Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

How I Let Go Of My NFL Career

Illustration for article titled How I Let Go Of My NFL Career

Excerpted from the new epilogue to Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile, now available in paperback. We published an adaptation from the book last year.

—Hi, Nathan I'm here to prep you for the surgery.


I'm back in Vail, Colo., lying in a hospital gown a few days after the last down of football I'd ever experience. Not that I know that yet. My hamstring is FUBAR and needs to be surgically reattached to the ass bone. And a PRP shot isn't going to do it this time. They need to cut me open. That's according to good ol' Dr. Philippon. The nurse who has greeted me is holding electric hair clippers.


—I need to shave the area. Roll onto your side.

I thought they'd wait until I was sedated. Guess not. I roll onto my side and she rolls up on a chair. The wheels sing a bitter song on the linoleum. The next tune is a buzzing Norelco. Then an anesthesiologist walks in swinging a pocket watch in my face.

—You're getting verrrry sleeeepy.

When I wake up my lips are swollen and numb from lying face down and I have a four-inch scar in my gluteal fold. My mother has flown in to help me during the post-op week in Vail. Then my mom leaves and I'm on my own.


The rehab is in Denver at the Steadman Clinic downtown. My therapist is named Kristen. We're the same age. I think she wants me. Or maybe I just want her. Our sexual tension makes for an enjoyable recovery, but otherwise I'm lost. I'm having trouble talking to people.

On one of my first days of rehab, I'm doing pool exercises next to a man recovering from ACL surgery. He says that the ligament they put in his knee is from a cadaver. I ask him if that makes his wife a necrophiliac. His look of confused disgust reminds me how poorly adjusted I am to civilian discourse.


Eventually I'm cleared by the doctors and say goodbye to Kristen. We both decide not to say the thing we most want to say. Or maybe it's just me. I drive back to San Diego to revive the dream … again. People ask me if I'm still training.

—Uh, duh. Yes, of course! Why wouldn't I?

I am still a football player and I am going back to the NFL because I fixed the problem.


My friend Billy, in whose refrigerator I stored my vials of HGH, has moved from Rancho Santa Fe to a house in La Jolla. He has an open room and takes me in again. The house is a half block from a wooded area concealing a cliff that plummets to the sea. There's a dirt path along the rock's edge, all the way around the outcropped shoreline of La Jolla. It's an ideal backdrop for exorcising my demons. But I'm still spoon-feeding them applesauce.


Halfway through the summer, I'm possessed. I tell myself that I feel great. I'm ready to go. What's the problem? My agent Ryan says there hasn't been much interest. He says he'll make some more calls. He says someone will bite. He doesn't sound confident.

Around that time, a colony of baby seagulls starts peeping and chirping from a chimney on the roof, beneath the white shadow of their mother. She stands on the chimney and squawks at me every time I walk to or from the house, on my way to the gym or to the local fields where I run in the afternoon.


One morning I open the blinds on the windows to my room and one of the babies is on the awning above the front door. Little seagulls are mobile at birth, nearly full grown, but dark gray and incapable of flight. Big baby is stuck.

I go outside and look up on the awning and see the poor thing pacing back and forth. Mama, from above, blinks twice, screams and swoops down on me with pterodactyl jaws. I turn and run down the curved brick steps and jump in my Denali.


When I return later that day, Mama comes at me again. I duck, pirouette, and sprint up the steps and in the door, collapsing to the hard wood.

Back in my room, I open the shades to the two windows and watch Baby swaying back and forth in the San Diego sun, helpless. I sit on the bed and hear Mama squawk my name. I look up to see her fly by my window with slow, exaggerated flaps, head turned in on me, black eyes burning. I jump up and drop the blinds. I turn around, helpless myself, and standing in front of me is an angry seven-foot tall seagull.


Is this what CTE feels like?

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, is a brain disease caused by repetitive head trauma. Football is repetitive head trauma. People always assumed the football helmet protected the brain. Turns out they were wrong. CTE is popping up in the brains of dead football players. CTE makes the walls close in: early-onset dementia, depression, memory loss, you name it. No one knew about CTE when I played. Well, that's not true. Some folks knew about it but decided not to tell the men who were affected most. Might fuck up the product on the field. Might make us think twice about smashing skulls. They gave us too much credit, I think. We smash skulls because we like fucking people up. Football players are drawn to the violence. I sure am. I just need to find someone to hit.


In the meantime, Billy agrees that something has to be done about the birds. He says he'll take care of it. It has been a week since Ryan said he'd make some calls to teams. I haven't heard back from him. I call his office and he's not there. I call his cell phone and he doesn't answer. I leave a desperate message. I wonder if he can hear the birds in the background.

The next morning I hear a pecking at the door. I open it. A small, pleasant dread-locked man named Nick stands beneath me. He's a freelance wildlife whisperer. Mama introduced herself already, he says, but he wants to have a look at the chimney. I take him upstairs to the balcony and into a Hitchcockian tornado. Mama has alerted the whole clan. She knew it might come to this and now it has.


