I’ve got a great guy, Nick Hardwick, eleven-year NFL pro for the San Diego Chargers. Nick was a guy who I met down in Tanzania when we climbed Kilimanjaro on the Waterboys Project. I just found the guy so fascinating. He will be the color guy for the San Diego Chargers, now the LA Chargers, moving up here north and he also does a drive and show in the morning. He’s just a fascinating guy. This is the guy who did not even play high school football and didn’t play at Purdue for two years, he finally walked on. To overcome that, figure it out, get drafted in the third round was just really amazing. Then all of that, he was a center and then drops all this weight, 295 now down to 225. Fascinating, smart guy, brilliant and a lot of fun to do.
Listen to the podcast here:
Nick Hardwick – Broadcaster and Former San Diego Charger
I’m in Hermosa Beach, World HQ from my recording studio. I’ve got a fantastic guest on. His name is Nick Hardwick, an eleven-year NFL pro. This guy is super fascinating on a lot of different levels. Nick, a lot of these things that we’re going to talk about, I actually didn’t know. I met Nick in Tanzania. We just got done on a climbing project. Nick, welcome to the show.
Mark, thank you for having me. I appreciate it. I’ve got to say I’m pretty jealous. I don’t have a world headquarters myself.
Anybody who has a studio has got to have a world headquarters. I decided to put my stake in the ground right here and it’s a good spot. There are not a lot of mountains exactly on the beach but it’s a great platform to launch from.
There’s plenty of training in Hermosa Beach, right?
There are tons of training. Our common buddy, Jim Mora, he and I train all the time down the beach and going up in the mountains and run stairs around here. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of people. You’re down in San Diego, so it’s a very engaged outdoor enthusiast community to be out. It feeds on top of each other. This story blows me away. I’ve got to be honest, when I met you, I just knew you were Nick Hardwick, the former NFL player of the San Diego Chargers and that’s how I identified you with. Until I did further research, this blew me away. The name of this podcast is called Finding Your Summit. A lot of this is not about the shiny outside package that I think a lot of times a lot of people see especially with NFL football players or professional athletes. It’s really about coming upon challenges that you have overcome or things that you want to take on. Here you are, a guy that grows up in Indianapolis, fast forwarding the clock and then I want to go back, you ended up being a third-round draft choice but you didn’t play high school football. How does that work in the first two years? You just sat on the sidelines and you were just a guy going to school at Purdue and you said, “I’m going to go out and try on the football team.” The next thing you know you’re being drafted and you’ve got this great career and that’s turned into all these other things. How did that happen?
I was a really small kid growing up. I was a late bloomer. I was a late kid to puberty. I didn’t hit puberty really until going into my junior year of high school. My freshman year, I was five foot four inches tall, 125 pounds. I was a football player all the way from third grade up until eighth grade. I was okay. I was tough, I like to get dirty, I like to mix it up, but I was really underdeveloped. As kids started to hit puberty, I started to get passed up. There were two feeder schools that fed into my high school program. I went to one of the middle schools. It was a really garbage football program. We got an invite to training camp two weeks later than everybody else. They had already started training camp by the time I showed up. Fast forward a little bit, no playing time in my freshman year. I didn’t play. I don’t remember one down my freshman year, which probably saved me a little bit because I was so small, 5’4”, 125.
That’s amazing considering you’re at your peak in the NFL which you became, which is 295 pounds.
My biggest I ever got was 308. I went off season after I had a Lisfranc surgery. I was non-weightbearing for twelve weeks. I’ve got all the way up to 308. My body wasn’t really built to carry that. I shifted my focus in high school wrestling and I became a wrestler and that was my gig. That was what my passion was. I found some really good coaches who during that time in your life, you’re pushing back from your own parents at home. You’re trying to establish your own identity. I found some really excellent coaches to mentor me in high school wrestling. That became where all the foundation for my future success happened. I had some real epiphany moments in my high school wrestling career that led me to all of my later successes.
What weight were you wrestling at? There are these different divisions as you go up, so that’s one. Second, what were those moments that really helped to shape your future?
