Posts tagged Interview
It’s the night before the 2016 NFL Draft. Tomorrow night, a bunch of young football players will be millionaires. Almost half of these guys will be busts. That’s just how it goes. The stakes are as high as the hopes. And in the NFL, hope is what gets you paid.
NFL teams don’t reward yesterday’s stars for yesterday’s stats. Not like they do in the NBA. Can you imagine the Broncos bringing back Peyton Manning for a Kobe-style victory lap season as a thank you for his past efforts? No way. The NFL doesn’t work like that. If you don’t produce, you’re gone. It’s that simple. If you get paid, it has much more to do with your future potential than your previous accomplishments. The next man up is probably more affordable anyway.
Sure, there are exceptions. When the Steelers paid Troy Polamalu after he was gassed, it was more a gesture of thanks than an expectation of All-Pro production. But for the most part, NFL players have to produce to get paid and even when they produce, they may have to get paid somewhere else.
Matt Forte has produced. For eight very solid seasons. Since entering the league in 2008, he has more yards from scrimmage than any other player in football (12,718). Forte has more targets (636) and catches (487) than any running back during that span. He also owns the single-season reception record for a running back (102).
And since he entered the league eight seasons ago, no one has more touches (2,522) than Forte. Nobody.
Therein lies the problem, though. Because of how NFL teams reward players, Forte knew he wasn’t going to cash in with a third contract from the Chicago Bears. It became clear last season that the Bears wouldn’t even try to re-sign him. Mediocre NFL players are expendable, but ultra-productive NFL running backs turning 30 with more touches and total yards from scrimmage than anyone else over an eight year stretch are expendable, too.
But Forte found a home with the New York Jets, who signed him to a three-year, $12 million deal ($8 million guaranteed) this offseason. If he can stay healthy, he can certainly be a force in that offense. That’s the hope, anyway.
Leading up to the most hopeful day on the NFL calendar, we sat down with Matt Forte to chat about his new team, new coach, God, Tom Brady, the most under-appreciated player in football, the 2016 NFL Draft and how Verizon can help you stream draft coverage tomorrow on your mobile device with the Verizon NFL Mobile App. Here’s the video:
Exactly 256 players heard their names called during the seven rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. One of those guys was University of Miami (Ohio) cornerback Quinten Rollins, an intriguing prospect that the Packers selected with the 62nd pick overall. Rollins played four years of basketball in college and finished second in school history with 214 career steals. After securing a fifth year of eligibility, Rollins turned his attention to football, a sport he hadn’t played since high school.
The results were pretty impressive. Playing in just one season, Rollins racked up 72 tackles and seven interceptions in 12 games. That single season performance earned him MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was invited to the Senior Bowl and kept things rolling, securing an interception in that game as well.
By all accounts, Rollins just knows how to get after it. He’s the only basketball player in Miami history to register two 7-steal games. His ball-hawking skills are unquestioned. He was a turnover machine on the football field and the guy likes to tackle, too. He may not have years of experience under his belt, but the dude’s a proven athlete who has shown that he can get results. I got a chance to chat with Rollins a couple weeks before the draft.
So what made Rollins go back to football?
“It was the right move,” he said. “I thought about playing football out of high school. I was playing both basketball and football, but basketball is the path that I chose for education purposes. It was my first opportunity to get to college. My first scholarship offer my junior year. I always knew that I would get back into football. It was just a matter of when and where. I thought about it after my sophomore year, but it didn’t happen. Then my senior year came around and I got an opportunity for a fifth year, and I just took a chance. I decided to sit down and meet with Coach Martin. I was in on a trial basis for spring ball. He gave me the opportunity to come out and earn a scholarship, and that’s what I did.”
I had read that Rollins considered playing basketball overseas, but ultimately, that idea didn’t appeal to him.
“Well, I’m a father. I had already been away from my daughter, being away at college with a 24-7 demanding schedule as far as academics and athletics go. I just didn’t want to go that far away from her. I felt like it would be better for me to stay over here in the US and get back into football. It was just a matter of when and where, and it just happened to work out perfect.”
Rollins is working with Speed Stick on their #DefyTheDoubt campaign. The experience of going from a student athlete to a professional with corporate sponsors supporting you as you make the leap to the next level has got to be a trip, right?
“It’s great,” Rollins said. “I’m blessed that Speed Stick gave me the opportunity to share my journey up until this point. Hopefully it continues to get even better as I continue to grow as a person and as an athlete. It’s definitely surreal to get opportunity to work with these guys like Speed Stick to get these types of endorsements. But at the end of the day, it still matters what you do and how you represent yourself as a person and as an athlete. I still have a lot of work to do, but it’s definitely been a blessing that they’ve allowed me to share my story and my journey. Hopefully, like I said, it continues to keep getting better.”
