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Oct. 5, 2021

What is it like to play D1 and NFL Football?

What is it like to play D1 and NFL Football?

Interesting conversation is currently being had regarding Mario Cristobal’s, Oregon’s football coach, reaction to one of his players receiving a penalty for showboating following a great catch. Some say justified while others question his leadership. If you haven’t seen the footage, look it up b/c it presents an opportunity to have conversation regarding the difficulties of leading young men and women. The reality is they’re going to make poor decisions, it’s inevitable, but how we, as the adults, respond to that moment is paramount to converting that negative to a positive learning experience.

How should Coach Cristobal have responded? IMO, that all depends on his relationship with that player. Leaders who have personal connections with those they lead are able to make the best decisions for all those involved, which leads me to this episode. The previous 8 shows featured great leaders, many of whom are coaches.  Well I think it’s time to flip the script and hear from an athlete.  I mean, Who better to help us improve as coaches than the athletes themselves?

TJ Edwards is the MLB for the Philadelphia Eagles, and I was lucky enough to have him both as a student and a player during his high school years. I asked TJ to be on b/c 1) he has an interesting story to tell and has travelled an uncommon path, from HS QB to NFL MLB, and 2) he’s authentic and tells it the way it is. In this episode, he discusses the benefits & challenges of being a multi-sport athlete in high school, he gives us an inside look into WI football and his coaches during his standout career for the Badgers, and he’s honest about his difficult transition from college all-star to undrafted NFL free agent. One of my favorite segments of this interview is around the 25th minute when TJ considers the type of coach he would be if he decided on that career path.

If you’re a coach, truly listen to what TJ has to say, and then I encourage you to go listen to what your athletes have to say b/c it’s a great reminder that a little investment in our athletes creates an impact that lasts a lifetime.



Transcript

Luke:

Um, today's episode.

TJ:

But with coach Chryst, it just felt like he truly, truly cared about you. He truly wanted you to be not just like a great football player. He wanted you to be a really good person.

Luke:

Interesting conversation is being had regarding Mario Cristobal Oregon's football coach, and his reaction to one of his players, receiving a penalty for showboating after a great catch. Some say justified while others question his leadership. If you haven't seen a footage, look it up because it presents an opportunity to have a conversation regarding the difficulties of leading young men and women. The reality is they're going to make poor decisions. It's inevitable. But how we as adults respond to that moment is paramount to converting that negative to a positive learning experience. How should Coach Cristobal have responded? In my opinion. It all depends on his relationship with that player. Leaders who have personal connections, with those they lead are able to make the best decision for all those involved, which leads me to this episode. The previous 8 shows featured great leaders, many of whom are coaches. Well, I think it's time to flip the script and hear from an athlete. I mean, who better to help us improve as coaches and the athletes themselves. TJ Edwards is the starting middle linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. And I was lucky enough to have them both as a student and a player during his high school years. I asked TJ to be on because one. He has an interesting story to tell and has traveled an uncommon path from high school quarterback to NFL, middle linebacker. And two he's authentic and tells it the way that it is. In this episode, he discusses the benefits and challenges of being a multi-sport athlete in high school. He gives us an inside look into Wisconsin football and his coaches during his standout career for the badgers. And he's honest about his difficult transition from college all-star to on drafted NFL free agent. If you're a coach, truly listen to what TJ has to say. And then I encourage you to go listen to what your athletes have to say, because it's a great reminder that a little investment in our athletes creates an impact that lasts a lifetime. TJ, welcome to the show. And I have to admit I'm a little nervous having you on, not because it's TJ the NFL football player, but because there's no video. And I know from having a in class, my voice tends to put you to sleep. So I'm a little nervous that I'm not going to be able to know that you're, that you're with me the whole time, but I'm hoping that you have found a way to withstand my voice and hopefully I'm not going to be putting your sleep on this one. Uh, seriously, thanks for being on the show. And I do want to get back to those high school years with you to start off. I know you're a three sport athlete, football, basketball, baseball, and you're really good in all three. And you loved all three and you had great relationships with your coaches and all three. So what were some of those values that your coaches in high school instilled with?

