So You Want My Job: NFL Player

by Jeremy Anderberg on December 20, 2013 · 16 comments

in Money & Career, So You Want My Job

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Once again we return to our So You Want My Job series, in which we interview men who are employed in desirable jobs and ask them about the reality of their work and for advice on how men can live their dream.

It seems like every little boy, at some point, has dreams of being a pro athlete. While the chances are slim he’ll hold onto that dream, let alone make it a reality, our interviewee today did just that. We had the chance to talk with NFL player Duane Brown about how he made his childhood dream a reality, and about a few of the ins and outs of daily life in the NFL. As an offensive lineman, he doesn’t get as much glory or TV time as the QB, (and as a humble man he won’t tell you this himself) but he was named an All-Pro last year, and is often called the best tackle in all of football.

1. Tell us a little about yourself (Where are you from? How old are you? Describe just a little bit how you got to the NFL, etc.).

I am from Richmond, Virginia and had the pleasure of going to college in my home state at Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!). I’m 28 years old and I have two incredible children and the most amazing woman in the world as my wife. I’ve been playing football since I was six and was drafted in the first round in 2008 by the Houston Texans. I’ve been with Houston ever since and I love living in the city of Houston.

2. Why did you want to become a professional football player? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I knew since an early age that I wanted to be a pro. My dad had this videotape called “NFL Crunch Course” that I used to watch all the time and I would always imagine myself in one of those positions. When I got to Virginia Tech, I progressed rapidly and knew that I would have a great opportunity to live my dream soon after.

3. It’s extremely difficult to make it into the NFL. Only .2% of high school football players will ever play for a NFL team. What do you think are the most important factors in beating those crazy odds? Work? Talent? Luck? What advice would you give to a young man who dreams of making it to the NFL, or becoming any kind of professional athlete?

It’s a perfect combination of work, talent, and luck. Some people have a God-given talent and for them I’d recommend working tirelessly to be great, because talent alone won’t always get you here or keep you here. My favorite quote is “hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard.”

4. Tell us a little bit about your high school career and your college recruitment. In today’s world, teenagers are being recruited younger and younger by the major college programs. Was that your experience? Were you tabbed from a young age to be a potential star?

I got recruited heavily in my junior and senior year of high school. When I got injured with a broken leg my senior year and sat out for two months of the season, recruitment dropped significantly. In high school I played tight end and defensive end, and a lot of colleges didn’t know which side of the ball I’d be in their program. Even with my injury, Virginia Tech stuck by my side and a representative even came to visit me after my surgery. That stayed with me and created a special relationship with the staff that led me to choose VT as my future home. I played tight end and right tackle up until my senior year, when coaches moved me to the left tackle position.

5. What was your college experience like as a Division I football player?

I had a great experience at Virginia Tech. They have a great program and challenging coursework. The city of Blacksburg really embraces the football program and I created some great friendships and memories while I was there. The VT spirit and Hokie nation on game day is an indescribable atmosphere.

6. You switched positions in college – from tight end to offensive line. No matter the job, switching to a new position (or department) can be challenging. Were you excited? Was it difficult?

It was a mixture of emotions. I had the luxury of catching a touchdown pass my freshman year as a tight end, so I got used to that feeling. I was a second string tight end, though, so having the ability to start as a tackle was intriguing. I was also nervous, however, because I didn’t have a gauge on how I would perform. When the decision was made to put me at left tackle permanently, I was extremely excited because I was told how good I could be and the type of opportunity it could create for me in the pros. I was confident I could be successful.

7. What is an average day like for you? And also, what does a typical game day look like? Do you have any pre-game rituals?

An average day consists of waking up at 6am, heading to practice and heading home around 5pm. While at practice we meet for about 4 hours, practice for 2 hours, and I work out for 1.5 hours and spend the rest of the day studying film and doing maintenance on my body. On game day I like to get to the stadium early. Usually I listen to music or watch a few scenes from the movie 300 while I’m preparing for battle.

8. What is the work/life balance like?

During the season it’s kind of tough. The majority of my time and energy is fully focused on football, whether it’s practice, personal workouts, or Texan related events. My wife and I go to the movies a lot or serial watch shows for fun. I enjoy face-timing with and talking to my kids every chance I get.

9. What’s the best part of your job?

Game day. There is nothing like running out of the tunnel and feeling that adrenalin rush — getting to do something you love with a group of friends who share a common goal.

10. What’s the worst part of your job?

The wear and tear on your body. Waking up with aches and pains.

11. What’s the biggest misconception people have about what it’s like to be a NFL player?

People don’t realize how much work we put in outside of game day. They think we have it easy or are not deserving of the contracts we get, as if we won the lottery. There is so much work that goes into doing what we do that no one sees.

12. Any other advice, tips, commentary, or anecdotes you’d like to add?

Don’t take anything for granted — what you have, people you love, or what you do. Nothing is guaranteed. Having an attitude of gratitude is the way I approach my life. 

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe December 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm

So basically….it’s everything it’s cracked up to be.

