Salmon and green beans.
Maybe that’s what it was. Maybe that’s what did it.
Beyond that, though, I honestly don’t know what else to tell you. Because that’s really the only thing I did differently before the NFC championship game against the Packers. Everything else the night before, and on game day, I did the same as always.
The only thing I can think of is that I never eat salmon and green beans before games. And that morning, for some reason, I decided to down a nice filet with some beans.
220 yards rushing and four touchdowns later.…
Here we are.
And you know what? I’m just gonna be straight up with you and say something that maybe I shouldn’t even admit right now, but whatever: I even surprised myself with how I played in that game.
I mean, I get that as a professional athlete I’m supposed to think that I can do or accomplish anything. But….
Like, I actually didn’t know I could do what I did against the Packers.
220 and four? In the biggest game of my life? Me?
I was shocked, to be honest with you.
After the game ended, I was back in the locker room watching my phone blow up — shakin’ my head at the 300 text messages waiting for me and the 140 missed calls — and just kind of standing there thinking….
How did I even do that?!?!?!?
Was that real life?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe in myself, and have tons of confidence in what I can do. But, come on….
Not even I saw 220 and four coming.
220 and four? In the biggest game of my life? Me? I was shocked, to be honest with you.
But it did happen. It was real life.
And now, thanks to a total team effort, it’s on to Miami. For me and my teammates, sure, but also for Niner Nation as a whole. These fans, man, I have so much respect for them, and I’m so happy to be able to be a part of this ride with them. They’ve stuck with us through some really tough seasons and have waited far too long for that sixth ring.
Really? Twenty. Five. Years?
That’s a looooong time to have to wait. (I mean, I was two the last time this team held up the Lombardi Trophy.) And it’s not easy waiting like that — just waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, and having to stay optimistic and keep hope alive, even when it seems like nothing is ever gonna work out. It’s tough.
Because if anyone knows all about that, it’s me.
That’s how many cut me in my first two years in the league.
Eagles. Dolphins. Ravens. Browns. Jets. Bears.
They all stung, too — every last one of ’em. It never got any easier.
Early on in my rookie season in 2015, it seemed like I was getting cut pretty much every week — just switching hoodies and trading in one iPad for another before I could even learn anyone’s name.
I remember during Week 1 that year when I was in Atlanta with the Eagles for the first Monday night game of the season. I was a practice squad guy at that time and didn’t know anything about how travel worked in the league, so all I had was a backpack, a notebook, and my iPad. I was wearing the Eagles jumpsuit they’d given us, and that was it — no change of clothes, no nothing.
I’m a rookie. What do I know? I thought that’s what people did.
Anyway, I get a call from my agent that morning saying the Dolphins had picked me up and added me to their active roster. “They want to fly you down there now,” he tells me. “Hop on the next plane to Miami.”
So two hours later, I stroll into the Dolphins facility geared-up from head to toe in Eagles stuff because … that’s all I had.
You should have seen it. It was totally ridiculous.
Dudes just looked at me and shook their heads.
There were a lot of awkward moments like that early in my career, but there’s one cut in there that was actually the toughest one of them all.
Yup, for real. That Browns cut was rooooooough. That’s the one that almost broke me.
I had just gotten engaged, and my fiancée, Devon (who’s now my wife), she’s from Cleveland. She’s got tons of family there, that’s home for her. So after I had a nice preseason with the Browns and made the initial 53-man roster, we really started thinking long-term at that point. We’re looking at houses, talking about different school districts, stuff like that.
The night when I got the news that I’d made the roster, we went out to dinner and straight up ate like kings over at Hyde Park steak house at Crocker Park. You should’ve seen those steaks, man. It was a feast, a true celebration.
The next morning my phone rings. It’s a local number — 216 area code.
“Sorry, Raheem, we’re gonna have to let you go.”
I couldn’t believe it. Everything had been setting up so perfectly.
“Please bring your iPad down to the facility immediately.”
After I hung up the phone, I put it down and….
Immediately started crying.
And it wasn’t just a few little tears or whatnot, I’m talking I sat there for about 10 or 15 minutes and just bawled my eyes out.
This was the fourth call I’d gotten like that in a year, and Cleveland was a place I thought was going to be my family’s home. A human being can only take so much defeat and rejection, you know what I mean?
So, yeah, I just sat there alone and cried.
A human being can only take so much defeat and rejection, you know what I mean?
