After forty eight people were shot in New York City this weekend, I felt the need to get this off of my chest. This doesn’t really have anything to do with football, but just what I can do to help young people in the community … especially anybody that is going through something similar to what I went through. My focus right now is not about helping anyone in football, but helping people in life.
I have asked myself ever since the incident happened, where were my decision making abilities at that time? What led me to make a decision, or lack of judgement to put everything that I had worked so hard for, to just throw it away, so quickly. I let so many people down, my wife, my kids, my family, my fans, my community … my priorities were not in the right place.
It was very hard for me to accept that although I thought I was a leader, and maybe I was a leader on the football field, in actuality I was so caught up in being part of my environment that I really was a follower. The problem is I realized all of this when it was too late … you dream of winning the Super Bowl, getting a new contract, I had just had a son, I had my own shoe coming out on Nike the following year.
During that time, I don’t think I really understood the magnitude of the responsibilities that I had. It was quite obvious that I didn’t. Before I even understood what had happened, it was all gone.
I was accustomed to carrying a gun, and no one even knew I was a gun owner until it accidentally discharged that night. I thought at that time that it would give me some extra security, mentally, as I had been robbed at gunpoint at one point in my life and my house had been robbed twice.
But, as far as from a physical standpoint … being in that cell for seventeen hours a day for twenty-one months, I had A LOT of time to think and just the thought of someone shooting at me and me pulling the trigger to shoot back, that’s a situation I never want to find myself in … EVER.
It’s mind-boggling to even live a life where a thought like that crosses your mind. When you think about it, would I really shoot a gun to deal with a situation, no way….
When I think about this weekend in New York City where forty eight people were shot and the increasing senseless violence that has hit our communities so hard…a lot of young people who are doing the shooting, I have to ask, do you really want to pull a trigger and kill somebody and put yourself in a situation where you will go to jail for twenty five years to life?
I read recently a line that said, “If it doesn’t benefit you, then it has no place in your kingdom.” And definitely walking around the street with a gun doesn’t benefit anybody or anybody around you.
For most of us we don’t even understand what it means until you get in prison. I was in there with guys who were twenty, twenty-one years old with life sentences who are never leaving, walking around like they getting out in two weeks!
I went from living my life, being able to go anywhere in the world, to people slamming the door behind me and being in stone cold cage! You can see cars and all of these things going by on the outside and you’re in a cage…inside a fence…you can’t go anywhere…and now you have another man control your life telling you what you can do. And what brings me great sadness, is that in our communities, we actually celebrate young men for going to jail, like it is some rite of passage to manhood.
This is totally backwards..the wrong way. If it takes someone like me to explain to young people about my situation, I am raising my hand and stepping to the front and saying loudly and clearly, I messed up and prison is no place for any of us to aspire to go to.
I cried myself to sleep so many nights, I can’t even count…I lost count. Being in that cell, laying in that bed every night, I cried…I threw away everything.
But lucky for me, when I came home everything was somewhat still in place, but for a lot of guys it isn’t like that. Being in prison doesn’t make you a man…being away from your family and having a daughter born while you’re prison…that right there will make you a man. Talking about having your heart snatched out of your chest and stomped on. That’s what made me get my life in order.
I got a daughter, I got a son, I got a wife…I made a very selfish decision by putting myself in that position to go to prison. To have my daughter born while I was in prison, it is something that I’ll always have a difficult time getting over. The only thing I can do now is to be a better father. But, to see my family for the first time when I was locked up, you want to talk about sticking a knife through your heart, that’ll do it.
Everybody has been asking me why did I stay in New York? The foundation is already set for the platform I have in this town to be able to give back, to go into these communities and do charitable work. For me to come back here to do what I love to do and to re-establish myself back in New York and New Jersey, I think it was the right thing to do…not to run away from it, but try to finish something that I started.
I LOVE New York City, I love the people, I love everything about it, my fans have thankfully embraced me…I just love this town and I am so humble at this point in my life, that I just want to make my family proud and this city a better place for young people to grow up in.
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