What The NFL Taught Me About Life

Sports and athletics have a lot to teach us that is applicable in everyday life. I certainly learned a great deal through my experience. My time spent playing football and specifically offensive line has left me with 5 keys that have transferred into my career after football. I think you can apply these to any work or situation. They have certainly been true in the sales and now training worlds for me.

1. Do everything with intention

Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you’re running to the left, your head goes on the left. Not just on the left, but how far on the left is based on what hole the play is aimed at. If the ball is headed outside, you have to get your face on that left shoulder to seal the edge.
There is a reason for everything. Head placement, hand placement, footwork, how long you stay on a block, where you place your shoulder on a trap. It’s all vitally important to the end result.

Move with the result in mind. Picture the finish line and make your decisions with the intention of getting you closer to that end result.

2. The first step is the most important

Where you place your first step is a key to a successful block. what direction, how far, how long, and with which foot all matters on successfully reaching your man and making your block. A false step is a killer. That’s where you step backward with the opposite foot before stepping the direction you want to go.
Moving backward to move forwards is usually never a good idea. Know where you want to go and make the right first step to getting there. The next step builds off of it and it’s difficult to redirect in a short time.

3. Keep your hands inside

When I was with the Rams, Jackie Slater called this the “He Who” rule. “He who keeps his hands inside always wins.” This is all about control. With your hands inside you can steer the guy you’re blocking where ever you want him to go. Press that outside hand and he turns. 

Get your hands inside of whatever you’re working on. It’s the placement that’s key. Don’t get outside of your box. With focused attention inside of your project or business in the right place, you’ll be able to drive it where you want it. Don’t let outside forces dictate what you do.

4. Head up, butt down

Awareness and leverage are everything in offensive line play. Your head is up so you can see the field and make great decisions. You can see what you’re hitting and where the blitz is coming from. Awareness is so important in life. If you can anticipate where the trouble is going to come from you can prepare to adjust if necessary.

Keeping your butt down forces you to play low. By being lower than your opponent you can keep him off balance, tumbling backward until he’s flat on his back. That’s what we call a pancake block! Big points if you can get one of these. You’ve dominated and crushed your guy. Keep the competition on their toes and don’t let up. Get under them and drive!
5. Finish through the whistle
Go hard. The play is not over until it’s over. Failing to play through the end of the play leaves opportunity for your man to make the tackle and for you to get blindsided by someone who is finishing the play. You never know what’s going to happen and keeping your feet moving allows you to adjust and move with the play to stay competitive. Bottom line: Finish!

Bonus: You’re not always going to get credit for the hard work you put in. Offensive linemen never do. Do it anyway. That’s called character.

Finally, a quote that has always followed me by Harold Etheridge, my college O-Line coach always said, “Good Better Best, Never Let it Rest until Your Good is Your Better and Your Better is Your Best.”