We walk down to the van. While Nick puts on his helmet and gloves, I meet the aura that is his wife and their three daughters: Sun, Star, and Moon. I pick a flower for Star while her daddy climbs onto the roof, pulls a baby out of the chimney, and walks it across the street. He comes back and gets another baby out. That's all of them in the chimney. Then he climbs out of my bedroom window onto the metal awning and, unable to grab Big Baby, pushes her off the ledge. She flaps a useless flap and lands on the porch. The swarm overhead blacks out the sun. Nick walks out the front door, scoops her up, and takes her across the street to the woods that hide the cliff, all the while being circled and dive-bombed. Beaks click and clack off the plastic of his helmet. He returns sans bird and the job is done.

All's well that ends well. I say goodbye to Nick and his universe and look out my window at the birds' new home in the distance. They're going to be just fine out there, I think. They'll probably prefer it, actually. It's much better than a cold brick chimney. They're birds! They want to be around trees and cliffs and dirt and bushes and the ocean! We've all done a good thing, I tell myself.


But then I see a small gray figure waddling out of the woods. Baby is coming home. Mama and kin gather around her shouting instructions, but Baby's stuck on the corner of a busy street. She walks out a few steps then gets pushed back by an oncoming car. The sun sinks as Mama keeps guard. Baby paces. I leave the house. I can't watch this.

On my way back later that night, I'm nervous. You can't fuck with nature like this. I ascend La Jolla Village Drive and turn right on Prospect, preparing for the quick left onto Billy's street. My eyes are pulled to the corner where Baby was stuck. But Baby is gone. No, she isn't. She's 15 feet away in the middle of the street, already stiff: a precocial bloodstain.


I walk through the heavy air to Billy's front door and feel Mama's black eyes on me. I feel the vigil. The guilt. The next morning I go for a run and avoid the front door altogether, take the side exit. Mama, who hasn't left the chimney, chases me down the street. She will never forgive me. I may never forgive myself. I have to get the fuck out of here. Training camps are in full swing. My phone is dead quiet. No one wants me. And here I am waddling back across the street during rush hour. Time to move on or else. Time to face the end. Time to lay it on the table and smash the motherfucker to a million pieces.

You have to destroy it or it will destroy you.

So move along then. Your football life is through. To hammer it home, I write freelance pieces about the NFL, knowing that it will distance me from my life as a player. Soon I have a literary agent. Then I go to New York to pitch my idea for a book. I meet my agent in person an hour before I make my first pitch—she is wonderful—and I return to Denver with a book deal.


I'm a writer now. I pick up the sharpest pen I can find, plunge it into my belly, and twist. Self-purification frees the hand to record the truth in all things. But it must be done in solitude. I sit alone in my house. My Broncos memories are everywhere. I gather them up and stack them in the basement: helmets, jerseys, footballs, gloves, hats, photos. Out of sight but not out of mind. I still feel them on my skin. I still smell them. They taunt me mercilessly. The sentences I write bounce off the walls and come back as question marks. I have to get out of here.

I pick up the lease on Barrick's Venice Beach apartment, throwing myself into the netherworld of memories and loose connections: palm trees and spinning spokes, caffeine and concrete, guitar chords and skin. I tape butcher paper to my apartment walls and scribble notes with lines and arrows and drawings and scribbles. To visit my apartment is to enter the lair of a madman.


Often the only person I speak with all day is the girl at the register of my local cafe who takes my order. I speak so infrequently that my vocal chords atrophy. Dark fantasies play out in my head. I write poems about the women around me at the coffee shop.

She will bring me coffee.

And I will drink it.

And it will be good.

Because it came from her.

I write as much as I can. I wake up every day ready to write. Sometimes that means staring at a blank screen for hours, enticed by a fleeting thought or dream fragment. Sometimes the words flow like a waterfall and all I have to do is turn on my laptop and I'm sucked into a trance. I look up hours after I've sat down in the coffee shop and there are strangers around, the sun has gone down, there's a new shift of waitresses, and I have no recollection of what I've written. I read the pages as if for the first time.


The more you write, the more you think about mortality. Death becomes the blinking light on shore that can steady the ship. Death is a trusted companion, the moral to every story: Old Yeller.

Or Dave Duerson . Right about the time I got the book deal, the former Chicago Bears great blasted himself in the chest with a shotgun and left a suicide note asking that his brain be examined for evidence of CTE.


We football guys are all tough guys. Pain is nothing. But there's something else rattling around up there in the skull, isn't there? There's something more than the lizard brain. There's a soul. And it is weeping. Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on a trademarked soapbox and juggles a chainsaw, a machete, and an egg: profit, public relations, and the fragile human brain. This is your brain, this your brain on football. Any questions?


