Ex-NFL Player To Draft Picks: 'Your Privacy Is Gone'
Former Denver Bronco's tight end Nate Jackson posted an open letter on Buzzfeed.com this week to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the NFL's top two draft picks this year.
It begins, "You have been mentioned in the same breath for the last several months. But once you get drafted and shake hands with Darth Vader, your lives will diverge and you will be immersed fully in the identity of your new employers."
The story doesn't get much better, Jackson continues.
"Whether leading your teams to triumph or failing miserably, every breath will be a public affair," he wrote. "For better or worse, your privacy is gone."
Jackson tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that he loves the game of football, but has a problem with the commercialization of the NFL. When he was playing, he felt like he couldn't voice his opinion, but he now, he admits, he doesn't like the direction that it's going.
"Your new neighbors will be rich as well, facelifted, lipo-sucked, Xanaxed and dripping in diamonds," he warns, and the players won't be able to relate.
It's not the fate of every NFL draft pick, Jackson says, but it does happen a lot to first-round picks. It's a lot of pressure for these young kids, especially quarterbacks like Luck and Griffin, who often get singled out for star status. That's not how they'll be treated on the field.
"It's not as exciting or sexy to say, these are 53 guys that make up this team; they win or lose together," Jackson says.
GUY RAZ, HOST:
And if you're just joining us, you're listening to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. At the NFL draft last week, Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III were the first and second picks - Luck to the Indianapolis Colts, Griffin comes here to Washington, D.C. and the Redskins. Both of these men are young - just 22 years old - now very rich and with very little life experience. So it prompted a former NFL player, Nate Jackson, a one-time tight end for the Denver Broncos, to write an open letter to the two young quarterbacks.
NATE JACKSON: (Reading) Dear Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. You've been mentioned in the same breath for the last several months, but once you get drafted and shake hands with Darth Vader, your lives will diverge, and you'll be immersed fully in the identity of your new employers.
RAZ: That is, of course, former Denver Broncos tight end Nate Jackson reading from the letter he posted online a few days ago. Nate Jackson, welcome to the program.
JACKSON: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
RAZ: Can you carry on reading a bit more?
(Reading) Immediately following the draft, you'll board a private jet to your new cities, where you will step off the planes as hope. Whether leading your teams to triumph or failing miserably, every breath will be a public affair. For better or for worse, your privacy is gone.
RAZ: You make the NFL sound miserable.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
JACKSON: Well, I have a problem with the commercialization of the NFL. I love the game of football, but I don't love the game around the game of football. And when I was playing it, I couldn't really voice that opinion. I couldn't be honest about it. And truthfully, I felt kind of ashamed of having that opinion like I should be behind everything that the NFL does because it is the highest level of football in the world. But when I think about it with my own thoughts and my own mind, I just don't like the direction it's going.
RAZ: You remind us that these huge overnight celebrities are in their early 20s. And in the letter, you outline a vision of their respective futures, and this is what you write. You say...
JACKSON: (Reading) After negotiating your contracts, you both will surely buy a house in an affluent suburb where no 22-year-old will be happy living. Your new neighbors will be rich as well, face-lifted, lipo-sucked, Xanaxed and dripping in diamonds simply delighted to welcome you to the neighborhood. You will commission an interior decorator recommended by a neighbor to furnish your home. This will guarantee it feels nothing like home. And someday, when all this is over, you'll walk through and gaze upon the marble columns and the embroidered drapes like artifacts in a museum, wondering why you ever listened to that woman.
RAZ: Nate Jackson, is this what Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, is this their future?
JACKSON: I hope not. It's more of a cautionary tale. I know this does happen to some men who, especially first-round picks, the ones that are thoroughly hyped by the NFL and are surrounded by yes men and people who want to usher them into this new stage of their lives. And when you come into a lot of money as a young man, the tendency is to want to buy a house where other members of your income level would be living. But the irony is that no one there relates to you.
RAZ: The amazing thing about this letter is - and you call them hope - and it sounds like the entire city places all of its faith in this kid. And that's a lot of pressure.
JACKSON: It certainly is a lot of pressure for many reasons. Certainly, the quarterback is a very important part of the team, but he's only one player on the team. And the nuance of that reality is lost into media hype because they like to accentuate certain characters that end up selling the brand of the NFL. It's not as exciting or sexy to say these are 53 guys that make up this team. They win or lose together. But inside the locker room, there (unintelligible) that that is bogus. So when I said that inside a locker room is the only place where he's safe and where his struggle will be understood, I say that because that's the only place where the nuance of the reality of a football team is understood.
RAZ: That's Nate Jackson. He played tight end for the Denver Broncos. His open letter to NFL draft picks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III was written for Buzz Feed. You can find a link to that at our website, npr.org. Nate Jackson, thank you so much.
JACKSON: Thank you, Guy. Appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.