I lost thirty pounds I did not have to lose in the first thirty days, I could not sleep and I could not eat. For the next year, the fear and anxiety churning within my gut literally felt like it was eating me away from the inside out. I was spinning out of control, barely hanging on, while feeling like I was losing my grip. I felt like I was running for my life. I threw myself into my new job and spent my evenings at a local hospital where my youngest son, Isaiah, had gone through brain surgery a year prior. I ate about every dinner there and spent countless hours in the hospital chapel, praying, praying for a miracle.
After a year long separation, the final nail in the coffin arrived. It was like looking at the scoreboard as the last few seconds of my twelve year marriage helplessly drifted to zeros. I flat lined emotionally and spiritually. I have never come closer to giving up and wanting to give up in my entire life. Going through testicular cancer, having a daughter go through cancer and die, having a son who went through a brain tumor, losing a house, losing my Grandma who I was closest to, nothing could compare to the depths I had reached. I stood there frozen looking down at her signature notarized on the divorce papers. Game over.
What defines a champion? To me, it's the moment when all hope is gone, but he or she finds a way to keep putting one foot in front of another. We all saw it in this year's Super Bowl. The kid who was a 6th round draft choice once upon a time did the unthinkable. I read an article after the game that said at the end of the 3rd quarter when the Patriots were down 28-9, statistically they had less of a 0.01% chance of winning the game.
Now, I am not going to sit here and let my fingers do the walking to even suggest I carried myself through the hardest year of my life, where my only refuge from the hell I was living through was a couple hours of sleep once in a while when pure exhaustion called a time-out. God sent an army of the most selfless people into my life that were His hands holding me up like Kellen Winslow when he was helped off the field. That's the image that flashes through my mind as I write this.
When I was at my lowest point, God sent an angel into my life. Her name is Samantha. It's been a story book romance, in fact one day I will pen my finest work when I paint the story in the book I am planning on writing, "The Gospel of Samantha." It will be my Mona Lisa. When the rest of the football world was turning their attention to the NFL Draft, we were married last April the 16th. That was the day she gave me something much more valuable to me than a Super Bowl ring, she slid a wedding ring onto my finger and vowed her life to the most broken of all men. Since, she has slowly, but surely been bringing me back from something worse emotionally and spiritually than Joe Theismann's broken leg. Like the story of the good Samaritan in the Bible, she has been slowly nursing me back. It's been a grueling rehab, but her love is causing me to believe in myself again and causing me to dream again.
I was the kid from nowhere who played one year of high school football and my claim to fame was dropping an interception. I was the only kid on my team not to get a letter jacket because I sucked so bad at playing. I was the kid that barely passed through high school and dropped out of a small community college. At 21, I was working as an insurance agent and heard an ad on the local sports radio show for the first thirty-two callers to call in for an opportunity to be on the radio during the Minnesota Vikings "mock draft," which led me to an unpaid internship with Tony Dungy. Then, he left for Tampa Bay and I went back to trying to survive, even trying to sell vacuum cleaners door to door. At 24, I was working as a loan officer when this random thought ran through my mind, "What am I doing here? I have to give my dream one last chance." All I had was a small satellite dish, some paper, pens and my dream, the dream to become an NFL scout. After eight months of working full time at the bank and putting everything I had into it, all my time, all my energy and all my money, I self published a 350-page 1998 draft book containing scouting reports on as many of the prospects I had enough game film on to write up. That was my resume. Like one last desperate Hail Mary pass, I sent out three copies to every team in the NFL and it happened. I was hired to work in pro scouting by the New York Jets, to work on the best staff in NFL history. A staff highlighted by seven coaches who went on to become head coaches at the NFL or college level. A staff highlighted by names such as Parcells and Belichick. A staff that included Scott Pioli, my boss, who went on to become NFL Executive of the Decade in New England and his boss, Mr. Haley, the man that built the Steelers dynasty of the 70's.
I had an unrivaled fire and passion for the game and the discipline of a wild horse in the desert. I had enough to get in, but not enough to stay in. I was out after four seasons while many of my peers have gone on to run departments and teams in the National Football League. It literally has been like watching my life from the window half of the time. I have sat back and watched Belichick being mentioned as the greatest coach of all time. In my Jets interview, it came down to me convincing him to hire me. I have been asked at sales jobs, "What's your greatest close?" I have responded, "Bill Belichick." I know where I belong and about anyone who knows me keeps encouraging me and keeps telling me that's where I belong. I have a revolutionary system that could take the league by storm, I am a more outside the box thinker than anyone in the game, I have been given a gift of vision to see things in other people that nobody else can see and the gift to be able to pull those things out of people to help them realize their truest of their true potential. I have also been given a vision by God of standing at the podium holding up the Vince Lombardi Trophy and sharing Jesus with the world, uncensored. I have already written the most controversial book in sports history, "Whatever it Takes," and behind the book is me, the author.
Have I tried to get back in over the past fifteen years, yes many times. I sent out a letter to all the teams confessing my failings at the Jets and asking if I could come in for free for a month during training camp just to re-prove myself. I have sent a letter to all the owners trying to bypass those who want to hold me back who hold power positions in the league currently. I almost got an opportunity to be the Assistant Pro Scouting Director with the Arizona Cardinals in 2006, there was a chance I could have become a scout maybe with the NY Giants around that same time, but the closest was in 2011 when my steps had led me to a face to face encounter with Andy Reid when he was with the Eagles, which led me to talking with the most revered special teams coach in the league, his special teams coach at the time, Bobby April who told me my work was "excellent" three times in the first two minutes we spoke by phone. I came close to landing a spot in their pro scouting department, but then it all mysteriously fell apart and like when the refs bring out the chains to measure, I came up by the nose of the football short.
Father, not my will be done, by thy will be done.
Like a first love that ends in divorce, I have done my very best to get away from her, the her being the National Football League. Like Jonah, I have tried to run away from her, but something always reminds me of her, and keeps her around me, whether it be seeing Tony Dungy or Bill Parcells getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame or a call from my scouting mentor, Lionel Vital, the only one in the league who faithfully stays by my side as my friend despite there being nothing I can ever do for him. Every year, I keep paying for the NFL Sunday Ticket as a sort of security blanket. Some seasons, I only watch a game or two, its just too painful knowing my talents and abilities, but knowing I can't have a second chance to redeem myself, not yet anyways.
The odds of me getting a 2nd chance in the National Football League are about as impossible as it was to watch Lazarus come out of the tomb. It just doesn't happen, people inside the game have even told me, people at the level I was at just don't get 2nd chances. They would rather hire some young guy without the baggage. Just writing that makes me cry even now as I bang on these letters through my tears. I know I have what it takes. I just know it.
It reminds me of my favorite story in the Bible, the story of a man named Joseph. I like the story so much, I gave it to my son Nathan as his middle name. It deeply resonates with me. For those of you who are unfamilar with the story, there's a young man named Joseph. As a young boy, he has a dream and his brothers hate him for his dream. They hate him to the point they managed to get Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt. At this point of Joseph's story, his dream looks about as impossible as impossible can get. At one point, Joseph even gets falsely accused of a crime that lands him in jail making it look even more impossible. At this point of his story it looks like 4th and 98 with three tight-ends split out wide to the left, a bunch of paper tigers playing offensive line and a running back that runs a 10.5 forty downhill on a windy day. But, then Joseph is given the ability to interpret dreams and like Julian Edelman's logic defying Super Bowl catch, God raises up Joseph from a slave, from a convict, to being 2nd in command in all of Egypt next to Pharaoh.
Dreams? Do you have one? I do. I heard someone once say, "Pay very close attention to the thing you think about every day." At this point, I am just waiting on God, literally. I know enough to know it will never happen by my will or by my strength, just like it didn't last time around. Like my friend Lionel likes to say, "If it's for you, you're going to get it." About three months ago I had a very vivid dream one night when I was sleeping and I had this thought I needed to send a letter to the owner of the Cleveland Browns to become their General Manager. I believed the dream was from God and I sent this letter to him along with a copy of my book.
This past week began with me being in Los Angeles at "America's Got Talent," to support my 14 year old step-daughter, Savannah, in the pursuits of her dream, which is to sing professionally. While there, my steps were led to speak into two men's lives who were there to audition, two of the most talented men I have ever been around. They both told me I told them just what they needed to hear. That's how my week began. Days later, one morning I prayed asking God for direction in my life. Hours later, clear out of the blue, someone sent me the link to an article which has led me to going for it again. I had a strong sense it was God speaking to me. The timing was impeccable. How deeply the article resonated with me was very noticeable. It had God written all over it. By Thursday night, I was back at the Federal Express office running the play my Coach has called.
I don't have a punter on my roster.
Whatever it Takes.
Daniel Kelly is a former Pro Scout with the New York Jets. He spent his first two seasons as a pro personnel assistant, his third season working as the Jets special teams scout and his fourth as the scout of "other leagues." You can learn more about him and he can be contacted directly by email on his website, whateverittakesbook.com