One of the biggest challenges any NFL athlete faces when their career finally comes to a close is the battle with loneliness, isolation and the loss of the camaraderie that they were so intimately a part of their entire lives.
When I first walked away from the game, this was the one thing that hit me the hardest. Although there were many unique challenges I faced in the wake of my last football game in 2017, nothing hit me like the loss of my brotherhood. And the toughest part was that I just couldn’t prepare for it. I felt isolated, lost and unsure about where to go next.
Overcoming loneliness through The Härt Collective Community
I was a football player for so long, always surrounded by other high achieving, dedicated men who were focused on a common goal and after I played my final game, I knew that this was something I’d never really have again. It stirred up an intense feeling of grief, I felt like a piece of my heart had been ripped out of my chest and I had to go on a journey to fill that void.
Over the last few years, after going on one hell of an adventure, I’ve been slowly filling that void. And it takes time. One of the key ways I’ve been able to fill that void is by surrounding myself with community and tribe. It’s had such a huge impact on my life that I’ve realized the one thing missing from the transition out of athletics is a community of brotherhood, guys that can relate to the experience and can understand the unique challenges that I was facing. That’s what led me to launch The Härt Collective in November of 2020.
Finding my community of former athletes
The Härt Collective community has already had a profound impact on my life and it’s just getting started. The thing I’m most excited about is the opportunity to get together with other former athletes at our live in-person retreat experiences. We hosted our first one in Colorado in June which was more magical than I could have ever predicted. Being around other athletes, talking ball, sharing stories, being present with one another and sharing space in an intimate and safe setting was super powerful and healing on so many levels.
Here's what was said about the retreat:
“The connection, pureness, and energy we created together in the mountains of Colorado was a profound experience and shift that will stay with me forever. A retreat like this is life-changing.” -THC Retreat Attendee
I feel the exact same way and I’m excited about continuing to build out these types of life changing experiences and continuing to expand this community while creating an even stronger bond and brotherhood then we ever had while playing.
Our next retreat is September 3-7. A white water rafting experience through the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument Utah. We are partnering with an incredible expedition company called ADRIFT who will be guiding us on this once in a lifetime experience.
Reflecting on my previous retreat experience
I was lucky enough to go on a trip with them last year. I’d like to share one of the magical moments I experienced while on that trip...
On the morning of the third day, as we packed up camp and got ready to hit the river, we loaded up the rafts and waited. One of the guides asked for a moment of silence while he read this poem aloud:
A HOPI ELDER SPEAKS
"You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered . . .
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader."
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, "This could be a good time!"
"There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.
"Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
"The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
"We are the ones we've been waiting for."
-- attributed to an unnamed Hopi elder
As he read the poem my eyes began to well up. This poem spoke to me in a profound way, ringing true and deep within my heart and soul. This is what I’ve been feeling in my bones for so long. We are in a time of massive change, the world is shifting and it’s time to gather our community.
Navigating life with a supportive community
As a former athlete I thought I had lost my community forever but now my brotherhood is gathering around me once again. This world can be challenging at times but what I’ve realized is, it’s more challenging when we have to navigate the flow of the river alone. I now know that when I look around me, no matter how challenging the river might be, I will be surrounded by the men who are on the journey with me, never again feeling isolated or alone.
If you’re a former male professional athlete and have been looking for a community to call your own and would like to join me on this epic adventure into nature where we will bond and grow in unimaginable ways, then reach out to me directly on Instagram or visit thehartcollective.com/events for more info.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!