2 Ben December 20, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Go Hokies!

3 Brian December 20, 2013 at 10:42 pm

Reference his comment: not saying he has it easy, but he certainly has hit the lottery. Getting paid obscene amounts of money to play a game is a steal. My co-workers and I go to the desert for a year at a time and get shot at for mid 5-figure salaries. Good for him for making it as a pro and banking millions, but let’s be real here.

4 Tej December 21, 2013 at 1:22 am

Kudos to Duane for being named All-pro last year. I have only recently become a big fan of american football after spending my whole life being a fan of the other football. I love it.

They deserve whatever they earn, because only .2% of high school players make it. Imagine if in one’s job one is in the .2% of the best , one would probably end up making more than professional players.

To me professional sportsmen have chased their dreams and worked hard in order to achieve them. I want to do the same in my life by working hard to achieve my dreams and goals. That is a big reason i enjoy watching a lot of sporting events.

5 Frank December 21, 2013 at 7:44 am

I would say the “toughest” part of playing in the NFL is the lifestyle change. Remember what the NFL really stands for: Not For Long. I think the average NFL career is about 5 years, and most guys retire before age 30. So going from college student to millionaire, from millionaire to unemployed can be a tricky line to walk. That said, I’ll take it over my job any day :)

6 Nicklaus December 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

It was a great interview up until the time he compared getting ready for a football game to preparing for battle. I served twice overseas and I cannot stand it when a professional athlete compares what they to do our military.

7 Cooper December 23, 2013 at 5:27 pm

I would not say he compared it to being in the military, he said it was a battle and it is. You’re fighting the guy across from you. This is not a reference for military life or that death is a possible outcome, but rather a battle of strength, will, and the mind. I hate when people try to read more into things than is actually said.

8 JW December 25, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I agree with all you guys; however, it isn’t that football players should be paid less – our service members should be payed MORE. They work at a job harder than any major league sport, and yet recieve far less recognition. How come everyone knows which teams are likely to make the playoffs, but virtually no one knows the number of soldiers are deployed overseas? How often are athletes shot during a game?

9 JB December 26, 2013 at 8:45 am

@ Nicklaus – I don’t believe he was comparing the two. You simply have to get your mind into battle mode for the beating you are about to take. I boxed for 20 years and played football most of my life and everyone has their “battle mode” routine they do to get their mind and body ready – mine was perhaps the oddest in that I’d read Lord Byron’s “Destruction of the Sennacherib”. We’d never compare what we do to actually being in combat, we know the two are not remotely close, but it is still a battle for us against our own limitations and the people who are trying to stop us from accomplishing our goal.

10 Brian December 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Great article. Pro sports got a bit of a bad rep for being “easy” back when the pay was not enough to justify year-round training. Many guys had to get summer jobs to make ends meet, and a guy off the street would walk in and play. Now, competition is tougher and the scrutiny for poor performance is magnified, and players have to be the elite of the elite, which basic economics would tells you that they would belong in an elite pay bracket as well (think CEOs and senior VPs).

11 Brandon December 30, 2013 at 10:45 am

Out of all the major pro-sports in the USA, I believe football players deserve the most respect. The damage they take on their bodies is ridiculous. On top of that they don’t have guaranteed contracts either. Think about this, would you really want to be a middle of the pack running back getting paid $500K – $1million a year with a five year average career? I think many of us would say no to that and all of us would at least weigh the benefits. If any of us were offered an NBA or MLB contract we’d accept it in a second.

12 Michael December 30, 2013 at 5:36 pm

@Cooper Exactly. I’m a Combat Vet & I have no problem whatsoever with someone who plays such a physical game as football referring to it as “going to battle” because you are “battling”, especially in the trenches as the linemen do. It’s a mind set you have to get in to in order to defeat your opponent.

As Coach Lombardi said: “There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.” And also: “But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

Now if he had said something like “I’m a soldier and I go to war every Sunday!” we’d need to have us a little chat…

13 Michael December 30, 2013 at 5:37 pm

As a side note: do better next year Texans!

14 EMMANUEL P. GILL January 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm

MEN WORKING TOGETHER IN THE NFL, WHETHER AS FOOTBALL PLAYER, OR MANAGER/ COACH, EVEN WATER BOY POSITION, IS A PROUD JOB BECAUSE IN THAT WORK ENVIRONMENT THERE’S BROTHERHOOD

15 AZDuffman January 17, 2014 at 5:50 am

Very interesting and professional interview with a guy who sounded professional back. He gives the ream impression that he oges to a job and not a game even if his job is a game.

One big surprise for me was that daily practice was only 2 hours. I would have guessed 4-5 divided over 2 sessions. As to the long hours and work/life well sorry, most good jobs are like that.

16 Gil March 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Hard work, talent, luck. It takes all of that to make it to the NFL. But let’s not forget, a lot of that Talent is just genetics. 6’4″, 300 pounds.

If you’re 5’10″ tall and you want to play in the NFL you better learn to kick.

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