Question: You’re in the NFL now, the latest step in a lifelong dream. But when did it begin? When did you first start playing football?
Answer: “I had two older brothers who played football at our high school, so I grew up a good portion of my life watching them play. One (Daniel) played running back and linebacker, another (Keith) played cornerback and wide receiver. I always wanted to do whatever my older brothers did. They played well and did their thing. Daniel played linebacker at the University of Washington. Keith played corner at Harvard. I wanted to well and do my thing, too. Ultimately, you want to go to the highest level, so I’ve been dreaming about the NFL my entire life.”
Q: Where did you get the competitiveness?
A: “It’s family. I grew up in a competitive environment. If we were playing Scrabble or Monopoly or any sport, it was a competition. We’d get mad at each other. We were neither brothers nor even friends, we were opponents. I don’t know if it came from our parents. It was a bunch of boys and a sister in the household and I don’t know how it developed. I think our parents were just trying to keep the peace. I guess they did encourage us to be competitive. I’m the youngest (24). Keith is 30, Daniel is 28 and Renah is 26. We were close enough in age, but it was competitive, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I was growing up I was smaller than them, but I’m grown up now. The competition is a little more fair.”
Q: Do they live vicariously through what you’re doing?
A: “Absolutely (laughs). They tell me that. Both my brothers and sister enjoy watching me. One reason I want to do well is to make them proud.”
Q: What do you remember about your first team?
A: “I was in ninth grade at Hart High School (Santa Clarita, Calif.), the Hart Indians. I played running back throughout high school. I did pretty well.”
Q: You don’t talk about your successes. In high school, you ran for more than 4,000 yards and 60 TDs. Are you humble?
A: “Success is relative. My success in high school as a running back was a stepping stone. Ultimately, whatever happened in college was a stepping stone to get the next level. Do I consider myself successful? I think I’m on that journey to success. Ultimately, there’s so much more I believe I can do. I can make a bigger impact than I’ve already made. If I were to die today, would I say I’m successful? No, I’d say I fell short, and I have yet to fulfill the full potential God has instilled within me. Success is relative.”
Q: What was your best sport growing up? It wasn’t football for all NFL players . . .
A: “I ran track and played basketball before I got to high school. In track, I liked the long jump, and I also was a sprinter because I was athletic. I was very good at defense in basketball. I just didn’t put in the time to get good at offense and shooting. I’d jump, get rebounds and put the ball back in.”
Q: Like a Dennis Rodman? Were you like a Spiderman on defense? Was that a way to get on the court?
A: “Yeah, pretty much (laughs). I was a pest on defense. They’d put me on the best player, and I’d lock him up. It’s (defensive ability) a valuable thing to have. There’s always going to be a star player on the other team, and you’ll need somebody to guard him. I did my best to lock down that guy. I went out there and had fun. I stopped growing at about 5-11, so I knew I wasn’t going to the NBA. I focused on football after that.”
Q: What’s your best football memory?
A: “It was last year during the San Francisco game. It was my first start, and there was a lot of emotion. I was back in my hometown, and I was nervous to a certain extent. After the first few plays, I was able to just play ball. I was thinking, ‘This is really happening. It’s my first start. It’s San Fran. It’s a great stage for me to show what I have against a great team.’ I had a few friends and family there. It was my best memory because we played well and won the game.”
Q: When did you first think this was real? When did you first think, ‘I have a chance to play in the NFL?’
A: “When I started playing in high school. I’ve always believed that whatever level I shoot for I’m going to get to it. There really never was a doubt in my mind. As long as it was in God’s will, I knew I had the ability. God gave me athleticism. With the ability I was given and with my work ethic and my willingness to reach my goals, there really wasn’t a doubt. I’ve believed ever since I started playing.”
Q: Your faith is very important to you, isn’t it?
A: “That’s the priority in my life. I want to glorify God. In everything I do, I want to honor Him. My heart and intentions are underneath His will. I was created for a purpose. If I were to live and do something else other than what I was created for, then that would not be right for me. He loved me so much, He sent His son, Jesus, to die for my sins. I’m a sinner. Either I can accept His grace through His Son, or I can reject Him. I can’t think how I can possibly reject His love for me. I don’t think you show that acceptance just by professing His name – you live it. I want to live my life so that people see He’s the Lord of my life, and so they can see the fruits of His love. That’s what I believe; it’s my highest priority.”
