In the beginning, I was short, fat, weak, and slow. Not a good start. What I lacked in size and strength I more than tripled with perseverance. I was too fat to play little league football with my friends. The weight limit was 125 for the big team. I was 150 in grammar school. Of course, I had a very flattering nickname given to me by my friends. It was Lard Butt, lardy for short, unfortunately. I didn’t realize it at the time but I sure didn’t let negativity affect me. Ok, I admit it. I did have a rather oversized butt, that’s for sure. In the long run, it turned out to be my biggest asset. Of course, I will explain that later.
Several things had to happen before becoming a professional football player in the NFL. Yes, I did have a very meager start. I learned that it is not how you start, it is how you finish! The things I had to do were as follows. Get tough, get stronger, get faster, become a High School starter, get good grades, get into college, play college football, keep my grades up in college, get stronger and faster in college, become a starter again, get noticed by pro scouts, and pray.
Football is a violent and brutal sport. It’s a wonder that the fans don’t through oranges at us. They turn their thumbs down on us as they did to Roman gladiators they despised. You need to have physical toughness, yes, but mental toughness is key. Your mindset should be to learn without questioning, perform without fear, persevere through tragedy, and never quit. “Get tough Chris Jones”. “Get tough Chris Jones”, they yelled as they planted me in the dirt. Why did I keep picking myself out of the dirt? Why didn’t I just stay down? I ask myself that even now. Well, I had nowhere else to go. I had no father at home. My single-parent mother was always working. She never made one High School football game. My sister and I did not get along at the time. I was quiet and kept to myself. I had nothing else better to do than getting thrashed all over the field. I guess I was a glutton for punishment. One thing is true. Always bet on someone that has nothing to lose. They are highly motivated not by choice but by necessity.
Get Stronger and Faster in High School
Any combination of speed or strength will help you become a starter in high school. I was a very slow runner. I ran a 5.2 in the 40-yard dash. I think Tom Brady was faster than me. I could not lift the Olympic bar, which weighed 45 lbs. I had male tits, a grown man belly, big hands, size 14 shoes, and long arms at 14 years old. They beat me around the field like a stepchild. Survival was my motivator. I was trying not to get killed out there. In my spare time, I jogged, ran stadium stairs, did 440’s for endurance, lifted weights, and ran 4 stories of steps inside of my high school. No one was around. Even the janitors had punched out.
Become a starter in High School
If you are not a starter, you can get overlooked by scouts. If you are not noticed by scouts, the probability of making a team is lessened. Research shows that out of the 1,093,234 high school football players in the US, only 6.5% of them (or 71,060) will play in college. Only 1.2% of college-level players will get drafted to the NFL. Becoming a starter is a goal to be reached for your destiny to become a player in the NFL. Learn more tab about how to become a starter on a High School Football team. I finally became a starter in High School in my senior year, after being a scrub and bench warmer for three years.
Get Good Grades
Why get good grades you might ask? There are several reasons why getting good grades can accelerate your chances of making the pros. Good grades increase your eligibility for more colleges. You can find yourself with double-digit schools interested in you. More colleges equal more exposure. Scouts notice highly recruited student-athletes. Studying and football practice is exhausting. Doing both leaves you less time to get yourself into trouble. I viewed school and football as my social upbringing. I interacted with other students, coaches, teachers, and authoritative figures. It prepared me for life’s challenges. Simply put, I was a lonely boy at home alone. I expressed myself by playing Football and attending School. I was finally a part of something other than myself.
Get Noticed by Pro Scouts
When you reach your goal to become stronger and faster in college, it will help you to become a starter. If you are not a starter, does that mean you won’t make the Pros? The answer is no. Learn more about How to make an NFL roster without being a starter. Once you are a starter, you could be noticed by NFL Scouts. Learn more tab What NFL scouts are looking for in a player.
Let’s not forget. It is not just about you. There is no “U” in the word team. One of your teammates may be an outstanding football player. This will attract more scouts to your game. There is always someone watching you. Put your best performance forward at all times. Display your best attitude. Always show leadership qualities. All eyes and ears are on you at all times. Because my college football team had John Taylor, (San Francisco 49ers wide receiver) NFL scouts were at many of our games. The Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys were looking at me. I received a recruitment letter from the Raiders and got a phone call from Gil Brandt (Player Personnel Director for the Dallas Cowboys). Go figure!!
Under Joe Walton, in 1987, I became an undrafted, rookie free agent, trying to make the roster for the New York Jets. I was cut by the Jets after 6 weeks of training camp. I had NFL experience now with two pre-season games and a scrimmage with the Washington Redskins under my belt. I was picked up by the New York Giants due to the strike. The demand for experienced players was extremely high. Bill Parcels, Romeo Crennel, and Bill Belichick were my coaches. Although I was evaluated as someone they wanted to offer a roster spot, I was cut and sent home after three games. I was inches away from making that team. It wasn’t meant to be. The NFL is a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry that I was very happy to get a glimpse of.
In conclusion, my advice if you are is to be your best you at all times. You never know who is watching and listening to you. Be kind to people. What type of impression do you want to leave with people?
Stay prepared. You never know when your opportunity will arise.