As our son, Eli Apple, prepares to live out his dream of playing in the National Football League, there’s so much excitement. Yes, the NFL has its issues. Every profitable organization does. But the NFL is where, like my son, countless young men have all dreamed of playing at the highest level of the game, and that only happens in the National Football League. It’s a great brotherhood. But as great as this opportunity is for all these young men who will anxiously wait to hear their names called during the 2016 NFL Draft, we’ve all seen too many talented young men not maximize the rewards and responsibilities of life as an NFL professional.
Don’t be average in your pursuits
To my son and all the young men in this year’s draft, my one advice and prayer: DON’T BE AVERAGE. That’s what I’ve repeatedly told my son as the draft approaches. Don’t be average in your choices, actions and decisions. Don’t do what everyone else is doing because everyone else is doing it. Don’t be basic in your values and your goals. Set high standards and expectations and strive everyday to meet those standards. Live up to the man God created you to be, not the self-serving males our culture endorses. Having a bunch of girls in every town, that’s average. It’s not hard. Getting lots of women isn’t an accomplishment. It’s quite easy and basic. Finding a quality young lady means being a quality young man. Remember, who you attract and attach yourself to says more about you. Having a bunch of girls don’t make you a stud; it only unmasks deep-rooted insecurities that if aren’t addressed will be your demise. Put your energy into preparing yourself spiritually to be a pro and an eventual husband. Remember, you can’t want a good woman if you’re not a good man.
Don’t be average in your preparation
Don’t be average in your approach to work. Yes work. Never forget that the NFL is your job. It’s your next journey, not your final destination. You have not arrived. You’re still on your way. Do your job to the highest level it can be done, then go even higher. Learn the game. It’s totally different on this level. Don’t just lean on your natural talents. Work work work work work work. Surround yourself with teammates who aren’t average in their values and work ethic. Meet and befriend those in the organization who are the backbone of the organization. Learn from them. Everyone from the GM to the janitor has something to teach you. Soak up their wisdom and appreciate their experiences. Don’t look down on anyone. No matter how well you do on the field, no matter how much endorsement deals you get or how many social media followers you acquire, you’re not a star. Stars live in the sky. You live on earth. So keep your feet soundly planted on the ground.
Don’t be average in your purpose
Remember, it’s not about you. Ask yourself daily, “Why has God allowed me to have this opportunity?” Is it just so you can have a lot of money and do whatever you want? Not so. Ask yourself repeatedly, “Why has God allowed me to play in the National Football League?” No one can answer that question for you but God. You have to ask God that daily and find out from Him what is His plan for you in the NFL and beyond. The moment you start thinking that this opportunity is about you is the moment you will begin to self-destruct. Remember the timeless wisdom, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Seek God daily and ask Him what He requires of you.
Don’t be average in your passion
In the NFL, you will be well compensated, but don’t just play the game for the love of the money. Play it because you love it. When you love the game, you’re motivated to be great and to make those around you better. Love what you do everyday. It’s too much work not to love it. Don’t chase money. You read that correctly. Don’t chase paper. When you chase money, it becomes a god and you become its slave. True wealth knows where it belongs. When you focus on the love of the game and commitment to God, family, team and community, you’ll never be destitute. No one is saying don’t get paid; just don’t allow money to be your motivator or passion. Never forget why you started playing this game and why you fell in love with it. Let that love of the game propel you to greatness on and off the field.
Don’t be average in your perspectives
Don’t be average in your approach and perspective to life in the NFL. You’re a man now; so put away childish things and thinking. Bring purpose to everything you do. You will have struggles. Don’t mask or medicate your struggles with alcohol, girls, drugs or material possessions. When you need help, seek help. Embrace the NFL brotherhood with a strong personal foundation. Stay true to what is true. Be deliberate in your actions and your focus. This is part of God’s game-plan. So stay in His playbook and you’ll win at those things that matter most.