My freshman year, I wrestled 135. My sophomore year I wrestled 145. My junior and senior year I wrestled a 171 pounds both. There were a couple of really big moments in there. One, we used to have this mantra, and you can look it up online, but there’s this poem. It’s by an anonymous author and it’s called It’s All A State of Mind. We used to carry this card in our wallet, every one of us and we get in this dog pile before a meet, after practice. We’d all get in this big, sweaty dogpile, you could imagine how breathy it was in there. We get in there and we’d all recite this whole poem, three verses of this poem and we go through it, “Solid state of mind. If you think you’re beaten, you are. If you think you dare not, you don’t. If you’d like to win, but think you can, it’s almost a cinch you won’t. If you think you’ll lose your loss for out in the world, you’ll find success begins with a fellow’s will. It’s all a state of mind.” Then it goes on for two more verses. The moral of the story is you’re only as good as your mind will allow you to be. That was a real big thing. It just became my mantra over and over again. After tough losses, that would be my thing. I’m going to get over this.
I really have this goal after my freshman year of winning the State Championship. In Indianapolis, the State Championship used to be where the Pacers played and it still is, but it switched arenas now. They would put a spotlight on a single mat in the middle of what was Market Square Arena. I think it seated 18,000 at the time and there would be 15,000 wrestling fans from all over Indiana. I really wanted to be in the spotlight and run out of the tunnel and have him introduce me and all of my accolades. I usually ended up getting to do that my senior year but it wasn’t before a nineteen and twenty sophomore year wrestling season where I was just awful. Then I hit a growth spurt. I hit puberty. Going into my junior year, made it to the state tournament, got knocked out and then I made it to the finals. I ended up losing in the State Finals in my senior year. I just was one win short of achieving my ultimate goal, but I’m really thankful for that. That was one of those moments that I look back on and I say, “That loss set me up for all of my future successes. That loss kept that hunger inside of me of not quite achieving my goal, not quite getting to where I wanted to.” That for me has been the theme of my life. Taking losses where I was nearly where I wanted to be and using those to drive me further and to keep that fire stoked inside of finding another passion. Finding maybe a little other way to find success and I think that set me up. Wrestling is a sport where the harder you work, the better in shape you are. The more time you put in, you’re going to see results. It’s you against another man, is your will tougher than his? Then taking those little losses along the way and realizing that losses are in fact the greatest thing that can happen to you. You don’t learn a lot from winning other than, “How good does this feel? I’d like to do it again.” You learn a lot about yourself and about your craft through losing.
You’re talking about this in context of high school. I didn’t figure that out until I got to the University of Washington. A lot of people would look at me later and go, “You’re so lucky.” They had no idea of the hell I went through. My first three years really I wretched, I was there five years, to get where I got. It was through all the hard work and a high probability not playing in the guidance of some inspirational leaders, our head coach, Don James, turned out to be a Hall of Fame coach, who would have known at the time when I first went there; his whole pyramid of success. It really taught me how to be. There were lots of places I had the opportunity to go like other Oregon schools and Arizona where I could’ve played early on as a freshman. It would’ve been the worst thing in the world for me to do. At the time when you’re a freshman or a high school senior, you’re not thinking about it in that context. Your whole point about adversity really made you grow in the right way to get where you were and are today, in terms of really understanding how to work for things and really focus on how to get there with your mental capacity. People don’t understand. They ask me all the time, “Just tell me about how you made it to the NFL college.” I go, “You don’t understand. If you want to play at the highest levels, it’s your mental, physical and spiritual. Those three things have to come together for all that to work in the right way.”
There’s a baseline of talent and then what are you going to do with that talent? Once you meet the minimum requirements to get in to whatever institution you’re trying to get into, that gives you the baseline of success. Where are you going to take that? Where are you going to take that baseline? Are you going to grow from there? Are you going to achieve your maximum potential? Are you going to be somebody who never achieves their potential? In the sporting world, a guy with a lot of potential who never achieves it, that’s one of the greatest insults you could throw out. He’s an under achiever. That to me is one of the most criminal things that an athlete could be because what it says about him is that he didn’t work. He didn’t work at his craft. He didn’t work at himself. He didn’t work on his spiritual side. I’m not saying there’s got to be a religious aspect but there’s got to be something in there that fuels your why, that makes you think, “Why am I doing this? Why am I waking up early? Why am I staying up late? Why am I putting all these additional hours in to study? Why am I here? What am I doing this for?”
Everybody’s got to find that. I truly believe that if you are purposeful in the way you go about life, you can achieve anything that you want to be. It’s not necessarily in a monetary fashion. I’m climbing mountains because I love it. Nobody pays me. It costs me money to go do that.
That’s your drive. You feel compelled when you wake up in the morning to start walking and to get moving and to get up a mountain and to stand on top of something and then to get back down and then to do it all over again, because it’s just in you.
