FYS 008 | WaterBoys

008: Chris Long – NFL Defensive End & WaterBoys.org Founder

FYS 008 | WaterBoys

Chris Long is currently a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams as the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Chris played for the New England Patriots last year and was involved in one the the greatest comebacks ever by winning the Super Bowl. He played college football at Virginia, where he was recognized as a unanimous All-American. He is also the founder of Waterboys.org which builds water wells in Tanzania for the people of the Maasai Tribe. It is through this platform, he has now built 23 wells and saved thousands of lives. He is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long — Mark’s former teammate.

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I’m really excited to have this guy on the podcast. His name is Chris Long. For those of you who do not know, I actually played with his father, Howie, with the Raiders. Chris is the son. He’s played now going into his tenth year going to play for the Eagles. Chris was a number two draft pick years ago for the Rams, then went on and played with the Patriots that won the Super Bowl, probably the most epic Super Bowl ever played in the history of the game. We talked about that. Where it really gets cool is how I met Chris was down in Tanzania. He is the Founder of Waterboys.org, so it’s the whole mission of going out and building water wells within Tanzania for the Maasai tribe people. We just had a great experience doing that, raising money and then actually climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with six other NFL players and some Green Berets. This is a great episode and it really shows how Chris has taken his platform, developed it and understands where he’s at in terms of what he can do to affect change. He’s done that. It’s amazing just as simple as that is to build a water well and what that can do for a community. As always, please go in rate and review on iTunes. It helps us out and we just get the word going further. It’s greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for that.’

Listen to the Podcast Here:

Chris Long – NFL Defensive End & WaterBoys.org Founder

I’m talking to Chris Long who was with the Patriots, now with the Philly Eagles. I got to know Chris down in Tanzania, Africa during a project called Waterboys that he’s founded. Chris, how are you doing?

I’m doing real good. How are you?

I am doing fantastic. It’s so great to have you on. I know we’ve been trying to battle back and forth with all your commitments and with the NFL and switching teams. I wanted to do this podcast for a while and you’ve got so much interesting stuff going on, I just want to get into it. I appreciate you coming on.

Thanks for having me.

I think you were born in Santa Monica?

Yeah. I was born in Santa Monica and grew up in Redondo the first couple years of my life, then Palos Verdes, and now moved to Virginia at eight years old and it’s been home ever since.

I want to jump forward and then I want to go back. I actually played with Chris’ dad, Howie Long. Howie is a very famous guy. He was a fantastic football player, a Hall of Famer. I had the good fortune of rubbing elbows with him for a few years and he’s just a great guy, a solid guy. There are probably not a lot of guys who can actually say this, but I remember Chris when we were sitting on top of Kilimanjaro and I came over and I sat next to you. I put my arm around you and I said, “How many guys can say that I’ve climbed with you, Chris Long, and I’ve played with Howie?”

You’ve got to cross some generational gaps there and stay in good shape.

I’ve tried to do that. You were a little bit delirious after a while up. We were exposed at such a long time up on top, so you probably don’t remember that but I do. It was very crystal clear for me. It was a great moment.

Summit day was tough, but we had a great group.

What I wanted to do is go back a little bit and start with your upbringing. You grew up on the East Coast, right?

Yeah, largely. Ever since I was eight, Virginia has been home and I grew up in Virginia. It’s been home. It’s nice to be back on the East Coast playing football now, although I do miss the Midwest a little bit. That was a cool experience.

What was that like growing up with Howie as your dad? I know Howie the teammate. You are one of the few guys in America who grew up with an American icon, who really what he has become, and the pressure that maybe you felt or didn’t feel or the way he groomed you guys. He has three sons and two of them become number one first round draft choices, right?

Yeah. I think a testament to him genetically for sure. He’s a great player, a great athlete.

First of all, I know it’s your mom. It’s not Howie.

It’s my mom, Diane, too. She was a solid amateur tennis player and continues to be, so that was it. My third brother, Howie, he’s now in football as well as a personnel guy in Oakland. Everybody found their way back into the game, which the irony there for us is that my parents never steered me towards playing football and following in dad’s footsteps. Actually, it was quite the opposite. I think anybody who goes through a decade or more in the NFL realizes what a toll it takes on your body. I’m reaching that time period. The last thing I want my son, Waylon, to do is play in the NFL but it just happened that way. It’s a wonderful lifestyle. We do get compensated heavily for playing a game that we all love, but there are sacrifices and we feel them. That wasn’t what my pops wanted us to do, but it just worked out that way. He did a terrific job of focusing on who are we as people. We’re not special because of what my dad does. We’re no different than anybody else and I think that’s helped along the way. I continue to learn a lot from him as a father and obviously, I’ve got a great mother as well.