When tight ends like Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates make plays in the NFL, there seems to be some sort of rule that an announcer must always reference the fact that they played basketball. Seriously, has Jimmy Graham ever caught a touchdown without an announcer mentioning the phrase “former basketball player?” It doesn’t happen. It gets mentioned every single time the guy scores. And he’s scored 51 touchdowns in five NFL seasons. This only seems to apply to offensive players though. I asked Rollins what skills he honed on the court that could make him a defensive difference-maker on the football field.
“Man-to-man defense in basketball,” Rollins said. “That helps me tremendously in man-to-man coverage on the football field as far as my feet go. In basketball, it’s all about your feet. Sliding and moving your feet. It’s the same in football, but in the NFL you can’t put your hands on a guy past five yards. So that’s definitely been one of the most vital things. And then as far as end zone coverage and being point guard, you got to see the whole floor. That’s allowed me, in end zone coverage, to open up and get back to my natural instincts of being a point guard and seeing everything that’s going on and see the big picture. And anticipation. As a point guard, you got to always be a play ahead. It helps in football, too. I can anticipate things and just see it happen before it does happen. Also, having that next play mentality. As a point guard, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have turnovers. You’re going to have bad plays. But just like in football, you might get beat on a catch, but you got to have that next play mentality. You can’t have your head down, because it’s most likely going to come right back at you so you got to be prepared for it.”
Some scouts have projected Rollins as a safety in the NFL. Does he have a position preference for the next level?
“I really don’t care where I play at” he said, “whether it be nickel, outside, inside, back end safety. I’m just ready to get somewhere, learn the system and get going.”
So why defense? Rollins played running back at Wilmington High School in Ohio. He had a chance to play running back in college as well, but Rollins chose defense because of the upside potential at the professional level.
“When I gave coach Martin my film,” Rollins said, “he obviously saw me at running back in high school. He gave me the option, when we sat down and met, he said you can play offense or you can chose defense. After going over the pros and cons for each, I felt defense was going to be better, especially for longevity purposes. Running backs really don’t play that long in the NFL, as opposed to corners. With my size and my athletic ability, I chose the more elite position. It’s valued more. So I figured that was the best route for me to go.”
Smart move, especially with his existing skill set. Big ballin’ tight ends who have size, can get separation and handle the ball in the paint/endzone have certainly become a thing in the NFL. But this could be another trend worth watching. The Packers took Rollins in the second round this year, but last season they selected Baylor CB Demetri Goodson in the sixth. Goodson was also a point guard who didn’t have a ton of football experience in college (he played basketball at Gonzaga). The emergence of highly athletic, ball-hawkish point guards in the secondary is worth monitoring. Especially when these top-flight athletes are making the conscience business decision to apply their skills at a premium position that tends to attract big money.
Basketball and football are obviously different. Sure, the similarities help a guy like Rollins, but he appreciates the differences as well.
“I love the way teams bond together, but that’s what was different. With basketball, we were a very close team, but you look at the work that a football team puts in, it’s totally different. Like how you can get a hundred guys all on the same page, working hard and everything. There’s just something about that that’s special,” he said.
At the end of the day, Rollins just loves to make plays. And big plays can be a lot bigger on the football field than on the basketball court.
“In basketball, there’s a lot of possessions. In football, the possessions are limited. So any time you get the opportunity to make a game-changing play to impact the game in a vital way,” he said, “it’s something special.”
Talking with Rollins, it’s clear that he loves football.
“Everything that comes with the game, I enjoy,” Rollins said. “I actually didn’t realize I missed it that much until I got back out there on the field again. I mean, there’s nothing like Friday night lights, obviously, but Saturdays are special, too. And I’m looking forward to see what Sundays are like.”
I’m not going to pretend to know Cole Whitt. I mean, how can you really get to know someone after two interviews and a weekend in Daytona? But I think I got a good read on the guy, and if I could use one phrase to describe him, I’d say that he’s approachably focused.
He’s equal parts humble and hungry. Whitt doesn’t carry himself like a superstar race car diva. He’s got work to put in and he welcomes that work. That doesn’t mean he won’t flash a big, genuine smile when meeting a fan or take time to answer silly questions from bloggers like me.
When you meet Cole, you sense quickly that he’s a private guy. Not a limelight seeker by any stretch. He prefers CrossFit and the outdoors to press rooms and podiums. Behind this surface of shyness, though, there’s a big heart and a ferocious sense of purpose. You don’t earn a nickname like the Ginger Lion by being a pansy.
It should be noted, that racing ain’t easy, man. Especially if you want to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the nation’s highest stock car division. It’s a taxing endeavor all around. You need financial backing from your teams and sponsors, and soul support from your family and crew. On a weekly basis, you have to overcome the physical rigors of driving hundreds of miles with inches separating you from disaster. Then there’s mental prep required to get your head right before, during and after competition.