This last one, I got off Denali up in Alaska and that’s a mother of a mountain. That’s Everest-type of stuff. We didn’t make it not because I didn’t want to but because it was minus 60 degrees. I went through a lot of hell to get up even into position to summit and we just were pushed down. The guy that is just in it for the quick glory, quits. The guy that was in it for his why, “Why you’re there? Why you’re purposeful?” and that passion, you just keep going. You go through this. You have a great breakthrough with these coaches. You go to the State Championship. You do lose in the finals, but there are great lessons learned out of that. Now you decided to go to Purdue but you’re not going to pursue wrestling, and certainly you’re not playing football because you weren’t playing football.
I go to Purdue and I end up joining the Navy ROTC program there. I switched to the Marine Corps ROTC program, which is all under the same umbrella that department of the Navy. I ended up getting on scholarship that way. I modeled after my Dad’s cousin, so it was my second cousin who I thought at the time was the most successful person in our family. Everybody really revered my cousin, Joe, who was a pilot for the Air Force and he flew F16s. Everybody just raved about my cousin, Joe, and I said, “That guy is a success. I want to go fly for the Navy,” then I switched to, “I want to be a Marine.” Then it ended up that I was colorblind and I couldn’t qualify to be a department of the defense pilot.
By the way, that might be a blessing for you.
It was so fantastic. It worked out really well for me because I don’t think I would have been allowed to be sidetracked if that weren’t the case. I had a friend who was also in the ROTC program. His name was Frank Avino. Frank was this big, chunky, Italian kid who was in the Navy program, Chicago guy. He came to me one day and he’s making the paper. It was the Purdue Exponent. It was our school’s newspaper. This was before cell phones. In the classified ads, Purdue Football took out a little ad for walk-on tryouts and this was during the Drew Brees days. Purdue went to the Rose Bowl in 2001 in January.
I was actually sitting in the Rose Bowl because it was against Washington. A good buddy of mine, Marques Tuiasosopo who’s the other quarterback, went on to coach with Jim Mora at UCLA. He’s now at Cal. He has become a great friend. I was there watching this shootout go down. It was great.
34-24 I believe, Washington beat Purdue then and Marques was the MVP. It was a heck of a game. I’m watching that season at Purdue and I’m up in the stands at every game. My high school didn’t have a big time football program. I didn’t really know what it was all about. Purdue was rabid about the team at that period. Watching Drew Brees, going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1967, students were tearing down goalposts and crashing in the field and there was so much burning couches in the streets. It was a ton of fun, Mark. I was in the crowd. I was giving my best effort. I went out to the Rose Bowl to go cheer the team on, but I didn’t want to be the one cheering for other people. I wanted to be in the cut. I wanted to be the one getting cheered for, and at worst I wanted a better seat. I wanted to be on the sidelines and I thought maybe I could sneak my way onto these special teams or something like that. When my buddy presented me with this walk-on try out idea, I said, “Yeah, sure.” After the Rose Bowl there was probably 110, 120 guys there that all tried out. Five of us made it. Only two of us made it through Spring Ball that year. The other guy who made, his name was Jimmy. Jimmy was a real slight wide receiver. They had put him back on kickoff return and punt return. Some of these practice squad guys, they just let him get murdered. He broke both of his collarbones. He didn’t last very long, but it really worked out for me. Three years of football and then drafted in the third round to the Chargers with the 66 pick.
You and I are cut from the similar cloth from this standpoint. I look at people who either are doers or what their skill is is reporting on it. In terms of being in the media and whatnot and like you, I just preferred to be out. I’m not there to create news but I wanted to be the guy climbing the mountain, not reporting on the mountain. It’s just fascinating to me because you bounced over a key component. I was coming out of high school, I was in All-American, I was recruited all over. You’re coming out of high school. You’re not recruited because you didn’t play. Now, you know your skills have to catch up with everybody else. To be able to close that gap in such a short period of time, to me it’s remarkable and it’s a credit to you. Obviously, you must have been growing that 5’2”, 125-pound guy, that was way back in eighth grade and thinking about what’s your next move, and now going to go into wrestling. I’m 6’3” and you’re 6’4, 6’5” now?