He was always a very committed guy, dedicated guy and the type of teammate you’d want to have, really follow that same path. Going back to saying you were never pushed necessarily in that direction, I think you were a pretty good lacrosse player. Lacrosse is obviously a huge sport. It’s starting to come out here in the West Coast, but mainly an East Coast thing.

I explain people lacrosse and I also played baseball and a little bit of basketball. Basketball was probably just a good exercise sport for me. I didn’t have much of a jump shot. For me, I guess baseball and lacrosse were my favorite. As I got older, my body started to change and as I started working out hard for football, I stopped being able to hit the curveball. You just naturally gravitate to what you’re going to be good at. Any kid that is deciding on a sport, I think they always go with what makes them feel the best. For me, that was football because it was what I was best at. Lacrosse is a lot of fun. It’s a very athletic game. It is moving out to the West Coast. My wife actually played at Virginia. The way I would explain lacrosse to people that don’t know anything about it geographically is you start in the Mid-Atlantic and the further North you go, the better, all the way up to Long Island. The epicenter is Baltimore to Long Island. Down in Virginia, we’re pretty good too. Now, it’s moving out West. Actually, in St. Louis, it’s developing as well. I think when I retire I might get into some men’s leagues. It’s a good workout. It’s a lot of fun. It’s like pick a basketball with a stick.

Going back to your basketball we were talking about that your dad, we used to workout at a place called the Spectrum up here in Manhattan Beach. During the off-season, he’d be playing basketball. He would want to take the ball down the court like Charles Barkley and there always seemed to be like these weekend warriors that want to go out there and be that guy to take the charge. Your dad would come barreling down the court and he’s built like you. These guys would just take the charge. They were like 5’7”, buck fifty. He’d just run them over like a freight train. It was just great comedy to sit there on the outside and say, “Who’s the next dude that’s going to step up and take this on versus just let the guy go?”

My dad also thought he was a perimeter play. I don’t know if you remember that, but he thought he was like a two-guard. It was a jump shot every other time down the court. I’ve seen him play hoops. He’s actually not bad. He’s better than I was.

For me, when I was back in high school, things came very easy and the game has developed a lot where there are specialty camps and you’re lifting a lot more and things like that. Certainly, there’s a generational thing here going on. I want to get into Virginia. The University of Virginia is probably the most beautiful campus I’ve ever been on, just incredible and very colonial. I remember when I first went to the University of Washington, we had this famous coach, Don James, and I looked out there and all these guys were developed emotionally, spiritually, physically. They were ready to play in the Pac-10 in those days. Now, it’s the Pac-12. I just was not there. It’s really where I grew up in and where I really found myself in terms of what do I want to be, “Do I want to be that guy or am I going to be this other person that never made it full of potential?” For you, growing up, did you excel in high school or did you think it really came on when you were at Virginia? You ended up being a number one draft pick in All-America and all this stuff, but was that from freshman when you came in you were on that trajectory or did you have to work to get to that spot?

No, I had to work at it. As much God-given talent as I have and certainly more talented than most people in high school and by a lesser margin in college and as you get older, in the NFL, everybody’s talented, but I was always a grinder. I was a worker. I was a late bloomer in high school. I wasn’t one of these kids that came out freshman year and dominated. I had to wait my turn a little bit. UVA was slightly the same way. I was a four-star out of five-star recruit. With all these recruiting services that are popping up, now it wasn’t quite that way. Around the turn of the century, it was getting big. I used to read things about I was overrated, it was just because of my dad that I even got an offer. That’s where I think it really motivated me. When I got to UVA, I contributed but I didn’t light on fire early. I was more of a nickel package sub-down guy. Just slowly, I grinded away at it and improved every year. It was a struggle though. Like you alluded to, you learned a lot about yourself at every level. In high school, I was being developed. My coach, John Blake, is still a great friend and a good mentor to me. Actually, my college coach, Al Groh, came by my house, so I remain close with all those guys because they all had a big role in developing me as a man. To your point, I think when I got to Virginia is when I really became a man and was really challenged. I do believe as a football player and a person, you’re always growing up and you’re developing. It’s not like you hit some age and you’re like, “Now, I’m an adult.” I think through my career in the NFL, I’ve also been able to grow as a man and as a football player and my mindset has changed all the time, so it’s a journey.