This is some seriously stressful stuff, but the stakes are high, my friend. This year’s Daytona 500 had a purse of over $18 million. That’s a lot of coin for 43 drivers to chase in one day.
Thanks to our friends at Speed Stick, we were able to follow Cole Whitt’s full experience of the 2015 Daytona 500. Join us for a moment as we step into his racing shoes…
Imagine you’re a pocket-sized, 23-year-old professional driver entering your second full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. You’re a full-blown ginger and your height and weight aren’t listed on your NASCAR profile. The biggest expectations you have come from within. You’re confident, because you’ve been racing for more than half your life. There’s doubters all around, but not in your inner circle.
Your first season had its set of challenges. Your car got jacked up during practice at the Daytona 500 and there was no backup car available. Your team rallied to make repairs, just to get you into qualifying. With no guarantee that you’d even compete, you make up eight spots on the final five laps of your Budweiser Duel to secure entry in the 2014 Daytona 500.
You showed a ton of promise in your first full Sprint Cup season. You finished better than you qualified in three of every four races you entered. You created some rookie of the year buzz and things looked promising.
With little warning, your racing team shuts down operations in April. You switch teams to close the year out and it’s unclear who’ll have a spot for you next season. Shoulder surgery that cuts into your offseason prep, but at least you secured a spot a new team. With your second season set to begin, you find yourself back in Daytona needing to fight your way in again.
This is where the Ginger Lion stood, right before the Budweiser Duels. Running in the #35 car for Front Row Motorsports, Cole Whitt was on the outside looking in and needed a good showing to earn a spot in the Great American Race. It’s #DefyTheDoubt time for damn sure.
“I told all the guys, it’s like, everything kinda rides on the 500,” Whitt said after qualifying. “If we can get into the 500, from there, the pressure is a little bit off. We still got a lot of work to do for sure, don’t get me wrong. But missing this race could turn the whole career to the wrong side. It could make it pretty hard to get through the season.”
So, no pressure, right?
“I’ve been through this situation more times than I want to be. Last year was very stressful and this year was just as stressful. As far as I was concerned, we had to run top 15. And we did.”
Whitt’s strong finish in the Budweiser Duels meant that he punched his ticket into Daytona to start the 2015 season.
“To be able to lock ourselves in and get all three cars in and push Front Row down the right path, it’s going to be awesome. I look forward to see what we can do this year.”
Speed Stick gave us the opportunity to follow Whitt and his #DefyTheDoubt attitude around Daytona for an important weekend in his young career. Here’s the beat and video we put together to chronicle the experience:
The folks at Speed Stick shared this sweet video chronicling our boy Cole Whitt’s complete sophomore season in NASCAR. Check it out:
Sammy Watkins just finished up a phenomenal rookie season and along with a stellar defense, is bringing hope back to a weary fan base in Buffalo that is long overdue for a team to be hopeful about. Watkins completed a successful rookie campaign, setting franchise marks for both receptions and yards despite having his starting quarterback benched early in the season and finishing out the year with a solid but unremarkable Kyle Orton.
The Bills gave up quite a bit for the opportunity to move up and select Watkins in the form of two first rounders and a fourth round pick. This along with the successful rookie campaigns of other receivers in what will likely go down as one of the deepest and most talented receiver classes of all time had Watkins coming into the league with even more pressure than usual for first round picks.
Watkins responded by persevering through injuries, quarterback changes, drawing the defenses number one coverage man, and in some cases, entire games of double teams, by repeatedly coming up big for his team when they needed him. His most noteworthy moment according to himself and others was a game winning catch against the Vikings in week seven with the season already on the line with a tough schedule ahead of them.
Sammy sat down with Man Jr. to discuss his transition into the league, the coaching changes and volatility in Buffalo, adjusting to life in his new home, and his work on Pepsi’s Hype Your Hometown contest. Check out the audio below:
The Golden State Warriors have the best record in the NBA and two-time all-star Steph Curry is a big reason why. An early favorite to win the MVP, Curry’s been lighting it up for a while now. But this year just feels different. Everything’s clicking for Golden State and first-year head coach Steve Kerr. The Splash Brothers are dominating from the perimeter again, yes, but the high octane offensive attack is now balanced by one of the league’s best defenses. Golden State is winning with conviction, too. Enjoying their hottest start in franchise history, the Warriors boast a league-best 11.5 margin of victory to go along with their 38-8 record.
And Curry’s just locked in, man. Top ten in points per game. Top five in assists, steals and free throw percentage. It’s all coming together for the youthful-looking point guard from Davidson.
Now you may think the guy looks like he’s 14 years old, but he’s full grown man of 26. That’s not to say he wasn’t an absolute baller when he was 14. When your dad plays 16 sharpshooting seasons in the NBA, there’s a good chance you’ll develop an appreciation for the game of basketball. Steph’s younger brother Seth is also a professional player who’s plying his trade for the Erie BayHawks, the Orlando Magic’s NBA developmental team.