Yeah. I grew after my NFL days were done. I lost a bunch of weight and I ended up growing a little bit over an inch, so I’m 6’5”, 225 now. What happened after high school, I went to college and I was probably 6’2”, 195 pounds. I wrestled my senior year at 171. I had to cut a bunch of weight to get down there. I think my natural resting spot was a 195. I showed up ROTC. I could run five to eight miles pretty easily. I could do all the calisthenics, the pull-ups. That was the build that let me do that job. I had started eating more. I started training. Going into my sophomore year, I ended up weighing 230 pounds, which is where I walked on to the football team at. I walked on to the team and they put me with the linebackers for 6 AM workouts in the spring. It didn’t matter that I was 230. I was not as fast as the other 230 pounders. I was as fast as an offensive lineman being 230 pounds. I do Spring Ball. I show up at Spring Ball and the linebacker coach says, “Who told you you’re a linebacker?” I said, “I don’t know coach, they just put me there for 6 AM’s.” He goes, “We’re going to take you.” He walked me down the hallway to the next meeting room and I thought, “We’ll stop at the defensive ends.” We passed the defensive ends and we went to the defensive tackles. I was then now in a room with a bunch of 300 pounders and trying to figure out why is the 230 pounder in here with these 300, 310-pound men? They said, “You better start eating.” I asked one of the guys, “What do I got to do to put some weight on?” It ended up being Matt Mitrione, who I don’t know if you follow fighting and all, Matt Mitrione just beat Fedor Emelianenko in a Bellator contest.
I asked Matt, “What did you do? How did you get so big?” He goes, “You lift really hard and then you eat two Jimmy John’s Gargantuan subs a day.” I did that, I’ve followed that recommendation to a tee. I would put down two pounds of ground beef a day. I would set my alarm clock at 2:30 in the morning, wake up, have a 700 Calorie EAS Myoplex shake and I would smash whatever food I could find my hands on. I put on 45 pounds in about five months. It was awful. It’s just as bad as calorie restriction was force feeding. I ended up getting an ulcer because of the stress of 6:00 AM workouts, yell at me regularly and scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid. Having all of that ground beef caused a bacterial deal where I got ulcers and I threw everything up for months. That was part of the deal. I ended up being a defensive tackle for an entire season. Then going into my fourth year at Purdue, they moved me to guard. Then when we played in the Bowl game, we ended up playing University of Washington. I don’t know if you remember when Tate Johnson was there. We played in the Sun Bowl. The game before the last game of the regular season, he tore his ACL. They asked me to move over from left guard to center and I said, “Sure, I’ll give it a try.” I don’t really know anything. It took two weeks, figured out all the calls, figured out how to snap it. I had a really game against the University of Washington and the Bowl game. I ended up that I just knew I was right at home that I had found my next career, it had been the story.
I think that’s where preparation meets opportunity. You’re there, you’re eating like a horse and you’re lifting. You’re doing all the things that these guys set forth. You’re following your coach’s recommendations on what you need to do. You then are adaptable to the game and you learn to play. As you probably know, you just submerged yourself into the playbook and learn what you needed to learn. Then when the opportunity came up because of an injury, you went in and the rest is history.
It’s not even just doing what’s recommended. It’s doing more than what’s recommended. It’s the old adage, “Eat, sleep, drink, football.” That’s what it is. If you’re sitting at your house, which I used to do when I was playing football and doing past reps in the house, I’m putting myself in the context of blocking a Von Miller or a Vince Wilfork or a Ted Washington back in the day that my body thought that it was actually getting those reps. Trying to find ways to accelerate my learning curve. That’s the difference between me and somebody else who may not have been able to capture those moments of opportunity, the preparation meets the opportunity. For me, the difference is going above and beyond on the work and being just absolutely psychotic about the preparation. Taking the little minute details of the game and trying to use those over and over again. It’s just eat, sleep, breathe, whatever you’re doing and you can accelerate your learning curve in a hurry.
Also part of your DNA though from what I learned when you and I spent a week and a half in in Africa was number one, you’re a high IQ guy. The second part of that and the more important part of that is that you have a thirst for knowledge. That thirst is you’re always trying to know what’s new, “How can I learn? How can I grow and be different?” If you’re not growing, you’re dying as I like to say. Certainly you’re growing and you like to read a lot of books and you’re pretty prolific in the amount of content that you read, so it’s great. That’s the way you elevate yourself.
It’s that search. There is that search for more, “Could I be a better human? Could I be a better dad? Can I be a better performer, broadcasting now? Could I be a better leader in the locker room when I was in there?” For me, there was always something missing as to why I had not yet won a championship or why I had not yet achieved all of my full potential and I still look at it that way. It’s like, “What more could I be doing? What more could I learn that I don’t know, there’s a part of my brain that I could unlock that could then unlock?” It’s just endless the amount of information out there that you could fill yourself with and I think could continue to become a better human, become a better man. You’re right, it’s all about that thirst.