I know that really kicks in too once you get married and you have kids, what you just had and that’s been a big moment for you, which is great. You go on and you have this great career at Virginia and now you’re the number two pick of the NFL. You go to the Rams, St. Louis in LA, so things come full circle. What was that like? The expectations, there was some losing going on. That must have been tough, right?

FYS 008 | WaterBoys

Expectations and criticism and pressure, they help shape you and they help strengthen you if you don’t back down from the challenge.

Yeah, no doubt about it. When I look at all my accomplishments up to the draft and through the draft, it was always about pressure, “What did your dad do? Can you live up to this? Can you live up to that?” I do regret not being able to at times just enjoy the accomplishment of it like, “You’re the first person in your family to do a remarkable thing.” There’s always an expectation hanging over your head. At the end of the day, expectations and criticism and pressure, they help shape you and they help strengthen you if you don’t back down from the challenge. For me when I got drafted, I think where some people might look at it like, “This is an accomplishment. I’ve made it,” I always looked at it like, “What’s the next challenge? This is a challenge. It’s a privilege but there’s pressure with this and I have to live up to something. This isn’t an accomplishment. This is just the beginning.” I also was cognizant of the fact that I’m going to a team that had won one or two games a year before it was in turmoil. Anytime you’re a good college player, it’s almost better to be a middle of the first round guy. You get about a fourth of the expectations on the three times a better team. That’s going to be more conducive to you performing. I knew it was going to be a struggle. How do you go rush a pass turn and put up big numbers without leads when the ball is constantly being run off? That was what I knew I was going into and I just braced for it. It never quite got better as far as our success on the team but I don’t regret any of it.

That can be a tough spot. I was a seventh round draft pick. I remember the first round guys always have this massive pressure to live up to. If you’re not delivering at a certain level, there’s a lot of criticisms. It’s like you can only go down, versus for me, all I’ve got to do is go up.

We’re lucky to be picked that high. I was one of the last guys in the old CBA, so we were overpaid. For our value to the team, anybody who was drafted in the first round was going to naturally be overpaid. You’re not going to give the money back. You’re going to do your best and try to do the most you can with it. Rookies come into the league and play in locker rooms where they’re making more money than guys that have been in the league ten years and proving themselves over and over again. You have to be cognizant of that, be humble, be thankful for those veterans and show them that you’re about your business when you walk in.

My first year was solid. I played well. It wasn’t like I went out and had ten sacks but I played well and I was transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3. When things got tough for me was my second year. That was a very long year. I looked up week eight and I didn’t have a sack. We were really bad. Not only was I not playing that well, I hit a wall where my development had stalled. I just remember the top boss, “This guy can’t play. What the hell is going on?” When really if I had gotten drafted a little bit somewhere else, they’d probably say, “This guy is a pretty good player.” That’s just part of the privilege of being drafted in the first round. I remember a crossroads about halfway through that second year where I had to say, “I’m either going to accept my fate as being a disappointment or I’m going to take it up a notch and change my preparation, change the way I go about things.” I thought I was working hard, but I just stuck to the vets and learned a little bit. Second half of the year, I had five sacks and the next four years, I had over 40. It was that turning point that got me to cement my reputation as a solid player in the league.

The name of this podcast is called Finding Your Summit and I think in some cases, there are some guys who have really struggled and maybe it’s financially or I’ve got some guys coming on the podcast, one guy doesn’t have arms or legs. You look at that situation and you go, “Oh my god,” relative to that. I think for you, you had a lot of things going for you but it’s all relative to your own situation. The money was a by-product of what you’re able to achieve in college. I’ve spent twelve days with you in Africa and I see the type of guy you are. It matters to you. Your pride matters and wanting to do better, and what’s the next thing. You’re not looking back and saying, “I was the number one draft pick.” You’re more going, “I’m not there. I’m struggling. There’s adversity. We’re losing and that’s not fun. What can I do to make things better?” That’s what this whole thing is about.