TJ:

Really from the start. I always just kind of wanted to play as many sports as possible and it's something that my parents pushed me to do just because one, uh, to keep me busy. And I guess I really didn't realize how much, all three kind of go hand in hand in terms of coordination and just dedication to a schedule and accountability to your teammates and things you don't really, I guess, think about at the time. You know, so basketball, baseball, and football, I had kind of three unique team aspects and three unique coaching perspectives. With baseball it's one of those things to where you playing kind of on a weird schedule, um, you go through the ranks of freshmen, sophomore and junior year of varsity and all that stuff. And you, you kind of switched coaches a little bit and you really just get to learn the basics of every single thing from the coaches knowledge and taken as many the teaching point and the coaching points, even from your teammates, who've been doing it for a long time. And so I think baseball was one of those to where I just, I played since I was really the first sport I ever played. And I really just got to kind of see that grow each year as I got older and was able to swing the bat faster and things like that. But I just, I learned so much just about the game. and then, uh, basketball was probably my first love of a sport, to be honest with you. Uh, one of those things where I had big, big hoop dreams, you and I talking about this in high school, United big hoop dreams. And I always thought that was that was going to be the one that I wanted to pursue. And I loved it. I thought I was, I was decent at it, but really when I got older, I was kind of coming off the bench for a little bit and just really learned how be a part of a team and know my role. And I think it's something that we talked about a lot was just, you know, we had really good players in front with those guys who were definitely gonna get their shots up, um, something that, you know, I knew it was going to happen, but I just thought basketball kind of taught me a lot. And just in terms of knowing how to be a part of a team and lead, and I think that one really kinda goes right into football. And it's something to where football is completely different. Um, as you know, it's just the ultimate team game. I think basketball, baseball, you can get away with having a couple of good players and being decent, but football, you need you need everybody and I think that's something that we talked about a lot just as a team with you and all the other coaches is just we're, we're one big family. You know, what's funny is guys from high school, we still just, we keep up to this day and we talk about certain plays and things that happened during our high school career and what went wrong, what we could have done better. But yeah. What I took the most from my coaches and football was just one, again, kind of knowing your role and knowing how valuable you are to the team. Even if you don't have the biggest role. Um, but I think our biggest thing was we need every single person to be at their best, to be a good team. And that's something that every single coach on that staff stress and you really felt like you were, you were part of a family. After we lost my junior year it felt like. You know, it was, it's still to this day, one of the toughest losses, I think I've ever took in a sport in general, just because I was connected to that team. And we put so much time and effort to you know, just knowing everything about one another and bonding and connecting. And so I just think football wise for me, it was really just the ultimate team game. And um, so yeah, it was all three kind of relate, but all three are a little bit different.

Luke:

So you had three great experiences, which is really good to hear a lot of kids in today's. Tools, aren't getting to experience that. I'm sure you're well aware that specialization is a growing trend. So, I'm assuming you believe that playing multiple sports is a good thing. So what can coaches do in today's world to help support the multi-sport app?

TJ:

Yeah, I think it's, I think it's huge. I think it's important for kids to be multi-verse in sports. And, um, again, it kinda just helps with going into different situations in your, in your games and they all kind of relate, but I think there's a big thing now in terms of coaches Downplaying the other sport, or kind of going out there and saying like, Hey, you don't need to be doing this for, for that sport. Your focus is basketball or your focus is football or your focus is. Baseball hockey, like whatever it is, but there's something that it's kind of hard to explain what you can take away. But I think if a kid does do different sports and they do, um, you're just go out there and give it their all and in each it'll make them better at the end. And I think there's a big thing nowadays that your sport has to be year round. And I think it's true, but if you're, if you're playing other sports, um, You know, giving all you can to that other sport and you're, you're getting better in different, different muscles of your body, you know, you're learning new things. So I just think um you know, if it's your sports off season and going out and trying a different sport or just doing something else in general, I think that helps a lot. There's just a lot of, I think of negativity when coaches just don't want you to play another sport to be safe for their season or things like that.

