"They Can't Stop You Jelani!"
These are the words I remember most from my childhood. Memories of my parents running up and down the sideline cheering me on reminding me to believe in my abilities. Looking back, I am amazed at how incredibly blessed I was to have been raised in such a loving family. It’s what I needed at the time, I was an incredibly shy kid. I didn’t really know how to cultivate confidence on my own, I relied on my father, who did all the talking for me. He would bring all of the news articles and highlights to every one of his meetings and spend at least 30 minutes telling stories about what I did on the football field.
He would tell me things like “Everytime you touch the ball you’re supposed to score! If the ball hits your hand you’re supposed to catch it. You’re a man among boys. God is in you, through you, for you, and with you - and where there’s God, there can be no imperfection!” That last part became my motto, an affirmation I still use today.
"They Can't Stop You Jelani!"
I’ve been blessed to meet and interact with so many amazing athletes and coaches along my journey. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to play at the University of Florida under the leadership of Urban Meyer and his championship Gators. Sharing a locker room with the likes of Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden, and so many others gave me a firsthand look at what a championship mindset looks and feels like. They were like superheroes to me, I studied their every move and pushed myself to work just as hard as they did.
Being so far away from my family in Maryland, I had to learn to cultivate that confidence in myself. So I incorporated those affirmations into my daily life - "God is in me, through me, for me and with me." My belief in myself continued to be molded throughout my college career and I’m incredibly grateful the Miami Dolphins gave me a chance to play football at the highest stage possible. I ended up graduating from UF’s College of Health and Human Performance with a major in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology and a minor in Sports Psychology.
Dream Come True
The National Football League taught me so much about life. It was an incredible experience and a dream come true, and at the same time, it uncovered for me the reality of the athlete’s journey. Our whole life we’ve been told that this is the height of our lives, that it doesn’t get better than this. This narrative would actually be used by certain coaches to increase the competitiveness level. And to some individuals, there’s no real harm done with that style of motivation, but to others, it adds a level of stress that is difficult to comprehend. It's also a narrative that leaves a lot of athletes completely lost once their careers are over with. This is one reason why I wanted to create something that would facilitate the development of the ENTIRE athlete - Mind, Body and Spirit.
Whatever we believe, we will achieve.
Fast forward to now, after accomplishing my dreams of playing football professionally for five years, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on my life and uncover the key elements that have led to my success. So much of it had to do with my upbringing and the positive messages that I soaked in from my parents as a young impressionable little boy. This is the source and the main reason why I am so passionate about reaching back and helping guide the next generation of athletes to become their greatest versions, so that they too can live a life fulfilled through their athletic careers and beyond. I know now more than ever that our minds are our most powerful resource, and whatever we believe we will achieve.