Sometimes I’m way too down the middle and I don’t want to judge people, but I think as players and as people sometimes, I think when you’re not doing well or you’re not doing good enough, it’s never 100% your fault. When you’re doing great and you’re on top of the mountain, you never did it all alone. There are always circumstances either way. I think that helps you keep a humble mindset and realize that there are so many outside forces and variables that go in to somebody’s success or failure on a football field: scheme, the team, how they’re playing, injury and things you can’t control. All you can control, and this is obviously a Howie-ism, is your hard work and your toughness. Those things you can control and you’ve got to deal with the consequences of where the chips fall. At that point, I was at peace with whatever happened. Luckily, it turned out to turn in the right direction for me.

I really did talk about preparation meets opportunity and opportunity then breeds confidence. You’re going through this up and down rollercoaster for you in terms of losing and now it’s about an individual, “How can I help the team in the best way?” You’re down in St. Louis for eight years and then you get the magic call to go play with the Patriots. It was the outhouse to the penthouse in terms of the success that they have had. You end up going to the flipping Super Bowl and winning the whole thing. I never went to a Super Bowl. I went to a lot of great things, Rose Bowls and Orange Bowls but I was never in a Super Bowl. What was that like? It was probably the most epic Super Bowl of all time. It was insane.

I joke with people about being down 23 points at the half. I think I might have been better equipped than someone in the Patriots to be down 23 at the half because I had a lot of practice at it in St. Louis. For eight years, seven wins was a ceiling for us and we never could quite get over the hump. I absolutely loved my teammates there and we had a really good defensive line and had tons of really good defense. We just could never get over the hump. I still look back and I miss those guys and I miss those days. Even though they were tough, I really found a way to enjoy my teammates and enjoy the challenge. It tested you every day, but then you get to New England and it tests you in a different way. After my seventh and eighth year, I went through two one-play injuries. I broke my leg and had ankle surgery. That was another crossroads where it was like, “I could either just throw in the towel or try to get back up off the mat one more time and just go see what it feels like to win.” I didn’t know what kind of football player I would still be. I thought maybe my body was shot. I’m on the north side of 30. I’m coming off of two major injuries. I just said, “If I’m going to take a shot at something, I’m going to take a shot at something big.” I got in contact with Bill and we made it happen. I was making less money than I ever made.

FYS 008 | WaterBoys

It absolutely tests you in a different way because you go from being the man on the team for a long time and struggling.

It absolutely tests you in a different way because you go from being the man on the team for a long time and struggling. There’s pressure with struggling and there’s pressure with losing, but to go into a team that hasn’t been out of the playoffs for years and has played in seven Super Bowls or whatever, to playing with hall of famers to your left and to your right, that’s a different expectation. I had no issues fitting into the team concept. I love that and I love just playing my role and as I say up there, “Do your job.” It was a wild ride to look up at the end of the season and say we have fourteen wins. That’s double anything I’d ever had. It’s a different culture up there. I think it all starts with Tom, but having Bill and having that culture, it’s like the perfect storm for success. They are two plays away from being seven-time Super Bowl champions in this period and I was able to be a part of one. I’ll always be thankful I took that chance because it was a chance for me. I didn’t really have a position in that defense and I’m coming in as the new guy, old, people don’t know what to think of you, you’ve been hurt, but I took the chance and it paid off.

You could really tell that you were so grateful to be in that moment. It wasn’t just like, “Party.” Your kid was down there and your wife and I know there was a moment where you and your dad were sitting on the FOX booth there talking and it choked up your dad. You can probably appreciate that more now that you have a son. How old is your son?

He’s sixteen months now.

He’s a little guy but he’s the world to you just like Howie’s kids mean everything.

Being a father, I tried to imagine it through his eyes and it’s unimaginable because I’m at the time just watching him take his first steps and all that stuff. The ride must be crazy as a parent to play the game for thirteen years, know everything I’m going through as I enter my ninth and tenth season and watch me lose, watch me fail, watch me succeed. Now on the biggest stage, we were a part of that biggest comeback in Super Bowl history when everybody thought we were dead to rights. It was a special moment and it goes by like a tornado. It just comes and goes so fast. From the minute you run on the field and you tackle your buddies and then you look for your wife and your son, you’re just trying to find your family in the sea of people, to the moment where the parade which is a blur for a lot of other reasons, to that ending and everybody jets off out of town and it’s over. Especially if you’re moving on to a different team, it’s always going to be one of the best memories of my life easily, but it was over in a flash.

