A lot of the freshman football players who play for Florida State are high school All-Americans. Theyre big, strong, and fast. They have all the tools. People look at them and say, "You know theyll make it to the NFL."
Andre Wadsworth and I were exceptions. He came in as a walk-on, and I as a low recruit. With us, people were likely to say, "If I had to pick somebody to make the NFL, it wouldnt be them." Even in our own minds, based on our strength and our physical abilities we doubted we could ever play professionally. We surprised a lot of people, including ourselves, when we were selected as the two highest draft picks out of FSU. I was the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 1997 draft; Andre was the third choice in 1998.
We believe the reason we were able to improve so drastically as football players is because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Andre and I are both Christians. Our faith is what weve built our lives on and what has given us the courage and strength to overcome limitations. It has also given us the basis for a solid, lasting friendship.
I met Andre in our freshman year. We attended Bible studies together and Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings. From that we started hanging out, and we eventually became roommates our junior year. Were a lot alike. We have the same spiritual beliefs and the same values. We had a good impact on each other in college. We helped each other grow in our Christian faith by talking about things in the Bible and sharing what God was doing in our lives.
We also helped each other make wise choices. We refrained from going out drinking at clubs and from having sex and things like that. There are a lot of people pulling at you to do the wrong things. And its tough by yourself when youre trying to live right and do the right thing. But Andre and I would encourage each other and keep each other accountable. When we would see the other person do something that violated our standards, we would say, "I dont think you should be doing that," or "I see that youre struggling here. How can I help?"
The accountability we had with each other paid off. It helped us make choices that had a positive impact on our lives. For example, by choosing not to party, we made sure our bodies were stronger and better able to handle the demands of football.
Now that Im in the NFL, I still find it essential to have other Christians who encourage me and challenge me the same way Andre did when we were in college. I choose my closest friends by looking at the way theyre living. I want to learn from people who are living out what they know is right and not just talking about it. These types of friendships help me stand strong against the harmful temptations that often accompany life in the NFL.
As for my friendship with Andre, hes with the Arizona Cardinals while Im with the Baltimore Ravens. Obviously we dont get to see each other very often during the year. We still have so much in common. We talk occasionally on the phone and continue to encourage each other in football and in our faith the way we did at FSU. And during the off-season we get to hang out together during the 3 or 4 months we go back to Tallahassee.
Andre and I know that we are where we are today because of faith in Jesus Christ and the blessings Hes given us. Weve also experienced success because of our friendship, which has provided encouragement along the way. Weve shared a lot together.