My transition from a nine-year minor league baseball player to an NFL tight end almost never happened. Fear, self-doubt, and insecurity nearly derailed the leap of faith I would come to take, and the resulting success I experienced at the highest level of pro football.
In my last pro baseball season, during the summer of 1995, I struggled internally for weeks. After nearly a decade of chasing the dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player, I had become so frustrated and disheartened at the direction of my career that I no longer had love for the game I had played with passion my whole life. One night, I found myself alone in my one-bedroom apartment in Canton, Ohio contemplating questions about decisions I had made early in life; decisions that had led me to the very spot I sat that evening.
Coming out of high school in 1987, I had been one of the top football recruits in the country. What if I had stayed with football all those years ago and attended college as a tight end? Would I be playing in the NFL and not wasting away in the minor leagues? I could be living the exact same life of my younger brother Irv, now in his third year with the New Orleans Saints.
I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling in my gut. Was it too late to make a transition from a 25 year-old minor league veteran to a rookie tight end in the NFL?
I had not played football since my senior year in high school and had no college football experience. In addition, even though I was big for a baseball player, at 225lbs, I was small compared to average NFL tight ends. So who was I kidding? Still, I had to make one call to put the absurd thought out of my mind.
After working up the courage to dial my brother down in New Orleans, I initially engaged in our normal catch-up conversation. Just before we were about to hang up, I took a deep breath and asked the question on my heart. What if I finished the current baseball season, because I’d never quit anything, and took the upcoming offseason to get into football shape and find a team to give me a look as a tight end in the NFL?
I braced for the harsh truth that was surely coming. Instead, the words that followed would ultimately change the direction of my life. “Big Ed, anything you’ve ever put your mind to, you’ve accomplished. If this is something you want to do, I have no doubt you can do it and I will help you in any way I can!”
In that moment, I realized it was truly time to take that leap of faith. If my brother believed in me, how could I not believe in myself?!
After our conversation, it seemed like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I played the remainder of that season without telling anyone but my brother about my plans – not even my parents. I assumed they would think I was being foolish. Looking back, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was the one person standing in my way…myself!
We must never allow fear, self-doubt, and insecurity to get the best of us, and I refused to let those negative voices rule over my life.
The transition to football wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to achieve what many thought impossible.
In 1996, a few months after my last game as a baseball player, I made my debut as a tight end in The World League of American Football as a member of the Frankfurt Galaxy. In July of the same year, I reported to my first NFL training camp. My career in the NFL eventually came to be highlighted by an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIII with the Atlanta Falcons, one of the many shining moments I have been blessed to experience. It happened all because l was brave enough to believe in myself! We are often our own worst enemies, constantly trying to talk ourselves out of living the
life we are destined for.
Despite whatever is causing you to doubt yourself, I implore you to take the leap of faith and believe in yourself. You will be amazed at what you’re capable of achieving!