Luke:

Well, I know that playing multiple sports helped to get you on the radar. And it's something that college coaches look at. So transitioning to the recruiting process, um, you know you had some high points and you had some low points and we don't need to rehash all the highs and the lows, but what did you learn about yourself during the recruiting process? Given that there were some low, difficult points in that.

TJ:

Yeah. Um, the recruiting process was, it was it was just very weird to me. I just think going into it you know, I try to be as open-minded as I can. But, I don't know. I think it's a very weird, weird time. And you think of. Schools want you and all that. And they do. I think it, in some sense, but with me, I had committed to Western Michigan. And then, um, you know, what, I'm a dream school of mine kind of came into play late. And it was a tough decision to de-commit from that school and commit to Wisconsin, which um, I'm very glad that I did and wouldn't change that for the world, but it's a, it's a very tough conversation. So I think you just ultimately have to do what's best for you. I think that's what I learned. And some people are going to be upset with you and some people aren't going to like the decision you made, but you have to do truly what is best for you? And I think the biggest thing that you and I talked about a lot actually was going to picking a school that was right for you, not because of the staff that was there, or the other things that surrounded, but truly the fit of the school and the football trajectory and things like that is definitely what I learned.

Luke:

Why was Wisconsin your dream school? Why was that the ultimate choice for you?

TJ:

Growing up, I always just wanted to play on the biggest stage. And Wisconsin is just one of those powerhouses that's been around for a long time and played good football for a really long time. And it's two hours from home so kind of close to family as well. And I knew that made mom happy too. Um, but, but just being able to be kind of close and also getting an unreal education that carries weight just about anywhere in the country and, um, anywhere in the world, really. So I think that had a big part of it as well, but I just really wanted to play big time football. And I knew that that was one of those schools that I could get that.

Luke:

And I know you went through a coaching change, but ultimately you got to play for Coach Chryst, and I'm curious, I want some inside information here, because from the outside he looks like just such a good person, just a normal everyday guy who I would want my kids to play for. So what is Coach Chryst like?

TJ:

Yeah. I think you know, a lot of coaches say they have a open door policy or you can come in whenever. And talk to them about things. I think just when people have, uh, I've talked to you, I don't think that's true necessarily everywhere, but I know that that's true with coach Chryst. I'm just a guy who is like one of the most personable people that I know when it comes to just talking to his players and communicating with his players. Um, I think there's a big thing in sports in general, where you never really kinda know where you're at in the coach's head or things like that. But with coach Chryst, I was always able to, just to go talk to him and be real with him. And he was always real with me and, in terms of where I was at in terms of where I was, uh, where I, where they saw me fitting in their defense and things like that. So I think that's something that's really hit home with me and really made me respect him a lot just because I don't think you get that in a lot of other places, but with him, it just felt like he truly, truly cared about you. He truly wanted you to be not just like a great football player. He wanted you to be a really good person. Um, and he, you know, you can go and talk crap with him and just kinda mess around and you can also be serious with them. So I think, I think it's pretty rare to have that in a coach and a guy so well-known, and in his, you know, perspective from being offensive mind and just being an ultimate team leader, um, just, just someone that I have so much respect for and has really helped me a lot for sure.

Luke:

And then you also went through a couple of defensive coordinators, some of whom are pretty big personalities within themselves. So let's discuss coach Aranda and coach Leonard. So let's start with coach Aranda. What did you learn from him? And what are some life skills you could take away that, that he's instilled in?

TJ:

Yeah, I think the biggest thing that I learned from him was, preparation, preparation is everything. He was a guy who, you know, again is just well-respected in the defensive world. There's not a lot that he doesn't know about coverage and, and often. And just how to, how to beat certain things, how to attack certain things. Uh, I still remember my first game. There was, I mean, there was a good amount of plays up on the, on the defensive call list and that, I think that's when it hit me right there knowing that like, Hey, if you're not, if you're not prepared in this sport you're not even going to be, be able to go out and. Get your job done at all. So I think I took a lot from that just of knowing the ins and outs of every coverage, every play, and also knowing that, you know, the middle linebacker and you need to make sure you, you know, where everyone's at, so everyone can be lined up. So I think just, just really mental preparation is what I took from him and just knowing exactly what to do and how to do it.

