I started this blog as a way to share and express some of the knowledge and experiences I’ve been lucky enough to acquire in my short 27 years. I am by no means a scholarly expert or leading researcher in the field, but I have had to navigate a fair number of challenges to get where I’m at today.
Throughout my life, things that I’ve wanted have almost always come with a great deal of effort. Even from my earliest memories, I was a try-er. I would keep at something until I figured it out. Some natural, innate sense of desire coupled with great influence from my parents taught me some life lessons about hard work and accomplishing your goals.
As your typical male child, I got into sports early in life. Both my parents came from athletic backgrounds. My Mom played sports in high school before graduating at 16 and going to college early (definitely was lucky to inherit some of her mental capacity). My Dad grew up playing basketball and had a nice college career at South Plains Junior College and Texas Tech.
From the time I can remember and even some of my oldest memories are playing catch with Dad in the backyard. I can hear his voice echo to this day, “Remember, I’m not teaching you how to play little league baseball, I’m preparing you for what’s next.”
Through my younger years, I matured faster than most, was usually at or near the top of my class academically. Sports were similar. I noticed early on that I was generally another level above the kids my age in regards to athleticism. It wasn’t long until kids started catching up physically and the rules all changed.
Although I did have the athletic ability, there were many factors early on that made sports challenging for me. I was at times lazy, cocky, hard headed, un-coachable and several of my early coaches would say I had a bad attitude. And I did. I thought I knew it all, because I could use my athleticism to overcome the little fundamental challenges I faced. In some ways, this attitude set me up for some tough lessons through my early sports career, but as we’ll discuss later, nothing worth having comes easy.
Moving from youth league sports and parent run programs was when I first realized I might have to work to get better at sports. If I wanted to continue to be the best, I had to start doing more. There’s a single moment in time that stands out to me as The Moment.
8th grade. Lake Hazel Middle School. I had moved back to Boise the summer prior to live with my Dad. I had won the starting QB position that fall (played fullback and D-end before that) and was the captain of our basketball team (at the time my true passion was hoops). I was talking to our fitness teach, Bill Inman about going to high school and the transition. I told him, I was going to play Varsity basketball as a freshman. He laughed. “Shoemaker, you’re a pretty good player, but you won’t make varsity as a freshman.”
That was the first time I knew I was going to prove him, and anyone else who doubted me, they were wrong.
That seemed to start the trend of my career. I went on to play Varsity basketball as a freshman, to playing Varsity football, basketball and track in high school.
Although locally praised in the athletic community, my collegiate options to continue playing were few and far between. Let’s face it, a 6’2″ white kid from Meridian, ID that really wanted to play basketball wasn’t exactly in high demand.
With dreams of playing Division 1 sports, I chose to take a preferred walk-on opportunity at Boise State University. After earning my athletic scholarship after my first year with the program, I went on to play for 4 years, start for 3 of those and by the end of my senior year, I held the record for Single Season Receiving TD’s with 16 in 2011.
Professional football didn’t seem like an option until my junior year at BSU. My teammates and brothers, Austin Pettis and Titus Young, had just gotten drafted in the 3rd and 2nd rounds respectively, and it dawned on me, that I might have a chance.
With zero NFL interest before my senior season at Boise, my stats that year put me on the map. I was a tiny little blip, but I was on the screen. I went undrafted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (another story in and of itself), battled injuries and thought at one point I was done with football. The next season, after rehab and some downtime, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity with the Kansas City Chiefs. So close and yet so far, I was released after the 3rd preseason game that year.
I spent the next 2 years out of the game. I held on for NFL interest as long as I could. I passed on the CFL, because I was hoping for the phone to ring. It never did. The working world opened my eyes to a whole new life. A new challenge and different nuances to this game. But there was a void left unfilled. Football.
In fall 2015, I was struggling with happiness at work. The fire was back and I had to get back on the field. Comeback season was in effect. Working with a friends agent to get contacts, I started selling myself back into football and targeted the CFL. While trying to balance a work life and secret football training schedule, I somehow got some interest from the Ottawa Redblacks, the team interested before. In December of 2015, shortly after the 2015 CFL season, Ottawa’s GM and I spoke and he offered a mini camp invite the next spring heading into the 2016 season.
Over the last 8 months, I’ve poured myself back into football with everything I have. Having so many different experiences with the game, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity go wasted. After earning a training camp invite based on mini camp performance, I felt the stars were finally aligning for me to reach my dreams of professional football.
The stars were aligned, just not for me. I injured my ankle the 2nd week of camp, and if you know anything about the CFL, it’s a little bit ruthless when it comes to injuries and roster spots. I was released and sent home to get healthy.
Now you might think I’m crazy or can’t take the hint, and maybe you’re right. But down deep, I know football isn’t done for me yet. There’s stones left unturned and maybe even touchdowns to be caught still.
But the most important thing I’ve learned throughout all the ups and downs, how to Grind. How to push myself mentally and physically to achieve something. How to take criticism and make it work for you. How to live in the moment and focus intently at the task at hand. How to overcome doubts and fears and push past your limits. And whether or not this becomes a personal journal or a movement that inspires others to dream and achieve, I hope I can provide some insights into how sports, work, relationships, and everyday life is a Grind.
As we go I hope we all remember the following:
The Grind Doesn’t Stop, it changes.