So the guy’s a natural. Basketball’s in his genes. That’s not to say he doesn’t work hard. You don’t develop such a silky smooth jumper without putting in some time. But as Curry explains in this DegreeMen Game Changer spot, finding your own game is a careful balance.
After this spot ran, Steph Curry and John Wall of the Washington Wizards engaged in a playful/promotional exchange on Twitter. The two all-stars are now set to square off against each other for the title of Ultimate Game Changer in the Degree Battle of the Game Changers. It’s a shot-for-shot type showdown where each player has to match the other and fans get to vote on which shot they’d like to see by going to Twitter.com/DegreeMen after February 9.
We talked with Curry about the upcoming Battle of the Game Changers, first-time head coach Steve Kerr, who he thinks has the sweetest jumper of all time and what pointers he has for people with no shot whatsoever. Here’s the interview:
Make sure to check out the Degree Battle of the Game Changers live on NBA TV during the NBA All-Star Practice on February 14.
Last week we met up with All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews at the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition. Matthews and Campbell’s Soup were making a donation of 5,000 cans of Campbell’s Chunky as part of the Soup for Sacks program.
Last season, each time Matthews sacked an opposing team’s QB, Campbell’s donated 1,000 cans of soup to a local food bank in the opposing team’s city and 1,000 cans to the local food bank in Green Bay. In total, Campbell’s has donated over 40,000 cans of soup to food banks across the nation and they’ve helped raise $18,000 for Matthew’s charity, the CM3 Charitable Fund.
The Green Bay Packers linebacker, who’s a native of Southern California and played college ball at USC, was on hand in West Hollywood with his mom, because, you know, that’s what Campbell’s Chunky Soup is all about. As the face of the Campbell’s Chunky Soup “Mama’s Boy” campaign, Matthews and his mom were on hand for the donation and we got to spend a few minutes with him talking about the Sacks for Soup program, his football family heritage, Matthew’s path to the NFL, Pete Carroll, Kevin Greene, Green Bay’s injury woes and draft needs and a whole lot more. Check it out:
Greg Olsen plays in the National Football League as a tight end for the Carolina Panthers. He started his career with the Chicago Bears in 2007. He has been through a lot in the league, but he had his toughest challenge off the field. During the offseason in 2012 Greg and his wife, Kara were ecstatic when they received the great news of Kara being pregnant with twins. They already had one son and now their family was about to get bigger.
Sadly they got news that one of their babies would be born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD), called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Thankfully Greg and Kara went to Levine Children’s Hospital where both babies were born. Their son TJ has CHD and he needed a few operations on his heart. Now almost a year and a half has passed and TJ is doing well.
The Olsen’s wanted to help out other families who would deal with CHD. They set up “T.J.’s ‘HEARTest’ Yard” program under their Receptions for Research foundation. This program provides families of babies affected by CHD with many programs that include in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy as well as more outstanding services.
Greg was kind enough to chat with me about his family’s journey with TJ and CHD, his foundation, and a bit of football.
Art Eddy: The second week of February is CHD Awareness Week. I am very grateful for you to take the time and talk about how CHD impacted your family. Two years ago when you found out that TJ had CHD what was going through your mind at that point?
Greg Olsen: It was scary. Up to that point we really didn’t know anyone who had a congenital heart defect. We got the news that he was going to be born with a serious heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. It came to us as a great shock. We were obviously scared. There was a lot of uncertainty. It was something as a family that we had to work through.
We have had unbelievable doctors and the care that our son was able to have here. We were very fortunate that he is almost a year and a half. He really has come a long way.
AE: Reading up and watching videos on your family’s journey it looks like TJ’s battle with CHD made you guys a stronger family. You don’t sweat the minor things. It is incredible to watch the strength that these kids have as they battle with CHD. As a father how did you try and keep it together for the rest of the family while TJ was going through his procedures?
GO: It was hard. We had our weak moments. We definitely had our moments where we could have handled it better. You just try and do the best you can. We took it one day at a time. We would try not to get ahead of ourselves trying to predict the future.
That worked for us. Worrying about the moment now. What is the best thing that we can do for the long term health of our child, but what could we do today? It wasn’t what can we do in six or eight months. We got the diagnosis early before the babies were born. It gave us a lot of time to help prep ourselves. It also gave us a lot time to sit back and worry. It was a tough time there before the babies were delivered.
Once they were delivered I think it was nice to just move forward to the surgery. At that point it became real as opposed to just sitting around waiting.
GO: Receptions for Research is our family’s foundation. In the past year or so we started the “HEARTest Yard” program with Levine Children’s Hospital here in Charlotte. This is where TJ has had all his surgeries. That is where we have gotten all our medical care.