Luke:

And now you had a very close relationship with Coach Aranda and it was probably bittersweet. Happy to see him move on to. Some big things in his life, but also sad to see him go and incomes coach Leonard, which I know at least from, I shouldn't say no, from what I read, he seems to be a player favorite as well. So what was it like with Coach Leonard?

TJ:

Yeah, coach Leonard is just, he's very hands-on. Um, the first thing I remember. It was just him like catching ponds before practice and just messing around with the players. Um, but what I would say about coach Leonard is I think that he could just can relate to people so well, and he, cause you know, he's played, he's played football at a high level for a long time. It was 10 plus years in the NFL. So he knows exactly what it takes to get to, the, the stage that every college kid wants to get. Um, so just really leaning on him to, again, be real with you and tell you what you're not doing well and tell you what you're doing well and how to keep doing it. Um, but I think just being around him, you know, his mind for the game, it just is always trying to get better and always trying to expand. And that's something that you're trying to do as well. And the way that he. Can bring such young kids into the game, you know, when they're true freshmen and get them to understand the coverage or get them to understand, uh, uh, run fit is, is truly special in my head. And I just think, you know, I came in here when I, when I had him, I was, uh, I wanna say going into my junior year. So I already kind of had a good idea of defense and, and things like that. But we had a lot of young players on our team and the way that he was able to get them to understand what we were doing so quickly is just always so impressive in my head.

Luke:

And the whole time you're there. You have the athletic director who is a legend upon legends and that's coach Alvarez. And you had the unique experience of actually having him coach you in a bowl games. What was your relationship? Like? I mean, what, what's your takeaways of the type of coach that coach Alvarez?

TJ:

Yeah. So it was, uh, the Outback Bowl. That's my red shirt year, so I wasn't playing but going into that bowl game, we kind of felt the shift of what we were doing all year to, we were going to get back to the Wisconsin hard-nose football that he's won with, you know, a lot, which is really what's made that program very successful. And, um, right away we were full pads. We were hitting. You know, practices were, were real. And I think kind of gives you a perspective from how things got to the way they were. I don't think without that prep for that game, I don't know if we, if we win that game and just kind of having his, his aura around us, knowing that he's a very confident guy and he's, he's done a lot. He's won a lot. So just kind of feeding off of. Um, you felt it on the team and we ended up winning that game and it was, it was truly special to be a part of.

Luke:

So following a great career, Wisconsin. Incomes the NFL draft. And it goes from probably one of. the most exciting moments in your life to probably a pretty big disappointment. That is you. You didn't get the phone call that you wanted to get. So how did the Wisconsin coaches help you navigate that tough time in your life of not getting that call that you want him to get, that you were drafted?

TJ:

Yeah. Um, it was, it's just like you said. I mean, it was a time when I was really excited for, and then when it was over, I wish I wish it never happened as I might. Me and my dad still talk about it. I'll never watch another draft again. Um, but it was a it's it's still an experience and still something that I enjoyed even being a part of, but. Yeah. My is that Wisconsin. I remember after my pro day they were just kinda talking to me in terms of what they thought of, you know, where I could go and just, just telling me that really, no matter what happens as long as I have an opportunity to play, I'll be fine. And I think that's something that kinda, you know, I carried with me even when I didn't get that phone call, um, you know, something that I expected to happen, but, but didn't, but I was confident in myself that I'm a good enough football player to play at this level. And when I do get my shot, I just have to make the most of it. And that's something that they always preach to us. And um, kind of that, just that underdog mentality I kind of took over and kind of still running with that ever since.

Luke:

So you end up becoming a free agent with Philadelphia and you defy the odds. Really anyone who even gets invited to an NFL camp is defined the odds, but you go in undrafted and, and you make the team, how the heck did you do it?

