Let me start by recognizing the fact that I, the kid who avoided writing papers in high school and college because I was not a “good writer,” am writing a blog. Truly anything is possible! For starters, I am not an expert on fatherhood. That said, what I am is a very determined and passionate husband and father who believes that fatherhood is one of the most important roles in society today. I am learning that some lessons from my football days are helpful while others are not. My desire is to share my journey in making the transition from life as a professional athlete to life as a family man. Leading and loving a family has challenged me in every way.
I am often asked,
“What is it like to play in the NFL?
Do the hits hurt? Is it stressful knowing that everyday someone is trying to take your job? Do you get nervous playing in front of thousands of people?” I typically respond with a smile, take a deep breath and reply; “I enjoy competing at the highest level everyday, pushing my body to new limits. I enjoy competition, as it brings out my best. The hits do not hurt, but the day after the game hurts.” At this point in my life, I would add that as difficult as playing pro ball may seem –
Being a father is the toughest job I have had.
Ok now that I have the serious stuff out of the way, I want to share my personal journey of fatherhood and what I’m learning through the process. Lesson one; there is no perfect time to become a father. When I first learned that I would be a father I was in shock. At that point I was 26, without a job, quickly running out of money and living with my godparents and still figuring out what “for better or for worse” meant in my marriage. This was a rough period in my life. Just a year earlier I was a starting NFL running back on the verge of a life-changing contract. Then came the unexpected, a possible career ending injury, the loss of my job and oh, by the way, the news of my first son. How would I raise a child without a place of my own or the means to provide for him?
Yet, all these feelings went away when I held my son,
Sir Lennox, for the first time. My circumstances were still the same, but my priorities began to shift. All that seemed to matter was the love I wanted to give Lennox. Up until this point I had never experienced a love like this. Yes I loved my wife; I loved the game of football. I loved my family and close friends, but this was different. I struggled early in my marriage. I was used to looking out for myself. I was used to dedicating all of my time, effort, energy and resources to being the best athlete I could be. Putting someone else first was not a natural transition until I met my son. The love that I felt for Lennox was immediately unconditional. Without saying a word, Sir Lennox demanded my best in all areas of life. I thought to myself, “How can I teach him what I am not?” That love helped me be a better husband, friend and man. Changing diapers, waking up in the middle of the night, school tuition. None of these things could take away from the joy of fatherhood.
Lesson One is that life happens.
Whether you are a newlywed, single parent, foster parent, adoptive parent or Godparent, there will never be a “perfect time”. Really, all you have to do is love them and keep them safe.