want you all to realize the value of a team-first mentality, even when facing a tremendous amount of uncertainty. I should know.
See, I didn’t think I would play football in college. As a freshman in high school, I was scared to get hit. I certainly didn’t know I would grow up to be a professional athlete. I didn’t even start for my high school’s varsity football team until my senior year.
However, one of the slogans I have always lived my life by is, “The greater good is my good.”
After playing wide receiver and safety for three years on junior varsity, during the spring semester of my junior year of high school, my coaches approached me. They told me they needed offensive and defensive linemen.
They asked me if I would help the team and switch my position in what I thought would be my final year of playing football. All I wanted to do was contribute to my team and ball with the bros, so I agreed.
In my senior year, I finished with about ten sacks. I made All-Conference on offense and defense and I caught the attention of college programs.
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I went on to play at Columbia University and continued to maintain that team-first mentality. My teammates named me a captain my senior year of college and to the surprise of many, I made my way onto an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent.
While I have played for the Chiefs, the Buccaneers, the Jets and the Saints, I am well aware that right now, the most important team I am a member of is our global community. You are all my teammates and COVID-19, a highly contagious virus that is rapidly spreading across the world is our opponent.
Many of you are scared. Fear is a reasonable and normal response. There should be some level of concern. But there are measures we can all take to protect ourselves.
Everyone on a roster has a role. The medical professionals, government officials and researchers who are looking to develop a vaccine possess clear responsibilities. But even those of us not on the frontlines can help beat this virus by following the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing, washing our hands, stocking up on food and showing our appreciation for all the essential employees risking their safety to help ensure ours.
I live in New York City, the epicenter of this virus, and I understand that the virus is going to take its toll in terms of fatalities and the economy. However, I hope we can use this time as an example to understand how important it is to be on the same page or at least in the same chapter when it comes to the needs of our society.
What we all do right now, especially as many cities prepare to reopen, will impact our health as a nation, our economy and our efficiency in facing new challenges for years to come.
When I got the call that I would have the chance to play in the NFL, there was a rush of emotion and a sense of gratitude for all the people who helped me. But I realize now, eight years later, as I am still getting paid to play football, that making the NFL was not the end goal but rather a starting point.
This fight against COVID-19 will not be determined by when the quarantines end or even the moment the virus is no longer a threat. It will be decided by whether or not we took this time to create a world where we all commit to consistently working together.
Pandemic or not, we never really know what the future holds. However, whether it’s a sports team or a society, no matter what position any of us play, my journey has taught me that the more united our team becomes, the better the chance we all win.
Please be smart, be safe and do your part. I know I’ll do mine.