TJ:

Yeah. Um, it's, it's different, you know, you go from playing with guys your own age to, you know, You know, you're playing against grown men very quickly. Um, you know, guys, who've been doing it for a really long time, but I just think I went in there and every single day, I just try to get better at one thing, whether it was, you know, from day one, I don't want to have any mental errors or I don't want to have any. Steps with my, with my first step and my first read and just trying to clean up things every single day. And then I think, you know the pressure of it is just, you know, you're not drafted right away. You don't get as many reps as the guys who were drafted. But you know, at some point you're going to have to have an opportunity. And I think my biggest thing. Not trying to press and make plays that weren't mine. It was really just trying to do my job. So sound that when plays came, I made them. And I think that's something that helped me with. Um, you know, not trying to force things to happen and just trying to go with the flow of the game and always stand ready. And I just always wanted to prepare, like it was, you know, I was a starter. I was the guy and knowing that that really wasn't what it was at all. I was thinking I was fourth or fifth on the, on the depth chart, but just going in there and being the best that I could be. And I think the biggest, the biggest misconception is special teams. Um, you know, a lot of guys make a lot of good money and they play for a long time. Being really good at special teams is such a underlooked part of the game. And I had a really good, special teams coordinator when I came in. His name is Dave he's the special teams coach for the lions now. Um, and he told me right away, you know, he's like, if you don't want to make this team and he's like, this is, this is where you're going to make it. It's on special teams and right away, I just, I met with him every single day on improving my technique and, um, how to do certain things better and what I did wrong here and how to get better at the next. I just felt myself getting better and better and better. And that was really where I moved up on the depth charts was with special teams and just trying to make my presence felt anywhere on the team and I'm a special teams, was really my door to make the roster.

Luke:

So here you are playing in this elite league with these elite players and all the odds are stacked against you. I know that your high school coaches and your Wisconsin coaches have, we just discussed instilled life long lessons into you. So how did some of those come into play in this defining moment of your life that most likely a lot of people would have bet against.

TJ:

Yeah. It's kind of crazy. I feel like from every step of the way, in terms of phase of football that I was in from high school to college was really just preparing me in a sense of my, my knowledge of the game. And I think that's one of my stronger suits was my knowledge and my cue of, of football and, uh, the amount of time that even we put in high school. Not as many kids in high school at our time where we're doing. Um even like reading safeties in high school or things that I helped me a lot in college. And then the college I understood bad reads, where in terms of what coverage we were playing. And then after that, I learned even more than more dynamics of it when I got to the NFL. But I think just the IQ, the game is something that I wanted to be my strong suit. I knew, you know I'm not the, not the strongest. I'm not the fastest, I'm not the biggest out there. But I know that what I can control is being at the right spot, doing my job and making sure. You know, mentally, there's nothing that they can say I can't do. And I always pride myself in that. You know, they might knock is the speed and all that. And then just trying to build and make those plays that they think I can't make. And I think that's something that helped me as well. So I don't know if it's, it's really weird how, how life works in terms of just felt like I was there everything was just a building block and just helped me so much in ways. I didn't even know. Until I got here and, you know, you start to look back on all those experiences and all those things that happen in my football career. And you kind of realize how well they all relate. So it's, it's pretty cool how it all happened.

Luke:

My dad used to always say to me, son, the older you get the smarter I'm going to become. And it's So true. And I'm sure, you know, it's kind of what you're. explaining right now. You have your high school coach preaching to you, then you have your Wisconsin coaches preaching Zia, and all of a sudden here you are trying to make the roster and defy the odds. And so much of what you've been told throughout your life was probably like ding, ding, light bulb. I get it now, right?

TJ:

It's absolutely insane. It's exactly it went to,

Luke:

It's the way the world works. So you go from one sports town to, another sports town.

TJ:

yeah.

Luke:

How tough are those Philly fans on opposing teams? Because that's what they're definitely known for. Are they as tough as the media makes them out to be towards the opponent?

TJ:

Yeah. I mean, it's a blue collar city and it's a city that prides themselves on their sports teams and wants to see them do well. And I think, with the Eagles, um, winning a super bowl a couple years ago and still have a good team now and just, they expect, really good things, which I think is cool. I think some places they're not necessarily as into the game but here you truly feel the passion. And, I think when you play a team that's high powered or, well-respected that the fans. Or even more into the game because they just want to win even that much more, you know, they really feel like they're a part of it's part of the game and the, and the team and they are, um, you truly feel their effects on third down. You see how much they flustered the other team. It's it's pretty surreal how crazy they get. It's it's pretty cool to be a part of.