Q: The Bible says in so many places to humble yourself so you’ll be exalted later. For you to think in high school you’d make the NFL, that was confidence and faith, not arrogance. Right?
A: “Absolutely. I think God created all of us for greatness. He gives us desires and passions as well as talents, and those can kind of point us to our destiny. As long as we’re focusing our energy to glorify Him, it’s going to point us to our destiny. I loved athletics and football. I was a competitor. It was a goal of mine to reach the NFL and glorify Him. If that didn’t happen, it would have been okay, because that wasn’t His plan for me.”
Q: Do you have a pre-game ritual?
A: “Not really, other than listening to Christian rap before games, like Blake Whiteley’s ‘Consumed’ album, or Beautiful Eulogy or Lecrae. I also try to get there early and stretch, to give myself time to keep loose. Otherwise, no rituals.”
Q: What about after football? Do you have any post-career plans?
A: “I like business. I like entrepreneurship. I like the concept of taking advantage of the free enterprise system we have in the United States. I like the idea of being in control of my life. I don’t know exactly what that will entail, but I definitely will be an entrepreneur.”
Q: Do you have a particular high school coach or teacher who means a great deal to you? If so, why?
A: “There are two – Coach (Mike) Herrington and Coach (John) Ahart. Coach Ahart was also my environmental science teacher. Coach Herrington was my head football coach. Both were high school teachers, and I stay in touch with them. That’s where my journey began. They were there, but it probably started because my brothers were at the school before me and kind of laid the groundwork. Those coaches went beyond football, and now they’re friends of mine. What I loved about my high school and those coaches was that they didn’t care just about winning. They built up men to be successful in life. That’s what I respect about them.”
Q: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
A: “Not really in the NFL because I mostly watched basketball. I was a Lakers fan; a Kobe Bryant fan. I had individual NFL players I watched like Ed Reed and LaDainian Tomlinson. Those are the only two players who stood out. I wouldn’t call them my favorites, but I watched them for how they played because as a kid, that was all I thought about – how I played.”
Q: Did you have a favorite NFL team?
A: “No, I didn’t. I was just a Lakers fan.”
Q: How much do you know about the history of the NFL, or do you just learn it on the fly? If Hall-of-Famers from years ago introduced themselves, would you know them?
A: “I learn it on the fly. I know some history by being around the game. I definitely didn’t watch a lot of it, or even TV in general. That may seem odd. When my brothers were playing football, I watched them. I didn’t grow up being attached to a specific team. As for Hall-of-Famers, I’d know a few of them. I’ve been around football now for a few years. I do watch more TV now than when I was younger. I’d probably know a good amount of them at this point.”
Q: What was your first car?
A: “I got married and my wife and I share the car that she already had. It’s a Toyota Camry. I was planning on purchasing a car this season. I don’t buy things unless I need it. My wife (April) and I are expecting a girl (Mercy) in September. We’ll need a car then. I’ll probably go out and get something.”
Q: How did you get around in college without a car?
A: “I did everything on campus. I had friends, so I’d find a ride (laughs). I had a couple jobs. I had one in high school, but I was never able to save enough money to buy a car. My parents said, ‘If you want a car, you’re going to buy it.’ I’m in the NFL now. We have a shared car. There’s no need to buy another yet. I’ll probably buy one during the season after the baby comes.”
Q: How many 24-year olds like you do you think have never owned or bought a car?
A: “I don’t know. I’m probably in the minority (laughs). I could have bought a car. I just didn’t need it.”
Q: What was your first job? What was your toughest job?
A: “I was a bus boy who washed dishes at my uncle’s restaurant. It was so boring. That was probably the toughest. I was in high school and was so involved in athletics that I really didn’t have time for a job.”
Q: Do you have a favorite quote that has inspired you in football or life? If so, what is it and why does it mean something to you?
A: “Yes, it’s my favorite Bible verse found in I Corinthians 10:31. It reads, ‘Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ ”