The world is full of contradictions. People throw around the word hypocrite to shame one another, but being hypocritical is a symptom of being human. As a sports fan there is no better contradiction than that of an American football player. Football fans want their heroes to behave like deranged mythical beasts on the field and men of Oxford as soon as they remove their helmets. I wanted that juxtaposition for myself at an early age. My father would lecture me on the contradiction of Hall of Fame Defensive End, Reggie White. “You just watch his interviews, son. He seems like the sweetest, funniest guy you’ll ever meet, but when he’s on that field… he’s a monster.” People are scared of monsters, people respect monsters, and people create folklore about monsters. Their strengths, their abilities, their individual moments of triumph and victory. I wanted to be a monster just like Reggie White.
I played youth league football in Louisville, Kentucky where basketball rules supreme and football is the state’s guilty pleasure. In Louisville, the most talented basketball players leave the state after their freshman year of high school to make something of their careers. Upon their departure, locals begin arguing their family ties to the local talent in hopes that they’ll become famous once their third cousin once removed gets drafted. For example, NBA Point Guard and Louisville local, Rajon Rondo dated my second cousin on my mother’s side’s best friend from Elementary school and has a Junior Prom picture with her at all times to prove it. So basically I grew up with Rondo and he still hasn’t replied to my Merry Christmas texts over the years. NFL stars native to Louisville such as Phil Simms, Deion Branch and Johnny Unitas are all spoken of for their greatness, before being subjected to the phrase (in a southern accent) “…did you know he was also an All-American Basketball Player?”
With this ideology ingrained in the fabric of football in Louisville, Kentucky, there is no pressure to become the next star at the collision sport. Football just is not a part of the culture of Kentucky. It’s important to have intrinsic motivation to be the best at whatever it is that you do. What I wanted, at a young age, was to become a monster on the football field and the transformation was quite the process. Lifting weights, running, eating, film study, eating, practicing, eating… this was all a part of my plan to becoming folklore. In youth league football I adopted the name Brandon “HITMAN” Newman. At the age of 8 the implications of the name HITMAN, death by hire, had not crossed my mind. Rather the simplicity of me hitting other people and hitting them hard became an obsession of mine. Football was fun. I was an overweight, funny, sweet kid off the field, but on the field, I was as dangerous as any Boogieman could ever be. During games referees would look at me and say, “This kid is crazy.” I worked hard by playing hard. Being a monster was so fun that I knew I wanted to continue playing the role in high school.
The act of juggling the persona of a good, respectable young man for twenty hours of the day and a crazed beast with the remaining four hours proved difficult a the age of 14. High School brought new friends, in a new building, with new rules and the only thing that felt familiar to me was football. My old friend football that did not mind me being physical and overtly powerful, in fact the sport rewarded me for my aggression. I was comfortable playing high school football because football felt like home. The hallways in high school have hundreds of more people in them than that of my middle school, but in football there was still only 22 players on the field.
Of those players on the field it was important to me that I was the most dominate. In high school football you have a lot of people wanting you to perform at your highest level. People such as your Mom, your Dad, your coaches, even your girlfriend is praying that every Friday night you are your teams’ shining star. All of those people play a role in your life and it’s successes and failures, but in high school football, if you aren’t the one demanding dominance from your self each game then you might as well sit in the stands. Intrinsic motivation is a globally recognized factor in success, but while playing high school football, if you do not want greatness for yourself then your time is better spent exploring other interests. I did not want to be the best player on my team. I wanted to be the best player in my city, the best player in my state. I wanted to be recognized as one of the most talented defensive lineman in the country.
Having this attitude at the age of 14 helped me be selected as a member of the 2008 U.S. All-American Army Team when I was 18 years old. In four short years I made my dreams come true of proving to myself that I could be one of the best defensive lineman in the country. Notable NFL players in that game include Quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Terrell Pryor, Wide Receiver Michael Floyd even four time NFL Pro Bowler Patrick Paterson, back when he went by Patrick Johnson. By this time I had verbally committed to continue my football career in college to the University of Notre Dame. That decision did not come to easily for me, but I am thankful everyday of my life that I made the correct choice to enrich my life on and off of the football field. The coaching staff at this storied Catholic University preached on the juxtaposition that I obsessed over at a young age. The Reggie White complex if you will, gentleman and scholar off of the field, worst nightmare on the field.
There is no greater contradiction than what is expected of football players in America today. To quote our New York based Superhero Spiderman, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” This reigns true for popular athletes around the world, whether in high school or at the professional level. Here at Tony Segreto Sports we want to give you the tools to be a walking contradiction. Be the person that people want to follow off the field and the person that people run away from on the field. My football career ended shortly after obtaining my college degree at the University of Notre Dame, but I picked up some secrets to success on the way and I am excited to share them with you. Intrinsic motivation can only take you so far in life, but here at Tony Segreto Sports we will provide you with other vital tools to help you benefit from your status as a student athlete. No matter when life asks you to hang up your jersey for good, what you do while wearing it will forever shape your future. Let’s get to work!