Luke:

And let's move on to the coach player relationship in the NFL because it's complex because the NFL is a business, but it's also a business of people and your coaches want to make better human beings. They care about people, but there's the tough business side of things that you will lose your job if you don't win. So. Are there similarities to the relationships you have with your high school coaches through relationships you have with your Wisconsin coaches? Or is it just strictly business?

TJ:

Yeah, I think like you said, it's a business, right? they're judged off of, the production of their players and if we win or lose. So if that, that doesn't happen things get a lot more stressful and things get a lot more real. Um, but no, I've, I've had really good coaches because I've been in the NFL. Um, you know, they each seem to care about you. They each seem to want you to be the best football player that you can be. And I think it's very interesting dynamic. They're just like you, you know, We'll take that next step in their career. They want to be successful. They want to keep moving up. So they're judged just as strictly as you are and they're critiqued just like we are. So, um, sometimes you feel the tension of all that, but, um, our staff now is really cool in that sense, as they told us from day one, our job is to make you guys better football players. And we're here for anything that you need, which I think is pretty unique in this league. So just kind of having them here now. It's, it's, it's very cool. I think everyone's learning a lot everyone's growing, but it's definitely a little bit of a different dynamic, um, from just the league in terms of college, just because one, you know, In college, you might have a coach for three, four years, right. But in the NFL, it's it's not, not as long as that at times. So, you truly get to get a sense of each coaching style from year to year.

Luke:

So you got to rub elbows with elite athletes at both Wisconsin. And now in the NFL, do you hear the similar theme that you had throughout your life? That these elite athletes referenced the impact that their coaches had on them and shaping them to be the men that they are today?

TJ:

Yeah, I really do. Um, and I think just now I I've met so many different people from all walks of life. And, it's really cool to just kind of be in one locker room to where you got guys from the sec guys from D two schools guys from, you know, won national championships, I just kind of really understood that quickly of, um, you know, guys from different schools and how they carry themselves. But. No mistake about it. Every single one of those guys in the locker room truly feel that they're the best at what they do and as they should. Um, so just kind of getting a hold on all that, but you really, really get to see the best of people and you get to see, you know, some tough times that people go through, but, um, you truly feel that each one has just been molded a certain way and that's kinda how they operate, which I think is really cool just to kind of meet different types of people like that.

Luke:

So now it's time for you to pay it forward and let's play hypothetical and you're through with your playing career and you decide to get into coaching and you're going to be a high school coach. What's going to be your coaching style. What are the things that you want to make sure you have. And just to clarify, TJ, I'm not talking about schematically, I'm talking about coaching people, you know, not, you, you've gone through the process and you've dealt with so many different coaches that impacts you and how you're going to be a coach. So what's going to be your style as a high school.

TJ:

Yeah, I think right off the bat, that's a pretty cool question. But right off the bat, I think I would just want my players to feel that I cared for them. Um, and I

Luke:

And let me, let me interrupt you right there. Why is that so.

TJ:

I think just knowing that it makes you feel a connection for one another and it makes you feel. Um, no matter what I got your back and vice versa. So you know that I want to play harder for this guy because I know he truly cares about what I'm doing, not just on the field, but off the field as well. Um, it's something that I've always responded well to, um, but you know, that goes hand in hand, you know, I think you also have to, get on kids. They're not doing something they're supposed to but just reinforcing it with, it's not a, not a personal attack or anything like that. It's just, I want you to be the best you that you can be. Um, at some that I think I've had from high school all the way to now, and some that I, just have to kind of carry with me if I were to be a coach. And, I just think it's such a big part. And especially in youth, um, just. You know, being there for kids, you never know what someone's going through and just knowing that no matter what happens, you know, I got your back and we're going to do this thing together. I think that's a really cool aspect. And some of that definitely want to carry with me.

Luke:

And I'm sorry, I kind of interrupted your you're probably about to go onto some other coaching qualities. In addition to knowing that, Hey, I care about my players. So let's just stick with that for a little bit. What are some things that coaches can do to make sure their players know, Hey man, I, I care about you. Like this is not just about winning it. You know, making you, as you said, making you the best version of you, like what can coaches do to make sure their co their players know they care?

