If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re an athlete. And by definition, athletes are active.
It doesn’t matter what you do, where you do it or even why. If physical activity is part of your life, then you share a distinct kinship with athletes everywhere, of any and all levels. (Yes, even the ones who get paid to do it professionally.)
Vernon Hargreaves and Kendall Fuller are those kind of athletes. Today, Vernon — a former University of Florida Gator — plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Kendall made the short trip north from Virginia Tech to play for the Washington Redskins. Playing the sport of football has become their full-time jobs, but that’s just as of recently. For the majority of their lives, Vernon and Kendall were just like a lot of us — dedicated athletes who were committed to being active and constantly improving at what they do.
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At this point in their journeys, they’re both NFL rookies, entering the professional ranks for the first time. This is another familiar experience, one that’s filled with its fair share of nerves and expectations but also excitement. And like many of us in a new job, Vernon and Kendall know that the key to their success is continuing to do the things that got them there.
Athletically, that might seem like a far cry from what most of us can imagine, but if you’re an athlete of any level, you’ve got a lot in common with Vernon and Kendall.
No, I’m serious.
Although you may not spend your weeks preparing to go iso with Julio Jones in single coverage, becoming a better athlete is a big part of your life. And while they might be rookies in the NFL, Vernon and Kendall are grizzled veterans in the craft of improving as an athlete.
As we all look for tips and advice on what can help us get better in places like this very blog, who better to consult with than guys like Vernon and Kendall? You might just find out that you can relate on more than one level. So pull up a seat, and let’s get better together.
Under Armour: Whether you’re just trying to avoid hitting the snooze button or preparing for Week 15 of the grueling NFL calendar, all athletes need to find a way to keep that fire lit. How do you guys stay up and ready to go?
Vernon Hargreaves: It starts with you. My motivation has always started with doing well at whatever’s in front of me. I want to be the best at what I do, period. For me, that’s enough.
Kendall Fuller: I use a trick in the gym anytime I’m working out and feel myself getting tired. I always picture someone that I’m competing against doing the same workout that I am. Except, they’re not as tired, they’re going 100 miles per hour, doing an extra rep than me. That gets me going… I’m never going to let one of my competitors outwork me.
“It starts with you.” -Vernon Hargreaves
ON MAKING PROGRESS
UA: It’s easy to know that you’re making strides when you’re getting named all-conference, getting drafted or moving up on the depth chart. But internally, as a person, how do you monitor your improvement as an athlete?
KF: My oldest brother would always use this term: “Run your own race.” You gotta stay in your lane and take it step by step. I would say that’s the biggest thing.
“You gotta stay in your lane and take it step by step.” -Kendall Fuller
VH: First of all, you gotta have patience. Nothing that’s worth having comes easy or fast. Stick to the plan you came up with. Most likely, at the end of the day, you’ll get the outcome that you want.
KF: And you never feel more accomplished when you see that hard work paying off… when you’re able to see the real fruits of your labor.
ON SETTING GOALS
UA: Even though you guys have made it to the NFL, do you still set goals for yourself? How do you as an athlete think about goals and achieving them to help you improve?
VH: Of course. My goal’s to become an all-pro in my rookie year. It’s a big goal. It’s a hard goal. But that’s the point of having a goal. Something you can work for every day and that you’re thinking about every day and working hard to accomplish. I want to go for it all, the top achievement.
KF: Here’s something about setting goals and improving — you have to know yourself better than anybody else. You have to know your weaknesses, know your strengths. In football, there’s some things that you can’t always see on film or have an answer to, but deep down, you know. Just knowing your strengths and weaknesses and really working on them. You can always just find one thing that you can focus on every single day. Like today, I’m gonna get off blocks better. Or tomorrow, I’m gonna work on my eyes.
“It’s a big goal. It’s a hard goal. But that’s the point of having a goal.” -Vernon Hargreaves
VH: And one thing to remember: Obviously the NFL Combine was an important goal, and to go out and have (a) big Combine was important. It can change your future in a heartbeat. It can change your whole life if you impress the right people. But when I was training, I tried to just have fun. For people who are trying to achieve their goals, you gotta have fun with it…
Motivation. Making progress. Setting goals. That’s the language all athletes speak, that all of us can keep in mind while we strive to improve and raise our games. And while that game might not be played in front of 80,000 people every Sunday, it’s just as important to who we are and who we are trying to become.
Need more inspiration? The NFL offers college athletes a moment every year to Make History at the NFL Scouting Combine. Next year’s Combine runs from February 28—March 6, 2017. Watch coverage on the NFL Network. And keep making your own history every day.