Certainly you hit your peak, yet eleven-year NFL career, which was amazing considering the average is 2.1 or something. You did go to the Pro Bowl in 2006. That must have certainly been a highlight. When you look back on your NFL career and without going through all the different players in the games and maybe some injuries and things, what do you look back and you walk away and you say, “The defining moment for me and the epitome for playing the NFL was this?”
Probably a couple of things. One, my injuries were the most significant portion of my career, not because of the way I feel now but because of what they did for me at the time. They were very humbling and they forced me to realize that I am mortal. I am going to die. That this is all going to end. When I talk to the kids who are playing football now, I try to let them know that, “You’re very fortunate to be playing while you’re playing, but this is all going to come to an end.” I think those injuries letting me know that I’m just a cog in this wheel that I’ll hold it down. It will be my position for some time but the minute I’m done, the team, the league, it all moves on. They aren’t going to have a memorial, Nick Hardwick Day to celebrate you. Do your job the best you can. Be proud of your accomplishments by yourself. Realize that you are mortal and be humble. Be humbled by the whole situation, that you can be thankful that you’ve been blessed with the baseline talent. You’ve been blessed financially. Take care of it. It’s a really good responsibility.
When I think about my career, it’s funny that I learned from the negatives, just like wrestling. I learned from my losses. I learned from the injuries, the time spent on the couch. The ones that I really take away from are the times where I was the goat, not the Greatest Of All Time GOAT. I’m talking about the scapegoat. The guy who totally had the blunder at the end of the game that the media comes right to your locker room and goes, “Nick, what happened on that snap when you were trying to close out the game in Kansas City in 2010 on Monday night football when all you had to do is take a knee and kick a field goal? You and Philip could not get the quarterback center exchange right. What happened there?” That moment caused so much reflection, it caused so much introspection. Being able to deal with the loss, being able to deal with being that guy in the locker room who let everybody else down; we all put ourselves in position to be able to win. Literally, I dropped the ball.
We didn’t get the quarterback center exchange. We ended up losing in overtime. It was a national game. That introspection, that real deep loss where you go, “I don’t know why I do this to myself. I don’t understand why I torture myself this way, but I can still move on. I can still use that moment.” I remember having so many text conversations with Philip after that, “How are we going to go on? How are we going to move past this? I don’t even know if I could show my face in the locker room anymore.” Us helping one another get over that moment to say, “It doesn’t make me a different person. It doesn’t mean that I’m lesser of a human because I had a mistake in a football game. Everybody makes mistakes. What are you going to do with that mistake? Are you going to become a better leader?” I ended up going to see a sports psychologist after that in an attempt to get mentally tougher. I use that really bad moment and others like that, I can think of two or three throughout my career that were terribly devastating at the time. I use those moments to become not only a better football player but really just a better man.
Were you on the same team with Ryan Leaf?
I never was, no.
He’s gone through some tough times. He was with the Chargers, number two pick behind Peyton Manning. I did a workout with him up at Jay Glazer’s spot up in LA. That’s where I met him. He really seems to have turned his life around in a positive way. It’s fun to see.
I’ve gotten to know Ryan. We’ve done several interviews. We’re buddies now. It is a remarkable story of what you can do when you work on yourself.
One of the things that you appear to have done, I didn’t do a great job of this, I later would figure it out; I went through a couple of years of some painful moments coming out of the NFL. You now are the voice down in San Diego and you do a morning show. Getting up at 4:00 in the morning or something crazy and doing a 6 to 9 show.
We do 6 to 9 sports talk radio, XTRA 1360, FOX Sports San Diego. I’m also the color commentator for the now Los Angeles Chargers.
Where did you start? You played eleven years. You’re now twelve as we chronologically count. You started working with sports radio or did you start the internship before that? How did you learn that?
I have picked up some radio gigs while I was playing. I became a guy who would speak. I would appear on Monday morning after a game on some of the local sports shows or some of the local rock channels and give him the recap of the game. When I retired I asked about the field reporter position for the team. I wanted to be just involved. I wanted to work into the mix. I always had my eye on becoming the color commentator for the team even probably four years leading up to my retirement. I had my eye on that position. I asked about the field reporter job and it was available, so that became a nice transition piece out of the game. It kept me involved in it and also put me on the path to start to get to where I ultimately wanted to be.
