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NFL Stars: On and Off the Field

Biographies and memoirs expose the humanity behind the superstars

By Melina Lynne • August 26, 2016

Excitement is in the air! The drafts are picked, teams assembled, and training camps done. We are now fully immersed in football season: the number one cause of hoarse vocal chords, heated Facebook debates, and self-proclaimed referees. Chips and beer are becoming harder to come by on weekends, and our close friends are slowly becoming our Sunday morning/afternoon enemies.

There once was a time that I attended football parties for the social atmosphere and free food. If you asked me what was going on, I would give you a blank stare and repeat the score. I remember the day that I found out that the ?down? lines were not actually drawn on the field, but were added digitally. Boy, did I feel dumb.

That was then. Now I scream louder than my husband, debate teams, scores, and overall ability with co-workers, and wear my football jersey with pride! It's amazing what a few years and a best friend who is a football fanatic can do.

What is it that makes this sport so addicting? The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched television events of the year, people follow the draft closer than the new Pok?mon Go app, and don't even get me started on the amount of time dedicated to fantasy football. It's a cultural phenomenon. Now that I'm just another cog in the giant NFL fan machine, I keep asking myself what makes it so interesting to watch?

In my opinion, it's passion. It drives all of us in one way or another, and athletes are some of the most driven people I have ever seen. They give up favorite foods, social gatherings, and down time to make it one step closer to their goals. And as much as we may de-humanize the men we see running down field taking each other out, they really are playing with a passion shared by fans and players alike. They love what they do, and we love to watch it.

As technology has progressed, so has our ability to learn about our favorite NFL stars. With Instagram posts, Facebook likes, ESPN apps, etc., we're slowly adding the humanity back into one of our favorite games.

There are many stories represented on the field each time we tune in, and many players have opened up in written form as well. Like any other author who writes a memoir or biography, these players just want to share their story with us. Whether it is their journey to the NFL (The Blind Side by Michael Lewis), their experience in playing the game (Slow Getting Up by Nate Jackson), or their post-NFL career (Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer), there is so much we can learn about being human from these men that we elevate on a daily basis.

For example, The Blind Side tells the incredible story of one boy's passion for the game of football, and the hurdles he had to overcome just to play in high school, let alone stand a chance at having an NFL career. His story was one that rang true enough for film directors to see the heart in it and the drive in him. In reading the book, you not only feel the inspiration of hard work, but also learn more about the game itself.

In Slow Getting Up, Nate Jackson brings to life the realities of being on the practice squad versus the active roster, and what each means for a player both mentally and physically. We know this sport is a dangerous one. We wince as players take hits over and over, and grab onto our arms and legs as if we were the one on the field. Nate discusses the fears that each player lives with every time he steps onto the field, as well as answers some of our burning questions about what it's like to be in the NFL.

For a far more controversial look at the dangers of our beloved sport, take a look at Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Yes, this is the story in the film starring Will Smith, about a pathologist who took on the NFL after making shocking medical discoveries about the injuries players face every time they step on the field. It's not a topic we fans love to come face-to-face with, but it's a story that can't be ignored.

Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer is also not written by a player, but someone who saw a player whose story simply could not be forgotten. Some may remember Pat Tillman as the man who walked away from a lucrative NFL career to join the Army. Many were left wondering why, thinking he must be crazy, because who gives up a lucrative career in the NFL? His story is one filled with character, passion, moral obligation, and even secrecy.

The NFL season is going strong, but we have a ways to go before two teams take the field to compete for the Lombardy Trophy. There is much that can happen between now and then, but one thing is certain: These players have much more to share with us, other than their passion for the game. Explore NFL Biographies to hear more of their stories.

Go Seahawks!

Read more by Melina Lynne

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