Dear Prospective NFL Team:
My name is Laquon Treadwell, and I want to bring a championship mindset to your team.
Growing up in University Park, Ill., some of the kids on my block didn’t have televisions or video games, so we were always outside, usually playing football. We’d play until it got so dark that we couldn’t see the ball…. Then we’d keep playing, and just do our best.
Since we didn’t watch TV that often, we didn’t know a lot about professional football. We didn’t get hyped up for Sundays. We didn’t dream of playing in the NFL. We didn’t have idols we pretended to be when we were on the field. All we knew was that we loved playing the game — in the street, at the park, anywhere. It didn’t matter. We were always playing.
That’s when I fell in love with football.
One day, when I was 10 years old, a couple of my friends and I were walking down the street in our neighborhood when we ran into a kid who lived a few blocks away in a neighborhood that was a little nicer than ours. I don’t remember his name, but we called him the Candyman because he always used to come to football practice with candy in his pockets. That day, he was looking for us.
“I see you guys playing football every day.… You wanna play on a real team?”
My friends and I looked at each other.
“Heck yeah we do!”
He led us out of our neighborhood and over to a place called the Park District, where he played football. It was unlike anything we had ever seen. It was a real park — more like a sports complex. They had basketball courts, an actual football field with goal posts and bleachers. It wasn’t just an open space with patches of grass like we usually played on. They had coaches, cheerleaders … and equipment!
We were in awe, like, Wow, we definitely want to play here.
I went home and talked to my mom. She said it was O.K., and I told my three brothers about it. We all went and signed up.
That season, at 10 years old, I got my first taste of what real football was like. But I also got my first taste of what it felt like to win. My team went undefeated and we won the Park District Super Bowl.
I had already fallen in love with football.
But that’s when I fell in love with winning.
I wasn’t playing just to play anymore. I was playing to win championships. Every season in youth football, that was my mindset. And we kept on winning.
When I got to high school, Crete-Monee High had never been to the state championships. I got moved up to varsity as a sophomore, and we made it to the second round. As a junior, we went undefeated, but lost in the playoffs.
The first time I really saw NFL players wasn’t on my television. It was on the field in the SEC.
My senior year, I told myself I was not leaving high school without a state championship. I wanted to go out on top.
And I did. We went undefeated and won the state championship for the first time in school history. I won some individual awards along the way and ended up as the second-leading receiver in Illinois history — and I truly value those honors and accomplishments — but I was playing for the title. All I wanted was that ring.
I didn’t watch TV as a kid, and to this day I still don’t. So the first time I really saw NFL players wasn’t on my television.
It was on the field in the SEC.
Of all the reasons I believe I’m ready to be an impact wide receiver in the NFL, the caliber of talent I played against in college is at the top of that list. After my freshman year, the SEC sent 35 defensive players to the NFL. The following year, it sent 19. This past season, the SEC produced seven All-Americans and is projected to send more players to the NFL than any other conference … again.
And I not only thrived playing against some of the most talented and most athletic defenses in the country, but in my final season at Ole Miss, I also emerged as the SEC’s top wide receiver.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me that if I can play in the SEC, I can play in the NFL. I just have to continue to work hard. I’ve heard that sometimes when guys get to the NFL and get paid, they lose their love for the game and start playing for the money. But when I strap on an NFL helmet and that whistle blows, I’m going to play the game the same way I played it in the streets when I was a kid — the same way I played it when I was winning Park District Super Bowls and when I won a state title in high school — with a pure love for the game and a championship-or-bust mindset.
You probably know about the game in which I broke my ankle as a sophomore at Ole Miss. But let me tell you how that play that ended my season best illustrates the team-first, championship mindset I bring to the game every day.
It was Week 10 and we had just lost our first game of the season the previous week — a tough loss to LSU — and we needed a win to keep our SEC and national championship hopes alive. We were the No. 4 team in the country at the time and we were inside two minutes against Auburn, who was No. 3. We were down 35–31, and we were driving for the go-ahead score.
I caught a quick hitch at the left hash around the 20-yard line and broke a couple of tackles, dragging one tackler all the way to the goal line. When I reached the end zone, that tackler rolled over my left ankle.
I had never felt anything like it before. There was pain, but also this numbness. It was just … strange.
I don’t drop the football — especially around the end zone. But this time, when I felt that pop, I did. I just let go of everything. I didn’t know what happened, but I knew it was serious from the jump. I tried to stand up, and when I put my foot down, I couldn’t feel anything, and I just went down.
I learned more about myself throughout that process than at any point in my life. As a person, I took a huge leap.
As they carted me off the field, the officials were reviewing the play to see if I had crossed the plane before dropping the ball — if I had scored the go-ahead touchdown in the most crucial game of our season.
Sitting there on the cart with my a stabilizing boot over my ankle, I just kept asking the trainers, “Did I score? … Did I?”
They said it looked like I had. They all thought I had.
In that moment, I wasn’t concerned about my ankle. I knew the doctors would tell me what happened, and I would have to deal with whatever the prognosis was. There was nothing I could do about that.
I just wanted to know if I had scored …
From the locker room, I heard the ref come over the loudspeaker.
The ball never crossed the plane.
Auburn recovered the ball in the end zone.
That was the only time I hung my head over my injury. We had lost the game, and I had a broken leg and a dislocated ankle. Our title hopes were dashed, and my season was over.
That night, I had surgery.
Then, I went back to work.
I could never explain the amount of work it took to get back for the start of the 2015 season. But what I can say is that it taught me patience and built my character. Right from the time of the injury, I knew I had to outwork everybody else and put in more time and effort than I ever had before — long days of rehab, long nights at the training facility, watching film until I fell asleep — to get back on the field and back to where I was before the injury. And I learned more about myself throughout that process than at any point in my life. As a person, I took a huge leap.
And as a football player, I came back better than ever.
So on draft night, when you are looking for a playmaker — a guy who can read defenses to get open, a guy who can move the chains, a guy who will battle for every jump ball and every touchdown — know that I am ready to do each one of those things on a professional level.
And if you draft me, I will work hard from day one.
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