Which is where you are today, it must be fun. When we talked down in Africa down in Tanzania, you’re telling me you get up at literally 4:00 in the morning. Every morning you drive in. You are on until 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning. It’s the rest of the day or segments of the day, you’re trying to figure out the planogram of who’s coming on and then all the preparation about what kind of questions. How does that work?
What I do is I wake up usually about 3:45, then I hit the treadmill for about fifteen, twenty minutes before I go in just to get the mind going and start thinking in that direction, wants some highlights. Really the show work is done the day before. It’s done the night before. After I put my kids down at about 7:00, I work until about 8:30. My co-host, Judson Richards, does a really nice job also co-producing the show. We’d get our segments laid out of talking points. I go in and fill in with data that I would like to throw out there, how I would like to present the story. We’re done with the show by 9:00 AM, 9:30-ish usually. Then we just start brainstorming about who we’d like to have, what kind of topics are coming up, who would add some good sound to the segment? When you’re interviewing guests, we look at it like sound. We want to throw it to somebody that either presents a new idea or has a new idea that we want to see and vet that out a little bit more. It’s all partly that. In football season, once the morning sports talk radio show is done, then it’s all about going to get prepared for the weekend and laying out who the opponent is coming up and what the Chargers transactionally have done? How they’re going to adjust? You’ve got landmarks you’ve got to hit during the game knowing where you’re going to go, who’s your key matchup, all that. During season, it’s more than just a morning show. It becomes a really rigorous schedule.
One of the things that you show all the time is your diet. You’ve got a pretty crazy diet. To go from 295 down to 225; we stood in the line at that hotel and we both had our little fruit at our table. I’m looking at you and I go, “You’re just a big version of me.” How did you do that? You’re this massive weight. Obviously you’re not gorging in hoarding food like you were back in college days. The fruits and vegetable, how did that all work? What’s your plan?
I’ve gone through so many different iterations of diets. I’ve done Paleo, vegan, vegetarian, high protein. Right now I’m in a phase that’s called Ketogenic, so real high healthy fats, moderate protein. I try to keep it under about 60 to 70 grams a day and then as low a carbs as I can possibly have; high dietary fiber but low net carbs. I try to keep my net carbs under about 20 to 30. I lost 85 pounds in four months after I decided I was going to retire. It doesn’t matter what diet you subscribe to, you can lose weight if your calories in are less than your calories out. That’s the overarching theme. It’s a math equation. It’s in fact a law of thermodynamics that if you consume less calories than you’re burning, you will lose weight. I had a blog post up on my website, NickHardwick.com, if anybody’s interested. It has come to the point where when you talk to people you hear them making excuses for why they can’t lose weight, “I can’t lose weight because this happened. I can’t lose weight. My body’s just different. I’m big boned, I’m this.” The thing that came to me was people don’t starve to death that are fat. You’ve got fuel your body to be able to burn. Stop making excuses and start measuring your food. If you’re not losing the weight you want to lose, then you need to realize what food, what calorically you’re consuming. That is the overarching theme is calories in, calories out all day. Everything else within that umbrella is going to help accelerate some of that weight loss.
Surely you have to be motivated. It’s just not about the things that you put in front of your face. I’ve got two daughters and I talked to them all time about this which is life is about moderation. I took my daughter out for an ice cream cone. I don’t have ice cream everyday but I probably had an ice cream cone a month ago. In between that, I had been on Denali. I usually train early in the morning and I train at night doing something. I do two a days. That’s just what I feel I need to do to maintain. I don’t want to go through life starving myself on things that are considered “treats.” It’s being aware of the things that you are putting in your body, so once in a while that you can have those things with just a quick little pop. I’ve got to say, after I had my ice cream cone, I’ve got a shooting headache because I just don’t have that much sugar.
Mark, when we got back from Tanzania, I had a couple of things that really hit me once we got home. A big one that I related in terms of diet was you’ve got to turn your wants into needs. Your wants have to become needs. If you want to lose weight, if you want to be successful, mentally you can find a way to turn that want into a need. I need to lose weight. Why do I need to lose weight? I needed to lose weight so I can play with my kids, so my joints aren’t deteriorating rapidly, so I don’t have to have hip and knee replacement, so I can climb a mountain if I choose to. I have to turn my wants into needs. We all want things that we’re never going to get. I want to have a private jet. I’m probably never going to get it. I’ve got to turn my wants though into needs.
