Do you have any pre-bedtime routines to make sure you get a good night’s sleep?
I meditate before I go to bed, a quick 5-minute wind-down, going over my day, what I’m thankful for, what’s coming. It’s kind of affirmation-esque. Building myself up in a humble, compassionate, open-hearted way and telling myself to let go of stress helps me fall asleep really quickly.
They all work off each other—it’s like a circle. When you’re eating right and you’re exercising, you will sleep better. Taking the walks and meditating calms your stress, then you’re able to sleep better. It’s that holistic approach.
You only missed two games throughout your entire career. Do you attribute that to being vigilant about habits like sleep and nutrition that help keep your muscles in good shape and prevent injury?
Luck and genetics, I ain’t gonna lie. There are so many really good athletes out there that just have the injury bug. I tried to make sure that I would stretch, get good sleep, and nutrition.
As far as athleticism, basketball helped me tremendously in football. You need to spread yourself around and train those different muscles to avoid injuries. The greatest athletes of all time, like Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, they played a bunch of different sports growing up. These guys are considered the greatest athletes of all time because they hardly ever get hurt. And the reason you don’t get hurt is because they’ve always been cross-training all their muscles, so everything is strong. I also did volleyball, surfing, skateboarding, growing up, and it made me a better athlete. So when I finally did choose football, I had that advantage over most people that just play one sport.
Did you play basketball consistently throughout your NFL career?
Basketball was my off-season workout program every year. I never touched a football during the offseason. I’d play in the summer pro leagues against guys like Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce, all the NBA pros that would come back to LA to train during the off season. I played for the Miami Heat summer league team for Pat Riley and Stan Van Gundy.
You had a tough first few years in the NFL, leading the league in dropped passes and almost quitting football. How did turning that around help you handle stress and hardship beyond your football career?
Adjusting to the physicality of football wasn’t a problem for me. I didn’t have the confidence. I didn’t believe in myself. Genetically, I was better than everybody else, but I just did what was required of me and got by on talent. I had to learn the hard way that that’s not how it goes. You have doubt, but you go right through that. You have fear, you go through those fears.
Part of my morning meditation is getting joy and fulfillment and being where you’re supposed to be in life, from a spiritual and emotional perspective, and owning that. My tricks now are to find joy in doing what I’m doing. Slowly but surely, I’m getting better and better and better at…getting better.
Going into this season, we’re seeing a lot of athletes take a firmer stand than ever against racism and pressuring their leagues to work towards real change. Does that give you hope as a Latino player who joined the NFL before activism was really a prominent part of sports?
It gives me tremendous hope. I always felt like sports has set the tone for what America should be. Sports is a good teacher on how to keep evolving. In football, for instance, with the concussions. What did the NFL do? They changed the rules. Some people didn’t like the new rules. And we moved past that. We did what’s better for the player, and the product is just as good. There’s going to be people that say athletes shouldn’t have an opinion, just shut up and play sports. That’s ridiculous. What do you think, just because we play sports that we don’t have opinions on things? We have an influence and we have a right to speak. So I love seeing what’s going on.
Have you given any thought to how things might play out if there is an NFL strike?
I’ll deal with that if it happens. One of the biggest things that stood out to me in The Last Dance was that Michael Jordan has an unbelievable ability to be present. That’s what makes him so great. People would ask him about the pressure that he feels in the games to make the last shot. He said, “Why would I worry about a shot that I haven’t taken yet?”
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