How A Low Back Injury Won Me The Lingerie Superbowl!

A back injury was a major part of the story from start to finish. I’m grateful to have been able to see the story so many different ways. I love that the story of success is not one of one injury or one setback: there were two separate struggles and successes that kept on coming. Even though I was one-hundred percent injured, I was able to turn it into a story of determination and success that made an indelible mark on my life.

I have always been a storyteller. My father and mother taught me to tell a story as a kid and I’ve been telling stories ever since. I’ve learned that a big part of being a good storyteller is creating an atmosphere where people will listen and follow along. When I entered the NFL in 1998 I knew that my story was about to end and it had to move on to the next chapter – one of determination and success that resulted in the Super Bowl victory. I was always about being the best there is – no matter what it took to accomplish that – and I loved to tell stories. That’s what I did for the last seven years of my career. I’m so grateful to have been able to put together those seasons I was able to do things like that. I’m a very intense competitor and when I don’t work hard, I’m one of those guys that shows up to the team meeting with an empty stomach, no workout and no attitude. The rest of that is on me. That’s all my fault. That’s why that day when the SuperBowl happened to me – it was the best thing that ever happened to me. No one else had a reason to cheer because I was the one who had to go through it.

The first time the media talked to me after coming out of the hospital as a whole mess was around December 2001. I was walking across the stage of the stadium after we lost the SuperBowl to the Patriots . I was wearing a yellow T-shirt with a Patriots sticker on it and a sticker that said, “Goodbye New England.” I did a good job of keeping one hand on my stomach to keep from jostling the media and that was one of my favorite times to do that.

Since my first major setback in 2000 – when I broke my jaw in the playoffs against the Rams – I haven’t had many setbacks. I had my ACL surgery before my rookie year and didn’t have to deal with much more pain than I was already dealing with from my back and legs, but that wasn’t my only injury.

My first season I re-injured my thumb – the kind of injury that is pretty much untreatable and I have it in so many spots that, if I were to get it wrong, no one in the world could tell you how it felt, where it went and what it was actually doing. It was tough and it was a huge bummer. I went back to the sideline and didn’t practice for a while and it was tough to be off the field and walk across the stage in front of so many fans. That was the first moment that I realized that this sport wasn’t worth the pain in the back.

I’ve already had some amazing moments, and the one I will always remember was having the game ball at the end of the SuperBowl . It was right before I went back into the locker room and I couldn’t hold it no more. I threw it in the crowd into the middle and took off my coat and my shoes and sprinted back out onto the field. After that, when I was able to run up there and put the ball on the field, I realized that I was getting back on some level as a great athlete and a great human being.

I’ll say about that game, the fans were right and I was wrong about it, but I can tell you, I loved every minute of it. I loved this game and that’s what I want everyone to know – that when it comes down to it, no matter who you are and what you do – football is still a game and it matters.

I have always had such a hard-edge as an athlete – whether it’s in practice or in a game. Being an athlete comes with being a competitor and I like to think that’s something I’ve always carried in my heart. You never know who will win or which people you’re going to lose, but you still have to go out there and give your all.

To anyone that is interested in knowing more about me as a person and a player, I’ve always been one of those people who doesn’t like to be left out of the spotlight – whether it’s talking about my family or my injuries. I had a lot of fun with that, too.