I first learned to drive on an old tractor at my parents’ farm in Masonville, Iowa, when I was barely old enough and strong enough to hold in the clutch pedal. My folks were American car lovers, and with five children all involved in sports they had a stable of older American-made cars and trucks for us to drive back and forth to school. They all had a couple of things in common — primarily their large steel-bodied frames and the fact that if or when one of them broke down, we were going to be under the hood with my dad getting it fixed.
The first one I remember driving was a 1968 GMC pickup with a manual “three on the tree,” which means that its three-speed gearshift was on the steering column. By the time I took off to college in 1999, my parents had bought one of our newest (and most expensive) cars, an ’84 Buick LeSabre. I drove that for the majority of my college career and even purchased it from them when I graduated. I then proceeded to drive that car a lot for my first couple of years in the NFL — until the transmission gave out and I realized it was time to let it go.
After my LeSabre died, I began to build my car collection, which has grown to eight vehicles of various years, ranging from 1932 to ’72. I am an “American-made” guy — that’s all I buy. I love the process of fixing them up. We have done full restorations-customizations to some of them. I also love the hunt for (as we say in the classic car world) an “unmolested” car. Finding one in the same condition as it was the day it rolled off the factory floor is like finding a time capsule of American history.
Now, getting settled in retirement, I am teaming up with hall of fame builder and painter Marcos Garcia and his crew at Lucky 7 Customs in Antioch, Calif. I want to help other athletes get the cars of their dreams, and do it in a way where they are not taken advantage of. I want them to get the experience that everyone deserves when they own an old-school car.