We approached them about starting a cutting edge, never been done before privatized health care program. Administered by the hospital, but completely funded by us through our foundation. It is done either by us personally or by our fundraising efforts. It brings that world class care from the hospital and bridges it into the home.
That is the biggest thing that we felt we could have used. More help to bring in specialists. Bringing in nursing care. Bringing in physical therapists. All of those things. That is really the inspiration of what the program is. There is a handful of families that have already started in the program. We continue to get unbelievable feedback about the efforts to help the family’s peace of mind and more importantly the health and future of the baby. It really has been positively received and we are very excited about it.
AE: How can people help your foundation out?
GO: They can visit our website, Receptions for Research dot org. One of our main pages there will be the “HEARTest Yard” link. It will bring up all of our future events. It will give ways that people can sponsor. It will give a little more information about the actual program. It will give more information on what Hypoplastic Left Heart is. They can pretty much get everything about the foundation, the hospital, what actually HLHS is all on the website.
AE: How has becoming a dad changed you?
GO: You learn a lot as a person. You learn a lot as a family. It is the most scary, the most nerve racking, but also the best thing that has ever happened to me. Being able to come home and see these kids every day. All three of them run to the door now. They say hi and their eyes light up. It is just something special. Until someone is a father it is really hard to explain it to them. I could go on for what it means to me. Especially what has gone on in our family over the past year has made it even that more special.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads out there?
GO: It is not going to be easy. There is no manual. It is not just come home and play catch all day. There is a lot of work. You need to put the time in to teach your kids on how they are supposed to act. Everything they learn is from you as their parent and as their dad. Especially the different relationships depending if you have a boy or a girl and the different dynamics that are in those relationships.
You kind of just learn on the fly. That’s at least what I did. You are not perfect, but you try to be the best you can for your children.
AE: Switching to the NFL. You and your team the Carolina Panthers started off rocky, but finished strong to get the number two seed in the NFC. What did you learn about your team this season?
GO: We really came along way. We were able to accomplish a few of our goals. We won the division. We were able to make it to the second round of the playoffs. We were able to accomplish some of our goals. Obviously we fell a little short of the ultimate goal of making it to the Super Bowl. It is something to at least build off of. We are eager to get started again and make another run.
GO: Probably sometime in the next couple of weeks. I will start back up my training. Start getting everything lined up to get prepared physically and put all of that inline. I have taken the past few weeks just hanging with the family. Each day we take a few trips with the kids. Just trying to be around here and taking them to school, picking them up from school, and being there for dinner. That is something this time of the year that you have to take advantage of. I will get back to my training in a few weeks.
AE: Growing up did you have a NFL team that you would root for and did you have a favorite player?
GO: No I didn’t. I grew up in Northern New Jersey right outside of New York. So the New York teams were very prevalent up there. We would follow them there. They were the local games. So I guess them, but we were more into college football games. College football was something that was more on our horizon when we were growing up and getting into high school. I don’t think any of us could have imagined playing this long in the league. It is something that is incredible, but I don’t know if it was something I thought I could do all along. So I would say college sports was more of a bigger deal growing up.
Even before Marshall Faulk played in the NFL many knew that he was going to be a superstar in the league. In college at San Diego State University Marshall was a three-time All-American. The Indianapolis Colts drafted him as the second overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft. After his time with the Colts, he played for the St. Louis Rams.
Faulk is one of only three NFL players with at least 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards. Marshall has been named the league MVP, helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV, and was selected seven times for the Pro Bowl. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Faulk can be seen on TV shows such as “NFL Total Access,” “Thursday Night Football,” and “NFL GameDay Morning” on the NFL Network.
Before Super Bowl weekend I caught up with Marshall. He was working with Verizon to promote the “Who’s Gonna Win?” campaign in connection with the Empire State Building. Besides talking about that promotion we did chat about this year’s match up between the Seahawks and Broncos, his time in the NFL, and his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Art Eddy: You are part of Verizon’s “Who’s Gonna Win?” program, the first-ever social media-driven light show on the world’s most iconic building, the Empire State Building. Tell me a little about that promotion?
Marshall Faulk: This whole “Who’s Gonna Win?” campaign is an initiative by Verizon. They are powering up the Empire State Building. Fans can help decide if their team’s colors will go up on the Empire State Building. It is a pretty cool program. Each day is going to be a different program leading up to Saturday.
Obviously everyone wants to know who is going to win. That is the interesting thing to see. Which team’s fans will get more involved and how many hashtags will be for Seattle or Denver is going to come into play. We will find out when the Empire State Building will be lit up.
AE: It sounds like a very cool program. Who do you think will win the Super Bowl? Broncos or Seahawks?
