February 2, 2021
My grandmother passed 3 years ago… from when I was 5, until she died we talked and did art. She adored watching me play. She's always been there… always supporting me… she taught me how to paint, draw... you name it. She loved all her grandchildren. When I did the George Flloyed piece and My Cleats My Cause, I just wished I could have shared it with her.
I graduated from Portland High School in 2007 and went on to play football at UMaine, then Merrimack college where I continued to play football and finish my degree. I did an internship with iSlide in college, and that opened the doors for a lot of opportunities, like creating a piece for Mikey Ward. Then I created a piece to honor George Flloyd and it went viral after Big Papi shared it on his Instagram. Big Papi shared my art.
After graduation I started teaching and coaching. I’ve always hated the stigma that’s carried with being a football player. We aren't just big guys who want to hit stuff. We’re intelligent and have hidden talents. It’s been interesting lately when people question my interests in art. I’d made a lot of connections through my involvement in football and coaching, and I wanted to explore how I could mesh my two passions together.
The “Tropical Bowl” is an All-Star game for NFL hopefuls. In 2020 I was afforded the opportunity to show what I could do as a coach for the black team on the offensive line. I guess they liked what they saw because they invited me back to coach in 2021. When I was talking to some agents who run the program, I asked if there were any athletes who participated in the “My Cleats My Cause” campaign. As it turns out, I was able to connect with a sports agent that was good friends with the director of the Tropical Bowl, and a former agent himself, who reached out to his clients. JT got back to me when he was on a plane going to a Browns game. He texted me that he would forward his cleats to me so I could design them.
Almost every NFL player has a cause they support, and JT’s is the Lucky Fin Project. I used their logo and the Jets colors. I posted on my social media for my friends and family to keep an eye out for the cleats. I was speechless when they appeared. My step-mom and friends texted, an old teacher texted saying they saw my cleats on TV. CBS did a full pan down of peoples feet and there they were. It was incredible to see something I’ve been working towards come full circle. The best part though, was getting my art out there and being able to help people with it.
As an athlete, teacher and coach, I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way that have helped shape my relationships. I tell the kids I coach that anything can happen. I wasn't the best player, but I showed up, I never gave up and I worked hard.
What I’ve learned from all this is the power of connection. It’s so important to make lasting connections and take care of your relationships. You never know who you’re talking to and how you can help each other.