The other thing that really hit me when we got back, especially after a climb with Kirstie, Iván and Pete, the thing I took from them in climbing Kilimanjaro with them was you don’t have to do anything. You get to do everything. That to me was a real paradigm shift in my outlook. I don’t have to go to work. I saved all my money in the NFL. I don’t have to do that if I don’t want to, I get to. I get to go climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I get to wake up in the morning and get up before everybody else. I get to be on air. I get to do this podcast with you. I get to go to tennis school and pick up my kids. Life’s a privilege. You get that by looking at Tanzanians who have to walk five miles to get water and walk five miles back with a bucket on their head and they’re smiling. Somehow they’re still smiling. You look at Iván Castro who has no vision because he got in an accident in war and lost his vision, he gets to climb Mount Kilimanjaro still. He gets to wake up with exuberance. The guy wakes up that way every single day. I think it’s just a mental shift that I had when I got back from there that has taken away any of the clouds that float above your head and you get that, “I’m overworked, underpaid” type of mentality and you go, “To hell with that. I get to do this. I get to live my life. I get to have a beautiful wife and two boys and coach Little League. I get to do all this stuff. It’s amazing.”
There are two notes on that. Number one is you talked about the want and the need. I’ve always talked about it slightly different in about the differences between willing and want. We’re saying the same thing. Everybody wants to become a millionaire and fly the private jet and play in the NLF, but are you willing to do what it takes? I think that really ties in to now you get to do these things but you’ve got to put yourself in that position. The second part of that is you were just talking about Iván. For those people who don’t know, Iván was another Special Forces guy that had shrapnel shattered his eyesight. He was climbing Kilimanjaro blind with the group that Nick and I were with. He actually was in my vehicle when we were driving through the Serengeti. We’ve got giraffes as you remember you were in the car in front of us. They’re flying by the truck. We got zebra and we’re going, “There’s the zebras look.” He was in our car just like, “Tell me what that’s like.” Rather than get down about the circumstances that he was dealt with, he had nothing but joy and happiness for us that we could see it. There was a time in his life when he could see, so he could imagine what that might look like. It’s just where your focus goes, your energy always follows.
If your mindsight is something that is like, “I can’t do it. Life sucks or I’ve got a shitty job,” or whatever, that’s the way that you’re going to view the world. Credit to you that you’ve taken on that approach and you’ve been very successful. I go back to you’re willing to do what it took to put yourself in a position to have the kind of lifestyle you are today. Last thing I want to talk about is Waterboys. That’s the organization that Chris Long, our friend who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, started three years ago. He saw what I saw when I went down there five years ago, which was a lot of poverty and a lot of women walking around with buckets on their head; walking miles to go get water and all the different things with the disease and young gals being raped, just awful stuff. He set out to do something. Jim and I were able to raise a substantial amount of money. You were right there too and you could see the need, so you used your platform to actually go out and create awareness, bring money and fulfill your goal. It was great. It was really fun too to see that.
That was just so nice being in those villages, being around those boarding schools where the kids previously had to leave school or couldn’t show up that the girls were on their menstrual cycle. Bringing a little bit of normalcy to their life. To see the people in that second community that we went into and the water tapped for the first time. That big ceremony they went about, people worshiping water. We go to the sink and we stand there and we let the water run for three minutes so it can get hot enough to be able to make our tea or coffee or whatever the heck we want to make. To be able to go to another country and see that people are tapping water for the first time in their adult lives, it’s remarkable and its life changing for them, also for me to have witnessed the kind of life that they’ve had. It was just an unbelievable experience.
Water is life for them down there. The word that you’re essentially saying is the gratefulness. Grateful that we just build a well and they just turn a knob now and water comes flowing out. It’s crazy but it’s amazing. It puts life in a certain perspective. Once you do that then you’re able to appreciate things in a much different tone.
It makes us more grateful. It makes us to be able to appreciate our stuff more. I don’t know if you experienced this and I bet you do. Every time you come back from a mountain or a big trip overseas, I don’t want to say I felt guilty but I just felt like coming back here and all the stuff we have it’s just so unnecessary. When you go and life is so simple and it’s so simple on the mountain. You just put one foot in front of another and you get to the top. You eat when you need to. You’ve got this real mental clarity and then you come back in the real world. It just hits you in the face. There’s so much other stuff and noise going on that you become distracted and a little confused. It took me a good two weeks from coming back from Africa and seeing how those folks live to settle down back into the life that we have. I guess get back on the ride would probably be a more fitting analogy to say, “Here we go, full speed again,” back into not only just regular life but even involved in the media where this is such a big part of it.
