As America’s most popular sport, football is top of mind for many sports fans year-round. While the NFL season itself is significantly shorter than that of any of other major American sports - compare the sixteen game regular season in football to the eighty two game regular season in basketball, not to mention the one hundred sixty two game regular season in baseball - there really isn’t much of an off-season for fans anymore. After the Super Bowl, attention shifts to Black Monday and the changes in the coaching market. Then comes free agency and all of the roster moves. The NFL is an entire season unto itself. Then you have training camp and, lo and behold, the season begins.

To try to address the insatiable demand for all things football, I am rolling out a three-part blog series sharing lessons from top football players I have interviewed. I have spoken to a number of current and former NFL stars, as well as college football legends, as part of my Lessons In Leadership series in Thrive Global and for pieces I have written in other publications such as Forbes, Inc. and The Huffington Post. I was also interviewed by Forbes on the topic of lessons learned about entrepreneurship from my conversations with NFL players. That article can be found at https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkwilliams/2018/12/10/what-entrepreneurs-can-learn-from-former-nfl-athletes

In this three-part blog series, I will be sharing excerpts from my interviews with five-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion Bart Oates; former NFL Pro-Bowl wide receiver Santana Moss; two-time Super Bowl champion, former All-Pro and Pro Bowl kicker Matt Stover; and Archie Griffin, the only person in the history of college football to win the Heisman Trophy twice. Here are the links to the full interviews:





Before delving into their actual advice, I wanted to provide their answers to some questions about their backgrounds and how they got here.

Adam: How did you get here?

Archie Griffin: I think anyone who looks at the success I’ve had in my life—both on the football field and off—would start with my parents. I grew up without a lot of material advantages, but I had one HUGE advantage in having two parents who loved me and helped instill a strong work ethic and desire to succeed in life. It was unusual for someone who looked like me and grew up in my neighborhood to think about college, but my parents preached to all eight of their children that a bright future depended on a college education. I knew my path to college was through athletics—there was no other way—and so my focus became athletics as an avenue for reaching college.

All of my success in life—a pair of Heisman Trophies, an eight-year NFL career, a long career at The Ohio State University in athletics administration and as head of the alumni association—flows from working extremely hard to follow my dream to The Ohio State University.

Adam: What is something about you that your fans don’t know?

Bart Oates: Many of my fans know that I was born and raised in Georgia. In the South, smoking meats is a way of life. I’ve spent many years learning and practicing the craft. This month, I got to live out one of my bucket-list items by joining the Traeger Grills BBQ team at the ‘Memphis in May’ festival.

Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your development and success?

Bart: Enduring three football practices per day during my freshman year of high school in Albany, Georgia was one challenge that had lasting impact. We’d be out there practicing in the Southwest Georgia heat and humidity in the middle of August. I knew then that if I could make it through those practices and not only survive but still give my best, I could make it through anything.

Adam: How did you get here?

Santana Moss: My determination and hard work are what got me here. When it was time to hang up my cleats, the first thing I thought was, “what’s next?” One thing I knew for sure is that I know how to grind, so I stepped out and took the first opportunity that came at me which was completing my MBA at the University of Miami. That experience really helped me cope with the void left not playing football. From there, I knew one of two potential doors would open for me: coaching or getting into media. Not long after I retired, I attended a Redskins game and was approached about getting into broadcasting. It’s been a great fit.

Adam: What is something about you that your fans don’t know?

Matt Stover: Every time I took the field to kick, it wasn’t easy. The emotions that most people struggle with during their careers, i.e. failure, doubt, managing success, etc., I battled with as well. Managing these emotions was a work in progress my entire professional life. I never really had it all figured out. Through my training, preparation, and playing for a transcendent cause, I learned to eventually control those emotions and replicate it each time I had to perform.

Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your development and success?

Matt: As a kid, I shanked a punt during a ‘Punt, Pass, and Kick’ Championship at Cowboys Stadium. I had a victory completely in hand, but when I shanked my punt, my heart broke. Right then I knew, the fire was either going to go out or it was going to be lit. I was one of those kids who decided to light the fire and get to work. No one ever had to tell me to go kick a ball or work out, but that moment definitely cemented my dedication and passion for the sport.

Adam Mendler