John Dickinson High-school '09
Clemson University '10-'14 (graduated December of '13)
NFL Denver Broncos/May 2015-Sept 2015
CFL Toronto Argonauts/Edmonton Eskimos/April 16th-September 16th
I would say my “Check Your Game” moment came after I hung up the cleats and was done playing football. The transition from football to the workforce was a lot tougher than I had imagined. I always thought it would be easy because of the networking and connections I made through the game of football. I don’t think I was prepared for the emotional part of finishing up my football career. To me, my identity was wrapped up in being a football player. Everyone knew me as Josh the star football player and when I was cut/released from the NFL and CFL I felt like a failure. Of course every boy dreams of making it to the league, being rich, buying his mama a house and living happily ever after. For a small percentage of football players, that becomes a reality. But what about the guys that didn’t make it or only last a year or less? That is the position I found myself in. It was a humbling experience to move back to my mom’s house after being in the NFL and CFL. It wasn’t in God’s plan for me to make it further. I guess you can say that time in my life was my rock bottom. I began to smoke a lot and drink to handle the emotions. There were people that abandoned me at that time and treated me different. Looking back on that time two years later, I can honestly say that not making it in professional football was the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to pick myself up, and do some self discovery through reading books and listening to podcasts. That time helped shape the way I think about life today. It put things in perspective and made me realize I wasn’t a failure. I became a better person because I was grateful for the little things in life. I have bigger dreams than I ever had now and I am a lot happier today then I was when I was playing football. I honestly didn’t like who I was when I was playing professionally. The ego, and walking around with my chest poked out; I am so glad I was humbled. I’m sure there will come a time where I will have to Check My Game again, but going through the transition away from football will help me navigate the stormy days in the future.
My head football coach in college is not only a legendary football coach, but he is also a great mentor and man. He made sure to ingrain life lessons into us everyday during team meetings and after practice. I will share a few that may help a current athlete or any young person for that matter.
1. Nothing good comes after midnight when alcohol is involved. Most of the guys that got kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons were because they got into a situation after midnight when alcohol was involved.
2. ”Everything you do in the dark, will come to light.” The older I get, the more I start to see this piece of advice in action. Everywhere you turn, people are getting in trouble for things they have done in the past. That’s why it’s always the right time to do the right thing. Live with integrity!
3. You can accomplish anything if you truly believe in yourself. This one is cliche and corny, but absolutely true. If you have a goal, write it down, dream about it, take yourself through what it will feel like to accomplish that goal, carry yourself as if you already achieved it. I honestly wish I would have deployed this strategy while trying out for the NFL. I let the stress get to me and never could perform up to my standard because I didn’t believe in myself enough.
4. This one comes from my favorite coach of all time, Dan Brooks. Dan Brooks was my defensive line coach at Clemson and no matter what day it was, what kind of weather or what the mood was in the building, he always greeted us with “It’s a great day to be alive.” It got annoying to me, especially on days where we were in full pads in 100 degree heat. Looking back, this quote is something I use daily to always keep things in perspective and express gratitude for all of the things I DO have.
5. Coach Dabo Swinney’s favorite quote from the Bible was 1 Corinthians 9:24. Translated in today’s language says “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win.” This means always do your best. Do not worry about what someone else is doing in their lane because that will distract you from running your best race or maximizing your potential. There is a plan for every one of us so trust that it will all work out. It will work out way better than you could have ever imagined if you believe. Don’t get caught up in what someone else has or you feel like someone got something you deserved. Just focus on your race and run it the best way you can.
Joshua, I remember connecting with you on LinkedIn as you were dealing with NFL/CFL stuff. It seemed like a hard time for you and just remember saying that you aren't the only one who has gone through this. Most or many athletes go through similar things as they get out of sports and try to work through from being the so called "athlete" to what seems to be a now "normal" person. It takes a lot of transparency and being vulnerable to share what you did, especially as you were experiencing this rock bottom in your life. I'm glad I could at least be a tiny part of this time and hopefully I was able to encourage you just a little bit. What is even more exciting for me and hopefully you as well is that your Check Your Game "moment" and advice for others to learn from is what is most valuable. I think your words are amazing and know they will be able to encourage many others who are just getting started in life all the way to the ones who are now playing in college. Thanks again Joshua for your time and looking forward to staying connected for a lifetime. And lastly, your coach Dabo sounds like quite an amazing man and I look forward to meeting him someday. It's awesome how you had the opportunity to not only play for him but also learn not just football, but life! -Gary Rogers