I call it the re-entry like you’re coming from outer space or something. It’s probably something that you didn’t see me do because we would retreat to our tents. When I go in a climb, the period of time when you’re resting and prepping up for the next day, I spend a lot of time journal writing because you’re not connected in a wired world and phones don’t work. You don’t have your laptop. Things get silent and you don’t have all this distraction. For me, it brings a lot of clarity on thoughts and different experiences that I’ve had on the mountain and what I want to accomplish when I get back. It’s a great quiet time to be in nature, to really get clear on your life and things that are going on. It sounds like you have fulfilled your dream, which I know you were a bit critical about the Charger move understandably from San Diego to LA, now the LA Chargers. Despite all that you are going to be the color guy or be involved in some capacity with the Chargers. That means you’re going to be making some road trips to LA I assume. Tell me about that, how that came about? I know that you were critical on air about how that played.
The news broke while I was doing the radio show in the morning and I was critical immediately. I just didn’t appreciate the way it was handled, that there wasn’t a whole lot of commentary towards the city of San Diego. I understand now. I still in hindsight would have preferred they address the city of San Diego and thanked them for their time, for their money, for building the franchise up to where it is. I understand now why they did the way they did. They feel like if they were going to go to a huge market, number two media market and all of the country in LA, that they had to be fully committed and it was going to look bad either way. No matter what they did, no matter what they said, the people were going to be very mad. It was a quite emotional time as I experienced. Over months, I went through a bunch of different iterations of emotions. I immediately was angry and I think that anger stemmed from fear; fear of my future, fear of loss, fear of the unknown. That led to a little bit of confusion, which led to some football. I was agnostic about football. I became to the point where I was like, “I’ve seen the business of football. I don’t like it. I don’t want to participate in the NFL.”
My radio show took me to Houston, to the Super Bowl and I’ve got to be around football people again. Mark, when you’re around your family you can just be yourself. When I got back around all these football people, all the legends of the game, football fans who are the most ardent football fans, I just felt at home again. My heart started to warm to football again. Then the draft came. When the draft came, I was trying to cheer for other teams. I’m feeling my way into the game again. I realized I only care about one team and it’s the Chargers, I don’t really care what city they’re in. I realized we’re covering the team. We’re in San Diego, we run the show in Southern California. We are still going to cover the Chargers. If I’m going to cover the Chargers, I’m going to be the guy. I want to be in the booth. It’s the same thing as when I was a student at Purdue watching in the stands. I didn’t want to be the one cheering for the guys. I wanted to be in the cut. This is as close as I can be to be in the cut as being the color commentator for the team and being one of the voices of the Chargers. I realized I still love the NFL. I still love the Chargers. Now, I just got to work a little bit harder to be with my team.
I’m from Seattle, so I went through something similar. I didn’t play in the NBA of course but our Sonics went to Oklahoma City. It just rips out the heart to everybody. It’s emotional and it’s such a fabric of the community. It’s very easy and understandable. I don’t think there’s any good way to do it. The other thing I’ve learned in my life is that change happens. You have to be adaptable to that change or it’s going to be tough because things happen and they make certain decisions based on certain decisions that are out of our control. You either got to go with it and make your decisions based on that or flow with it and get back on board. It sounds like you did and you did the right thing. At the end of the day you don’t really win. If you were in a position where you are at odds with the team and football is such a big part of your life, that would be a shame if you weren’t involved in some way.
I feel the exact same way. I feel complete now that I’m back with the team. I know I pissed a lot of people off by taking the team back. You can’t help your emotions and you can’t help what you care about. I deeply care about them. In fact, I broke my neck for the team in my eleven years. I was captain of the team for five years. It’s impossible for me to not care.
This has been a joy, an absolute treat. One of the things that I tried to impart on the different listeners is this whole notion about finding your summit. Certainly, you have had yours. I think it’s easy to look at you and say, “That guy’s had it all.” You had to work for every single thing you’ve ever gotten. I’ve seen you in action climbing with you down in Africa down in Tanzania in Kilimanjaro. That was a joy too. If people want to find you, where can they find you?
Nick, it was awesome. I look forward to seeing up here in LA for the new La Chargers. I look forward to hopefully be climbing with you in the future.
Thanks for the time, Mark. I’ll climb with you soon.