For the last 9 weeks I have been working with a college baseball player helping him to rehab a nagging back injury and to get ready for his final college season. He is going into his last year of college and at age 21, he is primed to make a career of his game, if he can deliver. At 6’6”, 251 throwing a 94 MPH fastball, this kid has potential. But anyone who has read my blog knows potential is just unused talent and rarely of any value. And while professional teams can evaluate potential, most would rather gamble on what a player has done, not what they hope a player can do.
During the time I was working with our pitcher friend, I also headed out to Baylor University working to visit their strength coaches and working with a few of their athletes. I had the opportunity to speak to their football team about what it takes to go from the college level to going pro. As many of you may know, only a small percentage of the kids I spoke to at Baylor will get a chance to play on Sundays.
Having working with my baseball player, A-Rabbit (I have changed his name for the sake of the blog post), for a few months, I was prepped for what I would say to these young men.
I spoke about training and preparing for your 8 Mile moment.
Right now you are probably saying to yourself, “8 Mile moment? Like the movie? With Eminem? What does that have to do with sports?
Let me give you a brief refresher of 8 Mile and how it relates to the seemingly small, yet pivotal events in ones life. In the movie, B-Rabbit played by Eminem is a young and unhappy automotive factory worker from Warren, Michigan with an alcoholic mother and bad family life. He has dreams of becoming a rap artist but during a rap battle one night at a local club, The Shelter, he gets humiliated. He goes through the trials and tribulations of a young man trying to find himself and that culminates in big scene at the end where he enters a rap battle against the crew of guys he has been battling since the opening scenes. He realizes during that final battle that this is his moment to either claw his way to the top or forever be a failure. He seizes the moment, beats Papa Doc in the final battle, and renews his confidence and his future.
While many of your might be scratching your heads, more than a few of your are nodding, remembering small moments in your life that at the time you didn’t realize were so important. Events that seemed so insignificant and turned out to be life altering.
My first 8 Mile moment came during Eagles training camp in 2000. I had been drafted the year before, started the season opener only to get injured and spend the rest of the year on injured reserve. That off-season the Eagles signed a big time free agent to my position and I was left with a decision, learn to play another position or come home and go to Law School. I decided I would go out and play and let the chips fall where they may. Turns out on the first day of hitting our new free agent right tackle tore a rib muscle and would miss a few weeks of practice. I was sitting as the backup left tackle at the time and was asked to come play right tackle while he healed up. This was the opportunity I needed to get reps running as starting right tackle and backup left tackle. That training camp I took more reps than I would ever in my NFL career; and I needed them. I was rusty having missed a whole year of playing. The extra reps paid off and I started the first pre-season game at right tackle and did well against the overall number one draft pick that year starting at left defensive end. After the game, I was moved back to second string as the starter had healed from his rib injury. While most people might have been upset, I was not. They had paid this guy a lot of money and he was better than me at that time.
About a week later during a morning practice we had an intense period of 9 on 7 and our starting left guard was having some confidence issues. They had called the same play a few times and he had missed his block getting the running back hit in the backfield. For those of you new to football, 9 on 7 is a drill where 9 offensive players take on 7 defensive players in a run oriented drill. Everybody knows where the ball is going so there is no need for receivers or defensive backs in the drill.
After the second play went poorly, Andy Reid never being one to keep his cool, exploded. He yanked the left guard out of the drill and look around. He spotted me over his right shoulder and yelled at me to go play left guard. I knew what the play was going to be as they called the same on the two previous plays. As I ran to the line, I knew I had one chance to knock the guy out; this was my 8 Mile moment. The ball was snapped I hit the defensive lineman with everything I had and the running back ran untouched through the hole. We walked back to the huddle; they called the same play on two. I figured if it worked the last time, it could work again. The ball was snapped, I got off quick, hit the defensive lineman and another big run. The whistle blew and we moved the next drill.
The next period was 11 on 11 pass; this is where all eleven players line up for a long yardage situations. For a west coast offense, this is where the money is made. That left guard, with his confidence shaken, went out and gave up a sack the first play. Andy Reid, still not recovered from 9 on 7, yanked him out and puts me in. Having played tackle for years I had an advantage, pass protecting was how I made my bones. Pass protecting at guard after coming from tackle was an easy day. I ended up handing my opponent for the plays I was in at both starting left guard and second right tackle. The whistle blows and we start moving to the next drill and Andy yells at me to come to talk to him. He points at my offensive line coach and tells him the move is permanent and I am the starting left guard.
I ended up starting at left guard for the next four years before moving on to Kansas City to play right tackle and right guard.
My career came to down to that single play, for I am not sure if I would have been given the same opportunity if I had not knocked the guy out. Walking up to that line, I knew that was my moment.
The movie 8 Mile came out a few years after so it wasn’t until I saw the movie did I coin the analogy. But when working with athletes it is very easy to make the reference and have them understand the importance of small success and defeats.
The difficulty with an 8 Mile moments is, rarely are you able to assess its importance until after the event. Retrospect labels these moments as important because of how life unfolds after the event. Yet, they seemed so insignificant at the time. I very easily could have taken that play as just another play in the thousands of reps I had taken in my career.
I was fortunate enough to have trained for 12 months with a singular goal of getting back to ground zero, a starter in the NFL. I didn’t know when the opportunity would come but I knew when it did I would be ready. Walking up to that line, I had the global awareness to realize this was my shot. Everything I had done up to that point was preparing me for that moment and I would either walk off the field having seized it or forever wonder what might have happened.
"Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?"
As I worked with A-Rabbit every morning at 6 AM the goal was always the same. Prepare yourself so that when the situation arises you can throw the right pitch or throw a strike for the save. Even if that day never comes, at least you can look back and realize you did everything could to be ready when greatness came knocking.
How many athletes don’t put in the work and freeze during their 8 Mile moment, only to have a story that starts with, “if only...”?
My message to Baylor Football was the same for A-Rabbit, leave nothing to chance, prepare yourself because you never know when your 8 Mile moment will come, so have to train each day as if is today.
My playing career has been over for 6 years, yet I still get up and train each morning for my next 8 Mile moment. I am not sure when or where it will come, but it is out there and I will be ready.
Want to see more? Head over to PAHQ to see my video blog on my 8 Mile moment.