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Ray Rice, Jalen Richard and an old grumpy white guy: Part 3

Jalen started the 2016 NFL season as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Oakland Raiders.  He had no contract and no guarantees.  After a productive training camp and pre-season, he earned a spot on Oakland’s 53-man active roster. That is so unbelievably hard to do.  Undrafted rookie free agent.  That means you are just a body…nothing more.  Teams literally bring you in to practice against the people who actually matter.  After training camp, undrafted free agents return home battered, beaten and unemployed.  Apparently, Jalen didn’t see it that way.  He saw a sliver of hope when the Raiders invited him to training camp….and then he proceeded to kick the door down.

After the season ended, I got a call from Ray.  He asked me to train Jalen.  I said, “NO”.  I wanted nothing to do with training professional athletes anymore.  That had been my life for damn near a decade and I had zero desire to go back.  I had trained over a hundred professional athletes. I had been offered positions with pro teams and elite universities.  I had been offered opportunities to train the best basketball players from across the globe.  I chose to walk away from that world when I was in the middle of taking it over.  In my eyes, I had nothing left to prove.  I also had nothing left to gain. Ray knew my story and my stance.  Regardless, he called and asked me to work with Jalen again. Ray prodded, “One time, KJ.  You can help this kid.”  I was tired of pushing back and conceded, “He gets one chance, bro.”  I thought I was Saint Fucking Nick for that concession.  Ray responded, “Bet” and swiftly hung up. You see, Ray was my homie.  He knew I was pissed about giving this whole thing a shot, but he had also just gotten the answer he wanted. He was sure to hurry his ass off the phone before I gained my moment of clarity.

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Ray Rice, Jalen Richard and an old grumpy white guy: Part 2

Fast forward.

During Week 1 of the ensuing NFL season, I was sitting down at a San Diego bar watching the Raiders play the Saints.  I see a Raiders running back take a hand off to the house.  75 yard touchdown.  I see the back of his jersey while he celebrates in the endzone……”Richard”.  NO FUCKING WAY.  I still didn’t know a damn thing about Jalen other than this: He went undrafted.  He sought help.  He got denied.  He still found his way.  That’s all any one person should really need to know about another human being.

I walked outside of the bar, took my phone out of my pocket and called Ray.  The kid had at least earned an introduction.  Ray was doing better at that point, but he still wasn’t out of the woods. When Ray picked up, I explained the entire story with Jalen.  Ray brightened up at the prospect of mentoring a young running back in the NFL.  I brightened up at the fact that I heard my homie sound energized again.  Maybe I should have made the introduction earlier.  Maybe I shouldn’t have made it at all.  I was nervous about bringing Ray back close to anything NFL related.  I contacted Jalen and said that I would make the intro if there was still interest.  Jalen was elated.  He could not WAIT to talk to Ray.  It was like telling a 9-year-old that you would introduce them to their favorite super hero.

Ray and Jalen began speaking consistently throughout the 2016 NFL season and they became very close.  I stepped away, let them do their thing and went back to focusing on my businesses. It was perfect.  Jalen was given the introduction to Ray. Ray was able to mentor again. And I didn’t need to be involved any longer.  Everybody wins.

My work was done…

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