MF: I think it can go either way. I don’t have a favorite. Usually you can look at the numbers or watch how they play common opponents. It is so tough to tell. I keep telling people that only because Peyton (Manning) is a friend of mine that I just want to see him win another Super Bowl. Outside of that I really don’t know. I am not going to lie.
AE: Speaking of the Super Bowl you had the great fortune of playing in two of them. What was the week leading up to the game like?
MF: You want to say that it is all business. You are trying to have a normal week. Last night I saw that a bunch of players from the Seahawks have a team event. They showed some support for the (Brooklyn) Nets by going to the game. Those are the kind of things you want to do. Dinners, going to a basketball game, just things like that with your teammates.
Keep it in a team atmosphere. If you have family here, have dinner with your family. You don’t want to be that guy who is drawing negative attention to your team. That is what we are waiting for. We are in the media. We are trying to see who is going to be the idiot to try and do something stupid.
MF: Let’s see here. First you come out of the tunnel. You are excited about the game. You realize the magnitude of the game. You look around and see all the press. You look at the field and say ‘God this looks small.’
You hyperventilate. You catch your breath. Probably the second series after you get a hit a couple times and had a few times touching the ball.
AE: With everything that you have accomplished in your phenomenal career from MVP awards to a Super Bowl win what is the number one thing you take away from your time in the league?
MF: Winning the Super Bowl. I am telling you that it is the hardest championship to win. It requires all hands on deck. When you are on the field 11 guys must be pulling towards the same goal. It is the greatest team sport ever. It is the greatest sport ever. I just love how fun it is to win a championship.
The one thing that you know about our game and I love this as well, the best team doesn’t always win. It is the best team on that day. In other sports you get seven games to get it right. In our game you get one game to get it right.
AE: Can you imagine playing the best of seven for a Super Bowl? It would be crazy right?
AE: After your time in the NFL you got the call that you would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What was the first thing that entered your mind when you got the news?
MF: I will take you through the whole process. When you first hear that you are on the ballot you are kind of nonchalant about it. It gets down to 35 and you are like alright. When it gets down to 15 you are pretty good. The week of the Super Bowl and pretty much that Saturday was when I started having the pregame jitters feeling.
They are calling names. I am standing up there. My hands are sweaty. My heart is beating. I am saying to myself you can’t go in the game. You are not playing, but that natural feeling of anticipation or excitement that you have when things are out of your control when you can’t do anything about it. That was what it was. I was quite relieved that my last name ends in F and it was called early out on the list. It was a good day to hear my name called. I will say that.
AE: You and your teammates on the St. Louis Rams had a sick nickname, “The Greatest Show on Turf.” What was it like to play with guys like Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and the rest of that high powered offense?
MF: It was fun. I enjoyed playing with those guys. As much fun as it was the one thing that we talk about when we see each other like we did at the Pro Bowl recently. Ricky Proehl, who is now the Carolina Panthers receivers coach, was at the Pro Bowl because the Panthers coaching staff was there for the Pro Bowl.
We just started talking once again. Ernie Conwell, he works for the NFLPA. Me, him, and Ricky were having the same conversation. We always talk about it. The one thing that continues to come up about it is how unselfish we were. When I look at the Denver Broncos that is what you get from them. They really don’t care who is catching the touchdowns, who is catching the passes, who is getting the yards, or who is getting the accolades. It is all about a team goal.
It is hard to get that especially from receivers. We had it. It was special. I definitely enjoyed playing with those guys. We talk about it. I always point to Ricky Proehl. The year before Ricky led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. The year we won the Super Bowl he catches one touchdown. It was touchdown that sent us to the Super Bowl against Tampa in the NFC Championship. He doesn’t say a word about it the whole season. That is the unselfishness you need in order to win games like that.
Hank Azaria didn’t know if he wanted children. So he wanted to ask his good friends who were parents what their take was on fatherhood. He started filming this as a documentary to find out how others navigate through the journey of parenthood.
On the series he spoke with Bryan Cranston. Jim Gaffigan, and Kevin Bacon about their views on fatherhood. He would ask about the good times as well as the bad times. Lo and behold while filming this series he and his wife found out that they were going to have a baby.
Now from what started as a fun project became a quick prep course into fatherhood. Naturally Hank called the series “Fatherhood.” It is hosted at Mom.me and AOL and you get to see famous dads like Mike Nichols, Mike Meyers, Richard Hatch, Phil Rosenthal, Willie Garson, Tim Robbins, and Rainn Wilson talk about being a father. Plus Azaria gets expert advice from Dr. Elliot and Dr. Alyssa Berlin, Jill Spivack, Michele Borba and more.
I had the great opportunity to chat with Hank about his film series, fatherhood, and yes of course “The Simpsons.”
Art Eddy: You started off looking to do a documentary series with your friends showcasing them on being a dad. During that process you and your wife get the good news of expecting a child. Of course it was a no brainer to shift the focus a bit to your journey into fatherhood, but did you ever think of not going with that angle for the web series?
