171: Joe is a former NFL player that after 8 years decided to retire, give away all this stuff, buy a Van, get a dog named Freedom and got hit the road for 8 months. Talk about self discovery of driving around the US, meeting new people and getting outside his comfort zone

October 2, 2020

Joe Hawley

Joe Hawley discusses his choice to take his college football efforts to UNLV as a California guy. “I really wanted to go to UCLA but they said my grades weren’t good enough, which I knew was bulls**t because I played in an All-Star game with a bunch of UCLA commits that had worse grades than me. UCLA never offered me. I did get offers from Arizona, Oregon. But they were schools that wanted me to commit right away. I wanted to do my due diligence and figure out which school I wanted to go to. The reason I went to UNLV was because it was close to home.”

On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, we talk with Joe Hawley, Former NFL Football Player with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Founder The Hart Collective and Man Van Dog Blog. Joe Hawley shares what he learned after playing for two NFL teams. “A lot of ups and downs. It was not a smooth journey. It came with a lot of lessons. A lot of people talk about how hard it is to make it to the NFL and not a lot of people talk about how hard it is to stay in the NFL once you get there. They are constantly working to replace you. There is younger talent, cheaper talent always coming in. So, to have a long career is probably even harder than getting there.”

What You Will Learn:

What can the Raiders expect as a lifestyle change when they move to Las Vegas? “What was it like going to school at UNLV? I went there from 17 to 21 in that prime age of trying to figure myself out. I didn’t have any experience to relate it to. When I finally got drafted, playing with these guys that went to the University of Alabama, and Florida, and these normal college experiences. I didn’t have that so it was all I knew at the time. As far as going there as a professional athlete, I’m sure there are going to be issues and challenges, especially with young guys coming into money for the first time. That town is tempting. There are a lot of temptations.”

What does Las Vegas mean to Joe Hawley? As far as the city and somebody that loves Vegas as a city, because I played there and I go back there a lot, and I have really connected with it, I think (Las Vegas Raiders) is really good for the city. They are going to have a really huge fanbase. I know they just brought professional hockey there for the first time a couple of years ago, the Knights, and the community really rallied behind them. It’s a really fun atmosphere, and I think it is going to be really good for the NFL to have a team in Vegas because every Sunday it is going to bring a lot of people into the city.”

What was his transition from college football to the NFL like for him? “Going from a school like UNLV where I was one of the best players on the roster, obviously, and I played against NFL talent a few times in the year; I played some good schools. But, getting to the NFL, you are playing against the best in the world every day in practice, and that is such a huge step up to perform at such a high level. It really challenges you. I dealt with a lot of doubt. Do I belong here from such a small school?”

Joe Hawley, talks about coming to the end of his professional football career with the NFL. “My eighth year I lost my job for the fifth time and I realised that I was tired of having to prove myself. So I knew my eighth year after training camp going into that year, I was on the sidelines. I was actually an inactive player, until the final three games. I was content. It was the first time in my life that I was not fired up for being on the sideline. Usually, with my competitive nature I always wanted to be out there competing with my teammates.”

How did he go from football to exploring in his van? “I started wanting to visit family and friends and people all over the country. I didn’t first buy the van expecting to kind of, “find myself.” But that is exactly kind of what happened. I’m really grateful for having played so much football. I played eight years in the NFL. I was basically footballed out by the time I walked away. I walked away on my own terms and it was still really hard for me. I always had this idea that football is something that I did and not who I was. I always tried to be really conscious of the fact that I didn’t want my identity to be lost in that. But that still didn’t prepare me for when it was over.”

Ford Diesel Cargo Van and a Dog Named Freedom

 Joe Hawley describes how he began traveling with his pet dog. “Before I hit the road I knew I wanted a travel companion. I knew the road might be a lonely place. I ended up going to a few different shelters. I wanted to rescue a dog and ended up coming across ‘Freedom’ about a month before I hit the road and that wasn’t her name when I got her. Her name was like Emilia or something…I was driving home after I rescued her and thinking of a name and I just connected with this idea that I just rescued this dog who was in this shelter in this cage that looks really beat up, really lonely, really isolated, and metaphorically I felt like I was finally breaking free of a cage.”

Shedding Wordly Possessions

During this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, Joe Hawley talks about donating all of his furniture and possessions to the Metropolitan Ministries of Tampa Bay. “When I was first hitting the road I had a couple of options of what to do with my stuff. I knew I didn’t want to put it in storage because I would just have to pay for that. I didn’t know how long the trip was going to be. It was sort of symbolically part of this old life that I wanted to say goodbye to and move on from and really be free of.”

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