Sorry to disappoint, but no, I did not tear down my home with my bare hands.
No, I did not shed any tears over getting cut.
Actually, everyone else was much more disappointed upon hearing the news than I was.
I wasn’t disappointed at all.
And this is why.
Actually after leaving the Steelers facility for the last time, I went straight to my art studio located on the third floor of my house and began to paint.
And at that moment an awesome feeling washed over me. I remember thinking,
“This is my job now. I’m my boss.”
Pretty cool thought.
And as I moved forward from football that day, the swaying tower crumbled.
And just like that, the least interesting thing about my life was gone.
I learned the dangers of only having one swaying tower a long time ago, and since then I have stayed busy building multiple towers with more stable foundations than athletics.
Because unlike some, I’ve been blessed to understand and believe the truth that football has been a swaying tower ready to collapse for quite some time. In fact, that tower began to sway the moment I first began to play way back in 7th grade at Goddard Junior High School in Midland, Texas.
The reality is that from the moment I ever began playing football, the clock began to tick as to when it would end for me, and over the last 5 years I have done everything in my power to ensure that it would not be my only option.
I refused to ever become crushed under the weight of the rubble of my own creation, entrapped in a tomb of crumbled time, work, emotion, dedication and love, wondering what exactly happened and surprised at the fact that the tall swaying structure eventually collapsed.
Because when you stack and stack and stack.
If all falls down.
“What are you going to do when you’re done playing football?”
I was asked that question frequently while I was still playing, and my response was always, “Continue to do everything that I am doing now.”
And because of that, I have not missed football for a second, because of that I am fulfilled, and because of that I am very happy.
Since I’ve decided to move onto other challenges and goals in life and leave the game of football, I have realized one gigantic truth as to what football did for me that I’m more thankful for than anything.
Because of football I am competitive.
Because of football I appreciate and accept hard work as part of life.
Because of football I began to write.
Because of football I began to speak.
Because of football I began to paint.
Because of football I began to make salsa.
Because of football I moved to Pittsburgh, a city that I love.
Because of football I have friendships that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Many athletes identify with the game so much that when it is gone they are stripped of their identity.
Strangely enough it was the other way around for me, and I thank God for allowing me to see this.
Football did give me my identity in a strange way. But it was never that of a football player. It was as a writer, traveler, photographer, artist, chef, speaker and many other things.
And that’s because I was blessed to see that when you stack, and stack, and stack all you have into one swaying tower, eventually…
It all falls down.
But my towers are many.
Out of all the touchdowns and plays that I made, and things I got to do and see because of football, I am thankful for one thing more than anything else that it did for me.
Football allowed me to walk away proudly from it, and into a life that is better than only being a football player could ever be.
Football and I had a beautiful love affair and an even lovelier divorce.
We have parted ways on good terms appreciating the time we had together, and understanding that our time was limited all along.
From the moment we met, we began to part ways.
From the day we fell in love on the football fields of Goddard Junior High School all those years ago back in Midland, Texas, until our separation; it has been quite the adventure.
Football my dearest, thank you.
Without you I am everything I was meant and made to be, but meeting you helped me get here.
Thank you for the injuries and scars. Thank you for the memories.
You will not be missed or mourned; no tears will be shed for you.
Football my dearest, you are only appreciated.
You were a big chapter in my life with so many stories.
Stories of both triumph and failure.
But at the end of the day, you were just that; only a chapter in my book. And in a strange way deep down I always knew you wouldn’t be the most important one.
Strangely enough my fingers are not sticking to the pages when closing this chapter. It’s quite easy actually.
All the words have been written, and I’m proud of the pages before me.
I am who I want to be, but not who I can be. I am where I want to be, but have many places left to go. I am who I am.
And I am happy.
My old chapter is done. A new chapter starts now.