Who You Calling Old?
If you listen to sports media, you'd think I'd be eligible for an AARP card any day now. The general consensus is that football players are over the hill after 30. Age shouldn't be weighed more heavily than productivity when determining a player's on-the-field impact. There are plenty of NFL veterans in the "twilight" of their careers who still have a large impact on the game. I consider myself to be an impact player. Truth is I feel great! I can still collapse pockets with the best of 'em. Nobody's getting around this belly!
Here are three things that keep me feeling young: training, body maintenance, and faith.
This summer I spent a few weeks training with future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney. I learned a lot about pass rushing techniques and line stunts during my stint with Dwight. He is a true pass rush guru and master strategist. I now understand why he has so many career sacks. The way he approaches the game mentally is inspirational. Listening to his advice was like reading a version of "The Art of War" for defensive lineman. You usually get that level of knowledge from a coach, but Dwight has mastered the D-line. I'm ready to show everyone that a 32-year old "senior citizen" can still dominate! Even after my biceps injury I feel healthier, stronger, and smarter.
I look forward to bonding with my teammates and improving our chemistry during training camp. After a hard day's work we like to play cards, crack jokes, and have deep conversations. We don't get to spend the same type of quality time during the season. After going through camp together, teammates are more intuitive on the field; our instincts are better in gametime situations.
Luckily we'll be training on grass when camp begins. Natural grass is my preferred playing surface. It's kinder to my body. Since 2011, under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (C.B.A.), I've been able to preserve my body with less contact, less time on the field, and fewer practices. I remember what NFL practice was like before the current C.B.A. As a young player, the previous practice regulations were good because I got more repetitions, which were crucial to my development process. But, as a veteran player, the current C.B.A. practice regulations have ensured less wear and tear on my body, which ultimately prolongs my career.
There is no off in off-season. I make sure I get proper sleep every night. I avoid partying and drinking. I stretch daily, receive massage therapy, active release technique (A.R.T) to awaken muscles, and practice yoga occassionally. Whether I'm releasing sweat while exercising or absorbing knowledge while studying film, I am forever a student of football. I'm always learning new ways to be effective on the defensive line.
I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but this summer I started implementing more of a plant-based diet. I know, I know, you are probably thinking, "Mebane, what in the...?" "That belly needs meat to roll!" "Bruh, you are 300+ pounds, you need some protein." But, when my wife and I watched the food documentary "What the Health?," my jaw dropped. I used to think that big football players like ya boy needed meat to play effectively. However, the documentary has a number of vegan world class athletes who were at the top of their game. It was surprising to learn that we can get all the protein we need from vegetables. I haven't completely given up meat, but eating less of it has given me a new found energy. I even weigh less than I did last season. I feel explosive!
Instead of focusing on people calling me old, I focus on my faith. That means that I don't focus on what others say I can't do. I focus on believing in what I can do. I can still play elite football. I can still sack a quarterback. I can still stop any running back in the league from getting through my gap. I have faith in myself and that faith stems from my faith in God.
We have enough talent to win the AFC West. I've said it before and I'll say it again —AFC West Champions in 2017, let's get it. #BoltUp