TJ:

Yeah. I think the biggest thing is in my opinion is, you know, I know that the sport that is kind of the main focus for sure, but it's also. Just talking to people as people and talking to the kids is kids in terms of what they have going on. And, there's some people who don't want to talk about all that, that's fine. But I just, I don't believe that the conversation at all times has to be football and schematics and what I need you for to do for this and that. It's just, it's really, you know, talking about life and, um, it's crazy as we did that in high school a lot. It was just talking about life. Um, I remember being in the cafeteria and having my mom at at brunch and just getting to talk to my mom in front of all my teammates and, it just made things feel more like home. So I just, I just think doing things like that, they kind of take away from the hard nose of the football grind and the practices are long and the meetings are long and things like that, but it's still, life we're going through and just, just letting people know that you know, you care about them. No, no matter what. And it's just, it's it's really important.

Luke:

And this is one of my last questions is sticking with this theme. Coaches caring for the kids and, and maybe I'm foolish and making this assumption, but I do think. Majority of coaches get into the business because they do care about people and they are people-centered and somehow they get distracted. And it's the pressures. It's the obsession with winning, uh, I'm guilty of it. I think every coach has become guilty of it. You lose sight of that a little bit. So, how can, and I don't know if you can answer this because you're just a player, but I like hearing the player perspective. How can coaches keep perspective, TJ, that it is about the players and it's not just about the wins and the losses and the pressure of the media and all those outside forces.

TJ:

Yeah, no, I was just going to say it's, it's tough. Right. You know, I say all those things, but I think it's, it's very easy to get lost and just wanting to be the best. Cause you know, like the coaches want to be the best at what they're doing as well. So they need to dedicate just as much time, if not more. Um, You know, be the best coach that they can be and they, they want to win. So I think to say it's easy to, you know, do those things is definitely an understatement, but I don't know. It's tough. I think you just in some way have something that brings you back to why you started coaching in the first place, um, you know, why you got into the business in the first place and what you enjoy most about the game and what you enjoy most about being a part of a team or leading a team? Um, you know, their coaches are human too, and they get lost in things. And so it's, it's definitely a very tough thing to do, but I always kind of, when I. You know, distracted or when I'm kind of going through a tough time. I always just remember why I started playing the game in the first place and why I you know, want to be the best at this game. And that's something that helps me a lot.

Luke:

Well, that was, uh on the spot question and your answer was fabulous and it's that point of coaches getting back to their why. And it's really important that whatever routine they developed, they have to do something to allow themselves that opportunity to re remember their why, because. Everything externally, TJ, as you know, is going to complicate your why and, you know, try to prioritize things that maybe aren't as important, especially when you get into high profile coaches like coach Chris. I mean, he's under immense amount of pressure. So here he wants to have an open door. He wants to develop these young men into their adult life. But there's the harsh reality of, I got to go play Penn state. So

TJ:

right.

Luke:

I that's a, that's a tough balance. yeah. Right. So great answer. Great answer on that. And thanks for allowing me to put Jenna spot, but there is one more question that's going to put you on a spot. A lot of our listeners are not from the Philadelphia area, so I need you to fill in some blanks for me here. Okay. So when in Philly, what's the one place they have to eat at.

TJ:

Oh, I, I would have to say Jim's on south street. Um, cheese, steak, uh, some that anytime anyone is visiting me in town, that is definitely one of the first places we'll be going cash only spot. They don't do Uber. They don't do any of that. You have to go wait in line. Watch them make in front of you. It's a, it's a, it's a unique experience that I didn't fully understand until I got out here. And just, um, yeah, I mean, you have to get a cheese steak, one in Philly, but I think, I think gyms is the go-to.

Luke:

Okay. And, uh, what's the specialty there. Is it the cheese steak?

TJ:

Yes, it's the cheese steak. And then it's, I mean, one, I didn't even know kind of the whole cheese, steak phenomenon until I got out here, but it's their, it's their cheese whiz. So it's their cheese sauce that they put on there with their peppers and onions. And it's, uh, it's insane. I've had my fair share. I've had a couple for sure and it's, uh, it never disappoints, so.

