I never realized how long 24 hours could be.
Earlier this year, right after the Super Bowl in February, I went straight to Buffalo, where my fiancée at the time, Mindy, was living. She was in her last year of medical school there, where she was studying psychiatry. And I have to tell you, after losing to the Chiefs in the fourth quarter like we did, in the biggest game of my life, I was definitely hurting. So I was blessed to have somebody like Mindy — basically a professional listener and just a genuinely compassionate person — there to support me.
But honestly, I didn’t really have much time to dwell, for two reasons.
One was the pandemic. It wasn’t long after I arrived in Buffalo that COVID really started to pick up. So almost right away, I was forced to move on from the Super Bowl and think about things much bigger than football.
The other reason was Mindy.
One thing I learned from watching her go through medical school is that … it’s no joke, man. I mean, I knew it was tough, but I saw it firsthand in Buffalo when she was right in the thick of her residency, working 24-hour shifts at the hospital.
Knowing she was working all those hours, nonstop and then seeing her come home completely exhausted were real eye-openers.
You know how when you’re waiting for something — even something as simple as a phone call, or a pizza to show up, or whatever — and time just kind of drags on? Like you check the time and it’s eight o’clock, then you look again what feels like 10 minutes later and it’s … 8:01? That’s what I was doing when Mindy was working those shifts. I’d be alone at the house all night, working out or sitting on the couch watching TV, just me and the dog, killing time and waiting for Mindy to get home.
And I’m telling you, I never realized how long 24 hours really was.
Knowing she was working all those hours, nonstop and then seeing her come home completely exhausted were real eye-openers. I’d think about the kind of work I put in for my job — the early morning workouts, the midday meetings, the late-night film sessions, all of it. And at the end of the day, it’s all for what … a game?
And then here she is, working these crazy hours, sacrificing and putting herself through school — putting herself into debt — so she can help others.
Seeing that, along with experiencing the pandemic and everything that’s come with it, really put things into perspective for me.
I’ve always said that football is not the most important thing. I know that some hard-core fans don’t want to hear that. People on Twitter want us to be all-in — living, eating and breathing football. And believe me, to a large extent, that’s me. I love this game, and I give everything I have toward being the best player I can possibly be to help my team.
But football is not everything.
I’m reminded of that almost every night when I go home and FaceTime Mindy.
Since being with her up in Buffalo last spring, a lot has changed. We got married over the summer. She also completed her residency at the University of Buffalo and moved to Sacramento, where I’m from. For most of our relationship, we had been doing the long-distance thing. Now, even though we’re still in different cities, we’re finally closer together — me playing in San Francisco, and her doing her fellowship at UC Davis, where she rotates between different hospitals in the Sacramento area, working predominantly with patients impacted by the pandemic.
I was born and raised in Sacramento, and I love my city. But it’s been a tough year there — like it has been just about everywhere. COVID has impacted a lot of people, physically and economically, but the mental and emotional toll has also been huge for so many. Working in mental health, Mindy is with people like this every day, listening to their stories and administering different therapy techniques to help them cope and find the strength to keep moving forward.
Every night, when I get home from practice, I FaceTime Mindy and she tells me about her day — about what it’s like to be out on the front lines. She’s not able to talk about what her patients are going through, but judging from the sheer number of people she talks to every day, it’s clear that a lot of people are struggling. It’s a real dose of perspective.
And this might sound strange, but when she’s telling me about her day, out of the wide range of emotions I feel, one rises above the rest.
Mindy and I met back in 2016 through mutual friends. She was visiting her friend in California who was dating a friend of mine at the time and we all hung out one weekend. And when Mindy went back home to Buffalo — and as luck would have it, we played the Bills the following weekend. Mindy and I hung out again.
We’ve been together ever since.
The thing that really drew me to her was her intensity. She’s a very passionate person, and I could see that manifest itself in everything she did.
But mostly, I saw it in how she pursued her dream of becoming a doctor.
She’s the kind of person who has always been driven. She was at the top of her class in high school, graduated early and moved out at a young age to start school. It’s been exciting for me to watch her grow over these last few years as she’s worked her way through medical school, and discovered and fallen in love with the field of mental health in the process.
The thing that really drew me to her was her intensity.
So when we’re FaceTiming and she’s telling me these stories, not only am I thankful that I have such a strong, driven, compassionate woman as my partner, but I’m also grateful that I’ve been able to bring her home with me to Sacramento, so that through her selflessness and bravery, she can help the people in the community I love so much. And knowing that she and her colleagues across the medical field — and so many other essential workers out there — have been making a difference in our communities and really keeping everything together, putting themselves at risk in the process, is humbling.
Especially knowing that when I wake up every day, I get to play a game for a living.
That’s not lost on me.
So as I’m sitting here writing this, I guess what I’m really trying to say is….
Thank you to all the people in the medical field and everyone else out there in our communities caring for and supporting people at a time when so many need it most. The ones working the early mornings, the late nights and the 24-hour shifts. The ones out there holding our communities up, keeping us safe and strong.
Thank you to the heroes.
And thank you to my hero.
I’m incredibly proud to call you my wife, but even more proud to share you with my community in Sacramento. The sacrifices you make — your bravery, your spirit, your passion, your commitment to your profession and to helping others … I mean, what is there to really say? I’m just in awe of you, every day. I truly look up to you.
And when our daughter arrives, I know she will, too.
It’s been amazing watching you work and watching you grow, and I can’t wait to see you bring the same passion you bring to your work and to your life to being the best mother you can possibly be. I couldn’t be more excited about the life we’re building together.
Thank you for everything that you do for me, and for our community.
I’m just proud to be by your side as you do it.