Dear NFL Coaches and General Managers,
I know what you’re looking for in a football player.
Really … I do.
Analysts want to make the NFL draft about 40-yard dash times and cone drills. They want to make it about statistics and highlight tapes. And while size, speed, athleticism are important, I know you’re looking for more. You’re looking for something that can’t be measured at the combine and won’t show up on film.
You’re looking for two things: a guy who loves to compete and who loves the game of football.
Because if you don’t love to compete and you don’t love the game, then none of the other stuff matters.
As you probably know, I broke my right hand my sophomore year at USC. It happened during a Saturday game against Cal. I had surgery that Monday, and doctors put a metal plate and a screw in my hand just below my ring finger.
There were nights that week when I cried because the pain in my hand was so intense. The doctors told me they had never seen a wide receiver come back right away after an injury like that, and Coach Helton told me the decision on whether or not to play the following week was up to me.
He said it would depend on how much pain I could tolerate.
Five days after my surgery, I suited up against Arizona and I went off for eight catches, 138 yards and a touchdown, including a 72-yard score … all with a broken hand.
But I don’t remember that game because of my performance.
I remember it because of why I decided to suit up and join my teammates on the field that day.
Aside from the game of football, there’s nothing I love more than competing. I take pride in knowing that when I’m at my best, nobody can stop me — that my best is better than anybody else’s best. That’s just the confidence you have to have to play this game at a high level.
But before that Arizona game, I saw an opportunity for a new level of competition.
I wasn’t going to be 100%. I knew I was going to have to fight through a lot of pain to play in that game. And that’s why I wanted to play. I looked at it as a new challenge. I wanted to prove to myself — not to anybody else — that I could still win battles even when I knew I wasn’t going to be at my best, and even when the guy across from me knew it, too.
I won those battles.
And we won the game.
I was also competing against myself. I believe that you can outwork and out-train your opponents to win the physical battles, and I work hard every day to do that. But when you can win the mental battles before the ball is even snapped — when you know something is going to hurt and you not only do it anyway, but you do it at full speed and don’t miss a beat — that’s the definition of toughness, in my opinion.
That’s why I played that day. In that game, I learned a lot about what it means to be a competitor.
And I learned a lot about myself.
You can’t play this game if you don’t love competition. But you also have to have a passion for the game itself. Which is why I want you to go back and watch some film — but not my highlights. I believe that what I can do with the football in my hands speaks for itself.
I want you to watch me when I don’t have the ball.
I take pride in doing my job on every play so that my teammates can do theirs. Even when I know the ball isn’t coming my way, I’m always moving. I complete my routes. I run corners off and sell my fakes to open things up for my teammates to make plays.
I take pride in being a security blanket for my quarterback — in turning a 50-50 jump ball into an 80-20 jump ball. I want my quarterback to know that if he’s in trouble and needs to heave it up somewhere, he can trust me to either come down with it or to play good enough defense against the DB so that it’s not intercepted.
I take pride in being physical. I’m tough to bring down after the catch. I’m not afraid to put my body on the line. I’m not afraid to go over the middle. I’m not afraid to lay a block.
That’s just how I play the game. Maybe it comes from my days of playing rugby growing up. I’ve just always loved the physical nature of the game of football, and I’ve never shied away from contact.
I take pride in being a complete receiver.
That’s what you’re looking for. After all the prospects on your draft board have been weighed and measured and analyzed and reanalyzed, what you’re really looking for is a guy who loves to compete and who loves the game more than anything else.
You’re looking for the guy who wants it more.
If you draft me, I’ll come in and compete every single day. I love and respect the game too much to take the opportunity to play in the NFL for granted. I’ve worked my whole life for this. Now I’m ready to work harder than I’ve ever worked before. And I’m ready to win.