Adam: What is something about you that your fans don’t know?
Matt: Every time I took the field to kick, it wasn’t easy. The emotions that most people struggle with during their careers, i.e. failure, doubt, managing success, etc., I battled with as well. Managing these emotions was a work in progress my entire professional life. I never really had it all figured out. Through my training, preparation, and playing for a transcendent cause, I learned to eventually control those emotions and replicate it each time I had to perform.
Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your development and success?
Matt: As a kid, I shanked a punt during a ‘Punt, Pass, and Kick’ Championship at Cowboys Stadium. I had a victory completely in hand, but when I shanked my punt, my heart broke. Right then I knew, the fire was either going to go out or it was going to be lit. I was one of those kids who decided to light the fire and get to work. No one ever had to tell me to go kick a ball or work out, but that moment definitely cemented my dedication and passion for the sport.
Adam: In your experience, other than natural talent, what are the defining qualities of a superstar athlete?
Matt: Do you want the ball? Period. Do you want to be the guy who makes the plays or the guy who just gets paid? Having that innate confidence and genuine desire to lead is what takes a person to the next level.
Adam: What players and coaches have you learned the most from? What did you learn from them?
Matt: My Special Teams coach with the Browns and Ravens, Scott O’Brien, taught me a lot. He and I grew together in the League – he as a coach and me as a player. He was really instrumental in teaching me how to plan out my game and how to practice more effectively.
Bill Belichick taught me how mentally tough you really have to be to succeed. He taught me grit by putting me to the test. Along with Bill Parcells, he provided me with the mental training necessary to compete at the highest level.
Clay Matthews Jr. was a player who taught me some valuable lessons. During his seventeenth season, I observed how he managed himself, his work ethic, and his grit. He gave me two pieces of invaluable advice: 1) Get away from football in the off season. Get out of town and allow yourself to get refreshed. 2) Never get out of shape. Give yourself a week to rest, but never get out of shape.
Adam: Who are the greatest leaders you have played with, and what do you believe are the defining qualities of a great leader?
Matt: Throughout my career I played with many great leaders— each unique in his style and delivery. There are three individuals who immediately come to mind who carved their own paths and left a distinct impression on me and many others:
Peyton Manning – His work ethic was second to none. No one worked harder, studied more.
Ray Lewis – He raised the standards of everyone on the team by his passion to be great and the desire to win. He did an incredible job of making sure everyone felt acknowledged and assured that he valued them.
Trent Dilfer – He understood is role and executed it extremely well. My most selfless teammate.
Adam: What are the best lessons you have learned through your career in sports that are applicable to those of us who will never earn a living playing pro ball?
Matt: Three things: Create a plan, find your passion, and do something significant. As I was transitioning out of the league I knew I wanted to have a life of significance. I created my foundation with my partner Seth McDonnell to help athletes, celebrities, and philanthropists create and manage financially-sound charitable organizations. In short, I wanted to use my talents and the lessons I learned to help make the world a better place. That’s something anyone can emulate.
Adam: What is the most surprising thing about life in professional sports? What is something that would shock fans?
Matt: Without question, it’s not as glamorous as you think. It’s extremely rigorous. The challenge to stay on top never ends. It’s brutal with zero security. Players are not to be pitied. I’m just stating it’s a lot more difficult than even I imagined.
Something that may surprise fans about me is that I interned at IMG for three off-seasons because I knew that I needed to develop relationships and have a network in order to get a job once my career was finished.
Adam: What is the most surprising thing about life after professional sports?
Matt: The finality of it—learning to first embrace that finality as a positive thing and then determining how you’d like to move on. I was 42 when my professional football career came to an end. (Not exactly the age when people start thinking about new beginnings.) I wanted to do that would fulfill my goal of having a life of significance. Founding and operating companies and nonprofits and serving as a paid speaker on topics like finance, charitable giving, spiritual issues, and leadership have provided me with a very fulfilling life.
Adam: How are you trying to improve the lives of other athletes.
my life experience to help current and former athletes understand that they
have a social responsibility to use the platform they’ve been given to help
their alma mater, church, or community, etc. I created the Players Philanthropy
Fund as a full-service charitable foundation creation and management firm that
provides individuals like athletes with a way to engage in philanthropy—without
the fiscal, legal, and operational burden of starting a new standalone
nonprofit. In essence, helping them so they can do more for others.