One of the best things about being a professional athlete is that we can take so many of the lessons we’ve learned from our coaches throughout the years and pay it forward to younger players that are trying to follow in our footsteps. There are a lot of coaches who were positive influences in my life, and they taught me important things on and off the field that I try to share.
Football and Life Mentors
All throughout school my coaches were great, and the time they invested in mentoring me helped me grow as a person and athlete. One of the people who coached me from a young age was Pete Cusumano, my basketball coach. He taught me all the things that I needed to know for sports in regards to being coachable as well as respectful.
I also had other positive influences throughout high school and college. At my “melting pot” high school, Catholic Central High School, I was able to learn from mentors from a variety of cultures – like my football coach, Jalil Khoury, and my basketball coach, Jason George. My junior college coaches at Bakersfield College, Coach Bolton and Head Coach Jeff Chudy, and their staff were amazing as well and helped me to continue my development.
But they were more than just coaches; they also taught me about the real world and life outside of sports. Like Pete, they were coaching the man – the same way that my current defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, does. That’s been important to me and has helped me in a major way in my life that I can never repay.
Sharing What I’ve Learned
I was really fortunate to have coaches that cared about us as players and as people. They treated every player on the team – not just the star players – with respect and helped us grow on and off the field. I will always remember that and have tried to follow their lead when I talk to student-athletes or work with kids at our football camp back home in Canada. Following their example, I don’t just talk to the player who’s the star – like some coaches do – but try to coach-up everyone the same way.
But the insight I share with young athletes isn’t just about athletic ability. I emphasize the importance of keeping up supplemental practices, like:
- stretching to help prevent injuries and maintain healthy muscles throughout the season;
- staying hydrated throughout the season by drinking water, as well as beverages with electrolytes, like milk
- eating balanced meals, including dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein; and
- getting good, restful sleep to allow muscles to rebuild and repair themselves.
Not only that, I also teach them lessons that go beyond the field, including anti-bullying, leadership and the importance of education. These are very important topics to me because I want to coach them up not just as players but as young men. It’s a testament to what my coaches have done for me, and now I try to pay it forward.
What my coaches built for me has helped make me the man I am today, which is not just a football player but also a husband to my wife and a father to our new baby girl. I want to be a beast on the field and a beast in the real world and make this a better place for them.