Troy Brown retired as a three-time Super Bowl champion and New England's all-time leader in receptions. After his 15-year NFL career, Brown has transitioned to being an analyst on TV and radio, as well as an investor and spokesman for Narragansett Beer, a brewery in Rhode Island. Now Brown has become an author, working with ESPN's Mike Reiss, to write Patriot Pride: My Life in the New England Dynasty. In this excerpt, Brown reflects on tackling life after football:
I feel as if the league is doing more to help out guys when it comes to off-the-field stuff. For examples, rookies entering the league have a symposium and they talk about a lot of those issues. With the Patriots, we had people come in and talk about life off the field from time to time. Harold Nash, who is the Patriots' head strength and conditioning coach, was doing it for a while with the team. They bring in financial advisors, they bring in speakers -- a lot of things to get guys ready for life after football, such as entrepreneur programs, where they're sending guys to school on tuition reimbursement programs. So they have a lot of things in place but one of the problems is that guys don't always see that door closing on them until it's completely shut. For me, football was a huge part of my life for 30 years, and I didn't think I'd be anything else. I probably thought I wanted to go into coaching and I was lucky. But this game can be finished for anyone, on any day, or any time. I don't think you know when you run out of gas. I would have played forever if I could have.
Part of the challenge post-retirement is losing the structure of football. It can be tough to wrap your head around what you want to do next. It’s like my whole life has been structured and organized, and everything had to be a certain time. I had to be back here for training camp in August, get ready for the season in September, arrive at a certain time, leave at a certain time -- it's all rigid and many decisions are made for you. There is comfort in that routine and it's almost like you're running on autopilot. And all of a sudden, you don't have that anymore. If you haven't prepared yourself to do anything else after football, it's going to be real, real, real tough.
Then there's the whole issue if your self-esteem is tied to your playing career. You hear some retired players say, "It's not the same as when you were playing; people look at you different and you don't have the same status." That's true in many cases, but the key is obviously to not let the fact that you played in the league define who you are. That is easier said than done in some cases, but there's going to be people shuffling in all the time, and there's going to be a hot new star every year. That's just the way the system works. It's the same in music and movies. There are new people shuffling in all the time, but you can't let that define who you are, because if somebody treats you different than they did when you were playing, then you don't need to be associated with that person anyway.
I've been lucky enough to be able to fill that void. I spend a lot of time with my kids. I'm always staying busy, and during the season, I'm talking football either on the radio or on TV. I'm not making $1 million a year, but I'm enjoying what I do, and the people I work with, and the things I'm talking about. I'm comfortable with my situation. Figuring out how to successfully transition out of the game is a big concern for a lot of players and I feel fortunate. But if I was commissioner, I'd try to help. And I think they're doing that now, trying to help players understand that some future planning can put themselves in positions where they can be successful. I'd say that if you want to implement real change in the game, start with some of these college kids, and even high school kids, to get the message across to them. Eliminate that sense of entitlement you see in so many young players.
You need to start preparing now, because the NFL could last one day, it could last 15 years. It's like they say "NFL stands for Not For Long." I would promote a program where I'd talk to high school coaches, maybe even middle school coaches, and encourage the thought that kids need to stop getting free passes, and there needs to be a level of accountability. I've seen too many times where a very good athlete gets in a position where they're probably going to fail, or they're going to flunk a class, or they're going to get in trouble for something crazy they did, but they get a free pass and are allowed to keep playing just because they're good at sports. But that player needs to be held accountable for that at that time. The end result is that when you make it to the NFL, or the NBA, or the major leagues, they've been given everything they’ve got and never really had to earn anything. And then we want to ask the question, "Why is this kid the way he is when he gets to that level?"
-- Excerpted by permission from Patriot Pride: My Life in the New England Dynasty by Troy Brown and Mike Reiss. Copyright (c) 2015. Published by Triumph Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Available for purchase from the publisher, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Follow Troy Brown on Twitter @RealTroyBrown80. Follow Mike Reiss on Twitter @MikeReiss.