Luke:

Do trainers now you're reading this stuff.

TJ:

Every once in awhile, you know, we get to have a little fun every once in a while.

Luke:

All right. And then the last one, one in Philly, you have to visit blank place.

TJ:

Oh, I think, you know, as cliche as it sounds, the Rocky steps is again, you know, just from being from the Midwest and not really knowing The hype around these things, but you, when you get to go up those stairs and, um, it's just, it's something that's really special to, to Philly. um, Every time I go there, I still am just in awe of how cool it is. And you see the Rocky statue sitting next to it. It's just, it's something that's really cool and something that I think everyone should see

Luke:

You be able to run up all those stairs with no problems?

TJ:

and I'll tell you what it, I had a couple breaks, but, uh, it was like, it was an off day, a little sore, right?

Luke:

Yeah. I will say when I visited Philly, I did that and I was amazed. How many, uh, I'm talking about people visiting the United States, right? How many people from different countries, like that's what they came to see. And they were so excited to take a picture of the Rocky statue and run up those stairs. And, you know, you just, you don't think of the Rocky movies as some global phenomenon, but clearly it is

TJ:

No, you don't think it's a huge deal. And then you see one, I didn't know that there was that many steps. I mean, it's not like, you know, once their case is like, it's a good amount of steps

Luke:

how many stairs there are?

TJ:

I do not.

Luke:

Well, I, I,

TJ:

I

Luke:

I cheated. I cheated, but it's, it's 72 stairs.

TJ:

Yeah, that sounds about right. I could've sworn there was more, but it's, it's a lot.

Luke:

Yeah. I remember right around 20 and I was with my kids. I'm like, yeah, maybe this is a bad idea, but I had a, I had to act like I wasn't tired cause I'm their dad. Right. So I had to get all the way to the top,

TJ:

A hundred percent.

Luke:

Anyway, TJ, I really appreciate you being on the show and providing some insight that a lot of people would not get into a big time athletic football program, like university of Wisconsin and, and such a distinguished NFL franchise, like the Eagles. And it's really good for our listeners to hear the athletic side of things and hear from their athletes. So thanks so much for, uh being so generous with your time and best of luck for the rest of this.

TJ:

Yeah. No, of course. Thanks for having me. I do have to say one thing. I know you didn't want me to, but it would be just not me. If I didn't. Um, I think in high school we had such a great coaching staff and I was able to learn so much of the base. Uh, football and just in terms of how everything operates and moves and schematics at at that age is definitely one of the reasons why I think, um, you know where I'm at today and having you by my side and recruiting and things like that is something that, um, you know, lessons that I'll just I'll take with me forever. So I want to say thanks for that. And thanks for allowing me to come out here and, you know, just talk, you know, it's been a minute, so it's been awesome.

Luke:

Like most coaches, I always had my assistants fill out an end of the year survey. However, I didn't stop there. I also had my seniors fill surveys as well. I highly encouraged my seniors to put their names on our survey, which also gave me an opportunity for face to face conversation, if needed to expand upon a point they made. And in the process of making me a better coach. No question. This is one of my top professional growth experiences. Each off season. It was always fascinating to me how details that I viewed as dismissive. We're of great importance and meaning to my athletes. So that tells me, and if we don't talk with our athletes, if we don't get to know our athletes, We're probably going to miss out on an invaluable learning opportunity. TJ said, and I quote. But right off the bat, I think I would just want my players to feel that I cared for them. And during our toughest times as a coach, he reminds us to have something that brings us back to our, why we started coaching in the first place. Thanks, TJ for the simple call to action for all coaches care for your players and never forget your why. Before ranting. I want to give a shout out to my man, Brandon, who reached out to me on LinkedIn this week. Great to hear you're enjoying the podcast. If you're like Brandon, enjoying the show, please recommend it to others. Feel free to reach out to me as well. All my contact info is located in the show notes. And remember the more I's we impact this world, the more everyone wins. That's the "I" in Win.