Did you go to the White House?

I did not go to the White House.

Now, you’re literally moving on. Jim Mora and I and six other NFL players were invited to go along with Chris Long’s Waterboys foundation to go down to Tanzania to raise a bunch of money to help build water wells for the Maasai tribe, the people in the Serengeti. It was amazing. Then we climbed the mountain. While we were actually on the mountain, Chris had a sat phone and he’s now in this free agency period trying to figure it out. There were a lot of conversations with Jim Mora, who spent 25 years in the NFL, about what he thinks and where he’d go. He knows everybody out there. He pretty much called it as it was going to play out. There was a flurry of certain guys that got taken first, swept up and you were in that second wave and it all worked out for you. You’re headed to Philly, right?

Yeah, no doubt about it. When you’re up on that mountain, you know you don’t need to sign fast, but your fear is that you’re not going to get a call and they’re not going to wait. I don’t know how many free agents go with the, “I’m sorry, I was on a mountain in Africa” excuse, “I didn’t have service.” That doesn’t come up for GMs too much. We had the sat phone and that was handy. I got home, took a little time and just wanted to go to a team that better fit my skill set from a schematics standpoint and try to prove that I can still be the player I was a couple of years ago, which was a player that was highly disruptive, highly productive and more of a center piece on a D line. I looked to the Eagles and they ran the same type of defense we ran. Whereas New England is more of a 3-4, you end up in the side a lot.

You’re a situational guy, right?

Yeah. I was an every third down guy. Through the season, I played a ton of snaps on first and second down but in the playoffs, we played a couple of gap-scheme teams, which means a lot of double teams down there on that three-technique. I’m 258 pounds, it’s just not a great fit. In the playoffs, I ended up as a third down guy, which is a lot of fun. I’d rather do third down than first or second down on my age. At the end of the day, I wanted to be an every down guy. I thought I was going to keep playing. Philly for me is a really good fit and I’m excited about it.

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news for you is you got that call. You were just talking about you were waiting on the call, you were on the mountains, who’s going to pick you up. That was the good news. The bad news is I never got the call. I’m trying to mount my comeback.

I hear you. Maybe I’ll talk to somebody in Philly. You can come join us in this 95. You might just explode with the humidity there.

I got it. I played in New Orleans, so I understand humidity. You saw me throw the football up there with all the Tanzanians, so I was practicing a little bit and I saw you practice your game, ripping those guys a little bit. That was great, a lot of fun. That was at about 13,000 feet when we were doing that, so that was a blast. I love your football career and who wouldn’t? Just an amazing resume in terms of what you’ve been able to accomplish. I want to ask you because we actually have never talked about the whole Waterboys thing. There are no waterboys at all, there’s nothing. I remember when I originally had climbed Kilimanjaro five years ago, I was down there. I was floored to see all these women walking with these Gatorade-looking buckets around Arusha and up on the mountain, going two, three miles to go get water and then bring that water back and would boil it and make food. I looked at it and I was just like, “I can’t believe they’re doing this.” The thing after being invited and seeing what you had done, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t taken that opportunity because I felt the same thing. I saw the same thing as you but I didn’t act on it, and you did. Why did you go to Africa to start? Why did you go to Tanzania? What was that moment for you that it clicked like, “I want to do something about this?”

For me, Africa was a trip where I was feeling unsettled. Year six of my career, I was playing well but football still isn’t completely fulfilling to me. I’m the guy that gets jealous of the people that get to go to Peace Corps and go build houses in Costa Rica and they’re like, “I want to be in the NFL.” I’m like, “I want to do what you do.” I get this fear of missing out when I hear about people travelling the world, so I went to Tanzania to climb this mountain. I like to climb around home in the Blue Ridge. This is obviously a different level, but it was the perfect challenge for me geographically and physically and emotionally and mentally to make me feel like I had busted out of this box I was living in, this football-only box. I went with a former teammate, James Hall, who now works for the 49ers. We climbed and had a really good time. It was a great challenge but amidst all that I really saw some of the things that you mentioned. For me, it was more generally the scale of poverty in comparison to what we define as poverty in the United States.