Hank Azaria: It changed so much over the course of a few years. It started out like you said just asking dads why did you do this. It seemed insane to me. Then getting pregnant. It shifted to oh I am going to be a father please help me because I am terrified.
I didn’t want it to be an overshare. I didn’t want it to be some reality series about my family. I had real questions that I wondered if other dads did. Real fears that I wondered if other dads had. It doesn’t seem that men talk about this too much. Because I produce this I can control it in the editing room so that I am not oversharing in front of America basically.
AE: Did you find some of the answers about fatherhood from your friends shocking?
HA: I’ll tell you one thing a guy said that was a little shocking. I jokingly asked who do you love more, your kids or your wife. He said oh are you kidding? It is my kids. They are my flesh and blood. My wife is someone that I met in a bar. (Both laugh.) That person shall remain nameless. He didn’t say that on camera. He wasn’t that stupid to say that on camera.
AE: How soon was it from when you started shooting to when you guys found out you were pregnant?
HA: Six to nine months. Somewhere in there.
HA: Total. In fact we were shooting some stuff. We had a dog. Our dear old dog Annie that was 16 years old and was starting to die. We were shooting that since that was what was going on. I don’t know if you ever had an old pet that you were taking care of, but she was blind, deaf, and senile. I was hand feeding her. I was like I am taking care of a child. The day that the dog died we found out we were pregnant. It was the same day.
If my son was born a girl I wanted to name her Annie much to my mother’s chagrin. She was like you can’t name your child after your dog.
HA: With tantrums I don’t know about you, but I found them very daunting. I didn’t want to flip out. I didn’t want to make a mistake. I also wanted to keep up my own sanity. One of the main things is that you can’t give in. You can’t give them what they are wanting. If you do then the lesson they learn there is that if you flip out you can get what you want. You don’t want them doing that.
You also don’t want to respond to a tantrum with a tantrum. You don’t want to be emotional in the face of a tantrum. You want to pick your battles. You can do certain things to head off tantrums if you know they are coming. Transitioning a kid is a big deal. Instead of just saying okay we got to go you tell them we are leaving in five minutes. Finish up what you are doing because in two minutes we got to get out of here.
Think about it. You wouldn’t like it if you were told that. You were doing something and I said hey let’s go. It takes a lot of practice. That’s why I like to get advice from experts and other dads. It is good to get help on things like that.
AE: You have said the Kevin Bacon has given you a ton of great parenting advice. I know we saw some of that advice in your series, but what is some of his advice that still stands out to you?
HA: He was really wise. Bryan Cranston was. Tim Robbins. Bacon, before I had a kid, he said the phases will drive you crazy. The phases of childhood. Whether you love them or hate them, they will pass. They don’t say that in the books. Including the tantrum phase. They stop with the tantrums after a while.
You are better off handling them well than not well. Even if you don’t handle them well they are going to pass. Even when my son was two. He was like a cherub. He was completely angelic. The second he turned three he became maniacal. Love it or hate it, it is not going to last. When you look at it that way it helps appreciate the good times and know that the bad times are not going to last forever.
AE: What can we except from the upcoming episodes in your series?
HA: We get into things like different generations like how we were raised and how we raise our kids. There is a definite difference how my dad approached it and how I approach it with my son. Being a kid with your kid. Being a friend to your child as opposed to being a parent to your child, like a disciplinarian. These are all topics that personally interested me that I found challenging.
Getting your kid to go to sleep. There is an entire episode on that. Birds and the bees. My son at an early age asked us where he came from. It was a ridiculous conversation. Not only was it dads sharing how they handled the conversation, but the insane way people’s fathers approached with them. There was a whole lot to say on the sex conversation.
HA: They are voices I have heard. Either they are voices of celebrities that I like to imitate, family members, friends, or store owners. Wherever. Anything I heard I mimic it. Sometimes I am mimicking it exactly. Sometimes it is just my version of it. I am a mimic at heart. It starts there for me.
AE: Out of all the characters which one do you feel the most closest to?
HA: (In his great voice work as Moe from “The Simpsons”) I feel closest to Moe the bartender. I used to be a bartender. (Back to normal voice) I feel that if it wasn’t for “The Simpsons” that I would still be a bartender. Moe is from Queens. I feel the closest to Moe. I feel Moe is like if I didn’t have success in showbiz my life would be closest to Moe. My actual personality.
Click here for each episode.
Growing up my music of choice was rap. One of my all-time favorite rappers is Ice Cube. From his work in N.W.A. to his solo career to Westside Connection I would listen to his albums over and over again. Not only did Ice Cube make a name for himself in the world of Hip-hop, but he started to work on the big screen.
