Tom Zbikowski was never afraid to pursue his passions off the football field.
The former Notre Dame All-American safety was drafted in the third round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 and has also competed as a professional boxer, winning all four of his bouts.
And now that Zbikowski has lost his desire to play football, he has no fear about moving on.
The 28-year-old Zbikowski was cut by the Chicago Bears earlier this year, and rather than trying to get back on a roster, he has decided to walk away from football to pursue another dream. Zbikowski's brother, father and grandfather have worked as firefighters in the Chicago area and, as reported by the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh, Tom will begin Chicago Fire Department academy training next month.
"I've had an extremely blessed life and I saved three-quarters of my money, so I can do whatever I want and I want to be of service to a community," Zbikowski told Haugh.
Zbikowski's rookie contract with the Ravens was for three years and $1.66 million. His second contract was a one-year deal for $1.2 million. He then signed a three-year contract with the Colts that would have paid him $5.4 million if he had stuck with the team. Although he only played one season in Indianapolis, Zbikowski received a signing bonus of more than $1 million. He also earned more than $225,000 in boxing. That's a gross of more than $4 million.
"Firemen show up in scary situations," he said. "They're symbols of pride, of faith, of what's good in society. I like to live dangerously.''
Zbikowski tried to apply for a spot in the Fire Department earlier this year but was turned away after wearing improper clothes when he went in for his interview.
The Buffalo Grove, Ill., native admitted to Haugh that he had fallen into drinking heavily during his final NFL season, 2012, in which he started 11 games with the Colts. He had lost his passion for the game and turned to alcohol as a reprieve. While he says he had indulged heavily on the nights before game in other years, he said it only started to affect his play in Indianapolis. Before long Zbikowski had gained weight and was not the same player he once was.
Zbikowski took a diet pill that was banned by the NFL, and after failing a drug test he earned a four-game suspension. Had he made an NFL roster in 2013, he would have been suspended until Week 5.
Now, Zbikowski told Haugh, he's stopped binge drinking and has started boxing once again. It's not hard for his family to see that he's in a much better place now than he was one year ago.
"I always thought Tommy overachieved and got everything out of everything in life he could," Ed Zbikowski told Haugh, "so he's content."