In one memorable scene from this year’s Hard Knocks on HBO, Cleveland Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey addresses the team and issues a challenge: “What’s your why?”
Kirksey asks his teammates to go home and write down the reason they practice, work out and play on a piece of paper and to put it somewhere they would see every day.
There are plenty of motivational videos and books which talk about the importance of one finding their why. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has long asked people searching peak performance to think about it:
Why do you do what you do? Why do you do it how you do it? What is your motive for action? Why are you different than others trying to do the same thing as you?
Fairly deep stuff. But highly relevant when it comes to the NFL, where players are on edge at almost all moments, and seeking any edge at all moments.
With the start of the Miami Dolphins season only two days away, the Palm Beach Post thought it was a good time to ask seven players a simple question, inspired by that Hard Knocks scene:
What’s your why?
Here are their responses:
RB Kenyan Drake, 24, third NFL season
For my kids and my kids’ kids
“My why is that it’s always bigger than me. Playing this game, I’ve been playing this game for free since I’m 6 years old. I love this game. I still love this game. But now, it’s a business. And I understand that my going out here and performing the way I need to perform, I put myself in a position to help shape the trajectory of my family for generations. So that’s really where I’m at right now. It’s about making sure I do all I need to do, right now, on and off this field, so when I have kids, and my kids’ kids, they can all live comfortably.”
WR Danny Amendola, 32, tenth NFL season
To look up at that scoreboard — a winner
“Today, my why is to win games. To do whatever I can, preparation-wise, leading into the game on Sunday. And at the end of the fourth quarter, win the game. That’s the only thing I really want to focus on throughout the week. There are a bunch of things that go on throughout the week of preparation to get there but it’s all about one moment, at the end of the game on Sunday. It’s about when you look up at that scoreboard. It’s all and only about what’s on that scoreboard. That’s my why, today. My fuel has changed three or four times throughout my career. Whether it be make the team. Whether it be, get a contract. Whether it be win a Super Bowl. Or whether it be support my family. It’s changed throughout my career. Right now, it’s all about winning games. What’s your why has always evolved. But for me, today, it’s just about winning.”
S Reshad Jones, 30, ninth NFL season
I still have something to prove
“I’m self-motivated. But my why is my family, my teammates, and myself. I always feel like I have something to prove. Being a late-round draft pick. This is a show-me league. You have to get it done each and every year. My why is me driving myself, my family and my teammates.”
CB Xavien Howard, 25, third NFL season
So people like me, in my hometown of Houston, see what can be done
“My daughter. I want to be a great father. I want to lead by example. The right things to do. And where I’m coming from. Where I came from. So they can see people like me keep going. And everything I’ve been through. To see that no matter where you come from, you can be something. My daughters are 3 and 9 months. It’s a great feeling. It’s all because of them. Every day no matter what, win or loss, I get to go home and go to them. There was too much negative stuff growing up. There was too much I saw as a youngster that would really mess with a guys’ mind. It’s overcoming that. That was my main reason. Just overcoming that to be what I am today. It pushed me. It motivates me. It’s my fuel for my fire. That’s who I am. It’s about my character.”
S/ST ace Walt Aikens, 27, fifth NFL season
I love the grind. The hustle. The anger. The aggression.
“You’ve got to love the game. You really have to love this game to play this game. Especially at this level. I tell people all the time, if I didn’t love this, I don’t think I could do it. This game, it hurts. It’s time-consuming. It’s stressful. A lot of people like rookies hit a wall and it’s not even about the physical aspect of football. It’s more mental than anything. You really re-evaluate yourself, like, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ You really have to love every aspect of it. The grind. The hustle. Just like any other sport. But how many other sports can you go out there and just hit somebody as hard as you can? Take out all your anger? All your aggression? You’ve got every kind of emotion on the football field. You can be happy, mad, angry, sad. You know what I’m saying? It just brings so much out of you. It shows you true character. It shows who you really are. It’s fun. You go out there, even though it’s hard. It might be 1000 degrees outside. And it’s hard. But once you get through it, especially with the team, and that camaraderie sets in and you all are happy because you all accomplished the same goal, just that feeling right there is something you can’t describe. I love this game. I love this s---.”
LB Jerome Baker, 21, rookie
Family. All family.
“My why is my family. Playing this game unlocks so many doors. Not just for me, but for my family. And that’s why I go out there every day. Because of my little cousins looking up to me. Because of my daughter. My family, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. So that’s my why.”
WR/PR/KR Jakeem Grant, 25, third NFL season
My goal is the Hall of Fame
“My why is my Mom. I watched my Mom work her butt off, raising three growing young men. And we didn’t make it easy on her. And so my job is to do whatever I can, to make sure that my Mom doesn’t have to work again. And I always feel like I haven’t done that. That’s still my why. But my why is always changing. My why is to make sure that my kids never need anything ever in their life. And the thing is constantly as I continue to progress it continues to become something else. My oldest brother always told me: ‘Now that you made it to the NFL, your dream was to make it to the NFL, now what?’ And so my why is the gold jacket. I want to be in the Hall of Fame. I have a picture in my binder so I see it every day. Hall of Fame. Gold jacket. Hall of Fame. Gold jacket. Once you think it, once you believe it, you have that why, that will, there is no telling what you can do. If I can make it to the Hall of Fame, my Mom would be set for life. My kids would be set for life. I want to be explosive. I want to be dynamic. I want to be unstoppable. And that’s exactly what I want to do.”