Obviously, we have our problems here and they need to be addressed and fixed. This is a region and this is a country that goes through so many hardships in a really stoic manner. People living in these conditions are appreciative, smiling, and they have an energy and exuberance for life that I noticed and I just said, “I want to be a good traveler. This place gave me such a beautiful experience. I want to come back and do something.” I don’t know what it is but I stumbled into meeting some people that were with a group called Worldserve International, which has been putting in wells for ten years. I said, “Let’s do something in the NFL that hasn’t been done before, and that’s a community of people pushing for clean water. Not just one well, not just two wells, but different markets and we’ll shoot for 32 wells.”

You come up with this idea and it’s not a joint venture, but it’s your own foundation. The idea was to go around, 32 represents 32 different football teams, so trying to get one representative from each team to go out and each well costs $30,000 to $45,000 to go do. By putting a guy in that particular market, the hope is that he can go out with his circle of friends, raise enough money to fund a well. You have now successfully funded 23 wells, is that right?

We have funded 23, $1.3 million, 70,000 people with clean water, so we’ve come a long way.

Jim Mora and I were invited along with this other group, six or seven NFL players, Chris Long and then four Green Berets, three of which got two amputees and one blind guy, so it’s just an amazing experience to go down there. Jim and I, our goal together was to raise $15,000 and we put a really hard push on it. We were fortunate with our network of friends to raise over $47,000 which funded one of those wells. I want to let you know how appreciative I am too that you guys allowed us to dedicate well number eighteen to my dad who passed away five, six years ago and to another kid, Nick Pasquale, that passed away a young freshman at UCLA about four or five years ago as well. I saw the plaque, it’s on a well, it brought tears to my eyes to see that. My dad was such a standup guy and a type of guy that’s super humble and the type of person that actually did go down to Mexico and pound nails and help build homes. It is so fitting for him to be perpetuity in Africa amongst one of these villages. It really touched Jim and I in a really profound way in terms of how grateful they were for providing water. For us, we just turn around and walk three feet and you flip a switch and here it comes. Down there, they’re going two, three miles and dirty water and disease and girls getting raped and just the myriad of awful things that happen.

FYS 008 | WaterBoys

Imagine the efficiency that our world would run on and the efficiency that these communities would run on if everyone had clean water.

It’s a huge issue for the obvious that children under five years old are dying disproportionately due to water-borne illnesses. You have half the hospital beds in the world filled with people that are suffering from water-borne illnesses. Imagine the efficiency that our world would run on and the efficiency that these communities would run on if everyone had clean water. It’s a huge task. It’s not just Africa. It’s all over the world. For us, we’re not trying to solve the world water crisis but we’re saving lives. Every day that we’re taking calls, we’re trying to recruit new Waterboys or recruiting retired players. It’s what makes it worthwhile. I never feel like, “This is a pain in the ass,” because we’re lucky to be able to do something like this with our resources. I tell the story about when we were at about 13,000 feet, that camp where we were playing football with some of the porters. Our porters who we began to get a real rapport with as you do in a tent on the mountain all day hadn’t ever asked us why we were there, who we were or what we did. I don’t think they knew what was going on at all. I remember sitting there outside the tent and one of our porters found out what it was we were doing there and he broke down into tears. He just told us how important the cause was and how appreciative he was. That gave me that second wind to reaffirm what we’re doing and to reaffirm that we’re not doing this to make ourselves feel good. Sure we feel good about it, but we’re doing this to save lives and to even the scales a little bit. We have so much in this country. The least we can do is something like this.

What happens when you get to 32?

When we get to 32, we have some more big plans. I didn’t think we’d get to 32 this quick. I would venture a guess that we’re going to get there by the end of the year. I just wrapped up a call with our Waterboys this year, setting out the goal to get to 32 and the numbers it’ll take to get there. I think in the future, there might be some regional expansion. There might be a new goal. I think eventually, as I pass this thing on to other active players when I retire and take slightly more of a backseat role, still an administrative presence, but we need active players. I think our goal is very attainable at a million people. I think at 32, we’ll be well over 100,000 people. Just imagine if we do this for the next twenty years and the momentum grows and our reputation grows, we should be able to provide water for a million people. I believe in that reality and I think we can reach it.

