My life has been a journey. One day, one step at a time down a path that has led me to my life as a professional athlete. Every Sunday I strap on my helmet and lockdown my pads – I am a quiet storm. But I learned early on that even though football is such a large part of my life, it isn’t the whole story.
Faith, family, friends, education, and football – in that order. These are the cornerstones of my life that have defined who I am as a man today and who I’m striving to be in the future.
Winning isn’t always about what the scoreboard says at the end of the game, but rather how I choose to live my life every single day. I’m inviting you to take the journey and walk the path with me – on and off the field. This is what I call…Playing it Forward.
This is my story…
My story begins with faith – my faith in God, my faith in family and most importantly faith in myself to do the right thing when I’m called upon by a higher power. It’s the foundation for everything I do in my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be in the blessed position I am today. Regardless of the major challenges I’ve faced, including my father’s battle with cancer, my faith has never wavered and it continues to give me purpose and steer me in the right direction.
Every day…every minute…every second…I wear my faith proudly, for “I have set the LORD always before me. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” – Psalm 16:8
With faith as my foundation, my family is the brick and mortar that keeps it all together. Coming from a large family of nine brothers and sisters, I have the greatest support system in the world. My dad has always been one of my biggest role models, telling me exactly what I need to hear, while my Mom continues to help instill morals and values in me that shape me into a better person each and everyday.
I love all of my brothers and sisters, and one of the most special parts of this is the bond I have with my older brother Kyle. We shared a room for most of our lives, and of course you get to know someone pretty well under those circumstances. I tell everyone that we’re twins…we just happen to be separated by four years. He has become my best friend, and my rock.
When I was a kid, I used to wake up, hop on my bicycle and ride over to my friend Alex’s house every single day during the summer. We played home run derby, basketball, and football…it didn’t matter what we were doing as long as it was a sport. Those long summer days with my friends are when I fell in love with competing.
As I got older, not much changed. But football became the catalyst for forming new bonds with some of my closest friends, like my teammates Grant, Jake Ballard and Tyson Gentry at OSU.
With my father being a high school principal and my Mom constantly stressing the importance of education, academics were inherently going to play a large role in my life. It didn’t hurt that my siblings were also strong students that all received college degrees. Being the youngest, I didn’t want to fall behind and be the only one who didn’t get a diploma.
That sentiment weighed on me when I had the opportunity to leave Ohio State University early for the NFL draft following my junior year. I told my parents that leaving OSU without my degree wasn’t an option. I guess my parents really had a strong impact on me, because when my NFL career is all said and done, I plan on becoming a teacher and a leader in the community.
It’s ironic that football was the final piece to the puzzle in my life, because in a way, it has always been there holding everything together. The real foundation for my faith was formed after a tragic accident on the field at OSU that involved me and my friend Tyson Gentry. My family has used football as a beacon of hope to come together in even the darkest of times. The greatest friendships in my life were forged on the gridiron. Last, but certainly not least — my education at OSU allowed me to display my skills on a national level leading to my getting drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, which is where my path has led me to today.
I guess you could say I was born to play football.