Seeing him in “Boyz in the Hood” and “Higher Learning” I was able to see some of his acting skills. When the film “Friday” came along I became an even bigger fan of his work. “Friday” was hilarious and to this day it is one of my favorite comedic films. Cube would venture out into directing and producing shows as well.
Now Ice Cube is working with director Tim Story again in the film “Ride Along.” The film centers on Ice Cube’s character James Payton, who is a police officer. James takes his sister’s boyfriend Ben Barber with him on his patrol to see if he is man enough to marry his sister. Barber is played by the very funny Kevin Hart.
I had the great pleasure of talking with Ice Cube about “Ride Along,” Hip-hop, and if he prefers his rap career over acting.
Art Eddy: “Ride Along” looks to have the classic buddy type of film theme to it. You and Kevin Hart look hilarious together. Was this project something you guys talked about doing together?
Ice Cube: Yeah. This project has been on the shelf for more than ten years. It came across my desk years ago. My company Cube Vision, we had our eyes on it, but we never knew who was going to be the other guy. It fell to the wayside. Then my guy Matt got it to Will Packer. Will Packer loved it. He showed Tim Story, who just worked with Kevin Hart. That is how the team came together.
IC: Oh man. It is a dream. I worked with him before on “Barbershop.” He was a first time director. Even though he was such a cool dude to work with he was still learning the process. Now it has been years later and he has some great and big budget films under his belt as well as small budget films. He is a vet now. He is a pro at what he does. Working with him was one of the easiest and most comfortable experiences I had.
AE: Not trying to jump the gun, but will there be some deleted scenes on the DVD that you wish made it into the film?
IC: Oh yeah. There is always certain things that you wished was in the film, but tight is better than loose. We definitely used the funniest takes, but the other takes are funny in their own right. It will be cool to see how people feel when they see the whole thing.
AE: You came into the spotlight as a rapper. There is not that much laughter and levity in rap. Yet in films like “Ride Along” and of course classics like “Friday” you have a gift to make people laugh. Did you always have the comedic side to you?
IC: Always. Even when you listen to the music it is rough, but it still has a comedic element to it. It might be dark and twisted, but it still has that flavor. I think that is just part of how I grew up. Comedy was big. If you knew how to make people laugh you were loved in the neighborhood.
To me that is just as a part of the neighborhood as crime, violence and drugs. Comedy goes hand in hand with it. So I always have been funny. I always had funny friends. I am fans of pretty much everybody that I put in my movies. So it would be just like how I would hang out with some of my funny friends. I got pretty good timing. Out of my friends I was the funniest one so, but people might not know that.
AE: You are a rapper, actor, director, writer, and producer. Two things. One, how do find enough time in the day to do all these things? Second do you prefer one role over the others?
IC: To me it is a trip because I find myself sitting around and being like damn I am not doing anything. I need to get busy. I need to figure something out. I love to create. When you are like that you don’t really rest on what has been done. You are caught up in what you are doing. When things are done it is really in my rear view mirror. I am now focused on what I am planning to do. The process is what I have fun with just as much as the final product. That is what keeps me working.
The answer to the second question is that I love to do both. Both of them tap into different creative abilities. In music I can just do what I want to do. I can be creative or as uncreative as I want to be. For Hip-hop whatever I want to do I can do because I don’t have a label putting pressure on me to come up with a radio hit. That is freedom for an artist. That is fun.
For movies I have to be a team player. I have to make sure that this whole machine is working. You hire people who are better than you at what they do. You work with them, motivate them, and let them do their thing. You let them be part of a team. You have to be a master motivator, which is a whole new way to create.
AE: Is there one album in your great resume that you are most proud of?
IC: “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” was the most pressure I felt doing a record. Yet it was the most enthusiasm that I put into an album. I felt like I was creatively free of any shackles. It was my show. I could run it anyway I wanted to. I worked with some of the best producers that I have ever worked with. I can remember working on that album more vividly than any other album that I have worked on. So I have to say then it was “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.”
IC: “It was a Good Day.” Hands down. People have claimed that as my biggest hit. It is cool. It is such a dope song. It is done in the spirit of the movie “Friday.” You think it is bad in the neighborhood until you have one of those days.
AE: Yeah. Mess around and get a triple-double.
IC: Yeah. You know it happens. To acknowledge it shows me that I am true to what I am doing. I was not just doing a gimmick or sensationalizing things. I was trying to give people a slice of life. People sometimes go under the impression that I grew up with money or that I didn’t come straight out the neighborhood. I did. I know what it is about.
AE: Is there anyone that you would you like to have on your next album or work with on their next track?
IC: No, not really. I don’t think like that. I am just trying to be on my own page. I am not a super callabo guy. I grew up when a rapper can hold his own. He could hold the whole album. You didn’t need all these guest appearances or collaborations. You listen to Big Daddy Kane and that is who you heard. I am from that tradition. So I usually have an album that doesn’t have a lot of features.