It’s just an amazing thing that you’re doing. You have this amazing career. You’re still playing, which is incredible. What I think has happened is that you’ve seen life. Your purpose is really not about being a football player. Your real purpose is creating that platform. That platform has allowed you to do this thing, which you’re literally saving lives of all these people. It’s just amazing the amount of people you’ve affected. Then there’s this ricochet effect where you’re inviting guys like myself and Mora and Nick Hardwick and Kirstie Ennis and Nate Boyer and all these guys who now are going to their communities, their network and making those people aware of what’s going on. The big term down there in Africa, which is so simple yet so profound is, “Water is life.” You just don’t think about it the way you described it in terms of it’s a trickle down. It has to start there and then everything else comes together within a community.

It’s just amazing to think about. Everybody has got their causes. You played in the NFL and there are guys with all different types of very worthy causes. The thing I love about clean water is it’s easily trackable in your progress. It’s simple for people to understand once they see it and it’s lifesaving. It’s very relevant right now. We have dealt with some water shortages in our country. We think we’re bulletproof when as soon as we see what it’s like when our watersheds are polluted or our infrastructure goes down like in Flint or there’s corruption, we see the way it can affect a community. We’re not bulletproof and eventually we’re going to have to face these issues as a planet. Another thing we’re getting into with the Waterboys eventually is conservation efforts, educating people on their watersheds and what we’re doing to avoid another Flint. That’s the very thing is I could never do this as one player. Certainly, I’ve got a decent name in the NFL but I’m trying to get as many big names in as many places as we can get because if I start something in St. Louis or Boston or Philly, I’m just one guy in one market. It’s the network aspect of it that really makes this thing go. I constantly like to refer to this as a we thing. I know my face is on the website but if you go on the website, you’ll see that we have so many guys that have been involved and they all put equity into this thing. At the end of the day, we just have such a big platform.

If anybody wants to donate, where would they do that?

They could go check out Waterboys.org and you can follow the directions on that page. There are opportunities to donate individually. There are opportunities to form teams for donation. We have a lot of cool, creative ways that people can join together as businesses or groups and there are sponsorship opportunities. We’ve gotten very creative in fundraising. What we really rely on is these $5, $7 donations. A lot of people might think it doesn’t matter if you donate $5 or $7, “What am I really doing?” The information is out there that you can calculate what $5 would do for an individual who doesn’t have clean water. It’s very trackable and it’s very easy to digest when you look at the numbers why $5 really matters.

In addition to Waterboys.org where you can go and you can donate, I also have on my website, MarkPattisonNFL.com, there’s a Philanthropy section in there where you can go in and everything goes directly to the Waterboys.

We appreciate that. The forces of the universe, they bring people together and that whole trip, guys like yourself, Jim, guys like Louis and Nick and even Nate. I never thought I’d be climbing a mountain with such a cool collection of people, Kirstie, who I just saw in LA. It’s a lifetime bond and we were lucky to all find each other.

What everybody doesn’t know is that there is this constant goofy texting chain that all the guys that went down there, the Marine, Green Beret guys and the NFL guys, that it has to be rated and censored. It’s just we do something, we do something great where everybody in the ecosystem wins. Now we created this bond between ourselves because we came together in twelve days and just all these new friends and each one individually is going out and doing their own thing now. It’s a cool deal. Chris, this has been awesome. I so appreciate it. I know you and I have been bouncing back and forth trying to put this together. I knew I wanted to stay on you because I knew it would be worth the effort. You’re a deep guy. You’re a thoughtful guy. You’ve accomplished so much, but I think you’re just getting going.

I hope so. As you know and I’m figuring out, football is not your life, it’s just part of it. The most rewarding stuff oftentimes is the stuff we do outside of it. I will say this. When we climbed that mountain, it was just as emotional as winning a Super Bowl and seeing Kirstie, the first woman above-the-knee amputee, get into the summit. That is something special. Football gave us the opportunity to do something like this. It’s not always about the football. I appreciate everything you’ve done and Jim has done and my Manhattan Beach crew. I love tracking the podcast, so I’ll keep doing that.

Good luck with the Eagles. I hope to be a part in some capacity I already am with Waterboys going forward.

Talk to you soon.

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