What made it even worse was that Devon was having her bridal shower that day. So I had to break this news to her and her parents on what should’ve been one of the happiest, most joyful days of her life. Not only do I have to tell my fiancée, but I’ve gotta look her dad and mom in the eye and tell them that the man she is set to marry just got fired from his job.
I remember sitting there with them in our apartment and legitimately thinking about quitting football. It could’ve gone either way at that point, honestly. It was like: I can’t keep having this happen to me. I can’t keep wasting time. I want to start a family. We need some stability. I want to move forward, not back.
At one point, I remember I picked my head up and said to Devon: “Well, what do you think we should do now?”
When she asked me what I meant, I ran down a list of all the organizations that had already cut me. “I just can’t seem to stick on a team. So what do you think we should do?”
And almost instantaneously, with her parents standing right beside her, she looked at me and said something that I’ll never forget.
“Babe, I believe in you.”
It felt so good to hear.
“I believe in you, Raheem. And I always will. So if you love this game as much as you say you do, you need to keep going and do everything you possibly can to make this happen.”
Her parents were nodding along as she spoke.
“And I will be right by your side the entire time.”
I’ll never forget that moment.
Everybody needs somebody who believes in them. Somebody who can encourage them and say, “You can do this. You have what it takes.” And when teams were telling me left and right that I didn’t, Devon was there, making sure I knew. Making sure I didn’t quit. To say I wouldn’t be here without her is an understatement.
But, to be honest with you, it’s not like things all of a sudden turned around for me after that.
I still had to endure two more cuts before I finally landed in San Francisco. And Devon, God bless her, still ended up having to load up our 4Runner with our English bulldog, Wilson, and all my stuff, and drive 10 or 12 hours to a new city a few more times.
But, you know, I really do feel like all’s well that ends well, because we couldn’t be happier with where we are now. And I know that, as difficult and deflating as it was to be cut all those times, those setbacks needed to happen in order for me to be where I am today.
Heading to Miami for the biggest game on the planet.
As difficult and deflating as it was to be cut all those times, those setbacks needed to happen in order for me to be where I am today.
I can’t wait for this game.
I’m ready to go play right this second.
And it’s going to be all the more special for me because I grew up in Florida, and the very first NFL game I went to as a little kid was in the same stadium where I’m now going to be suiting up for the Super Bowl.
I still keep wondering if I should pinch myself. Like this is maybe almost too storybook for me, if you catch my drift.
But who am I to question it, right?
And man, I gotta say, this is going to be so much fun! Just being in that setting, with this group of guys, pulling together in an effort to make history and bring that trophy back to the Bay Area? That’s what I’m looking forward to most — us, as a group, as brothers, getting after it on the big stage, for all the marbles.
All of us.
This team really is one big family. There are no egos with us. Under the leadership of John Lynch and Coach Shanahan, all we care about is winning football games and enjoying the time we spend together.
There’s no cliques. We all just hang out and have fun and do everything we can to be the best football team possible. And, I gotta say: Jimmy G, man, he typifies that whole vibe. He’s the poster boy for sure.
Jimmy’s not fixated on his stats, or how he looks to the outside world. That dude just wants to win games. And he’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. Whether he throws 80 passes in a game or eight, it really doesn’t matter to him as long as we win.
Combine that sort of selfless leadership from your quarterback with a defense like ours and, well, the end result is a team that’s playing for a world championship. I mean, I may be an offense-first guy, but I actually really love watching and following defenses, just as a fan. I’ve always been that way. When I was a young kid, I was in awe of Ray Lewis and that Baltimore defense, with Ed Reed and T-Sizzle and that whole crew. And the Legion of Boom up in Seattle? I loved that D.
But what we have going here in the Bay … it’s honestly right up there with those units. The leadership we get from guys like Sherm, and Arik, and Dee Ford, and Tartt, and even younger guys like Nick and Solly?
I’m in awe of that.
I’m going to be so proud to be a part of this incredible experience — this amazing opportunity — with so many guys who I truly love and respect. It will be one of the greatest moments of my life, that’s for certain.
And before I walk through that tunnel on Super Bowl Sunday, you better believe that I’m gonna spend a few minutes of quiet time by myself in the locker room thinking about each one of those six cuts, and all those awkward iPad exchanges, and that stupid Eagles jumpsuit — which, yes, I do still have, along with my gear from all the other teams that bounced me, just as a lasting reminder of what I’ve gone through.
It’s been quite the journey. For sure.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because look where it got me, right?
Oh, and hey, if you happen to know of a place down in Miami that cooks up a mean plate of salmon and green beans, hit me up on Twitter @RMos_8Ball with those details.