If we are to throw aside the war of sensation and semantics and believe the scientists, here's the skinny: cut open 36 dead football players' brains and 35 of them have CTE. That's according to League of Denial, the book that chronicles the discovery and cover-up of CTE in the NFL.

The percentages aren't in my favor. I try to write about the suicides. But I get depressed too. I feel an electric current shooting through my brain when I write the letters C-T-E. I feel brain damaged when I think about it. I don't want to sit on the porch with a gun in my lap, waiting for my symptoms to appear. I want to live!


After I arrive in L.A. I file a worker's compensation claim against the Broncos for injuries I sustained while under their employment. I get a lawyer. We subpoenae the Broncos to get the medical files that I have used in the text of this book. I answer questions from the Broncos attorney who comes to California to poke holes in my case. I visit multiple doctors, submit to multiple scans, X-Rays, MRIs, questionnaires and read every waiting room magazine cover-to-cover. I answer everything honestly. It's all fucking documented. My body was destroyed on their watch. But they don't want to pay. They find Collective Bargaining loopholes in all of the California cases. They push a bill through the California legislature that bars former players from filing in California. They want us all to go away.


The new law requires that 80 percent of your workdays have to take place in California in order to file a worker's compensation case there. I was born in California. I went to school there. I played for the 49ers. I played in Oakland and in San Diego every year for six years. I broke my leg in the Chargers end zone of [Insert Corporate Logo here] stadium. I've spent entire off-seasons in California. My agent, to whom I paid 3% of my salary every year, lived and worked in California. I live here now. I pay taxes here. But my case, along with 4,000 other pending worker's comp cases by players who need medical attention, is gathering dust on someone's desk. Now there are disabled former players with no insurance whose care will be funded by taxpayers instead of the NFL owners who oversaw the slaughterhouse that crippled them in the first place. God bless America.

I try to keep my head down and focus on things I can control. I jump on my bike. The spinning spokes of my primary form of transportation in Venice accommodate my spinning mind. Me and my bike! Together we traverse the back alleys and the boardwalk. We cut across traffic. We make illegal turns. We are pulled over by a Venice motorcycle cop. We are deemed confrontational. We are told to step off the bike and put down the backpack. We are asked what we are hiding. We say nothing. We are asked again. We are defiant. We are told to spread 'em and we are searched. We tense. We want to strike the fool with a lightning bolt. We are handcuffed on the corner of Lincoln and Washington at high noon. We are told that the backpack has to be searched. We laugh and say yeah right. We are told fine, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. We say lets do it the hard way. He calls for backup. More cops arrive and surround us. We are fingerprinted on the sly by a cop who sneaks up behind us with a digital finger printer. We are cross-checked in the database. We come up clean. We are worn down and agree to a search of the backpack. We watch him dig through it with gloved hands and pull everything out and put each item on the curb: a towel, a book, a journal. We watch a letter from a lover blow down the street and a cop run and step on it with his dirty boot. We watch them find nothing illegal. We laugh. We want blood. We are uncuffed and asked why we were defiant: for the principle? Yeah, for the principle, we say. Ever heard of it?


A month before I'm supposed to hand in my book, I sit at the long communal table in the lobby of New York's Ace Hotel, drinking coffee and writing horny poetry. I patch together chapters and revise and rewrite. One day before the deadline, I finish. Some dude at my publishing house prints out the whole manuscript with a color-copy of the cover, hugs me, and I leave. I don't know if I'll ever see the guy again. The extra weight in my backpack is proof of something. I walk down Broadway toward the Ace and feel something like loss, like sadness, like accomplishment. I have no kids, but I assume this is like dropping your son off at college and driving away.


I return to L.A. and feel sick. My secret is out. My heart is now in someone else's hands. Please, copy-editor lady, be gentle with it when at first you don't understand and know that I tried …



I hear her shrieking while swinging down the red axe. Back and forth we go all spring and summer. Cut here, snip there. Clarify here, omit there. Don't hang on to your little fuzzy bunnies, your sentimental pudding-pops, your cute turns of phrase. Drown them in the tub. Kill your darlings, they say. Kill them dead.


Writing, it turns out, means disappearing. All forces are opposed to the process of writing a book. Now when I walk into a bookstore I am overcome with emotion. I imagine how much blood was spilled to fill these aisles and it hurts me deep. I have to steady myself on a railing.

But the book launches. A few of the national reviews focus on sex and drugs. Therefore the majority of the radio interviews focus on sex and drugs. Most radio hosts haven't read the book, so they scan a few search results before having me on the show.


—So tell us about the girls! Did they all have vaginas?

—And what about the drugs? Did they get you high?

On Jan. 25, I go back to New York for Super Bowl week. Sell some books. Act like I have job. I check in at the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Center and go upstairs, where I am met at the elevator by a MSNBC producer. We shake hands and she leads me into a waiting room. I take off my jacket and sit down. A woman comes into the dressing room and looks at me, annoyed.


—Am I sitting in your seat?



—Yes, I get ready for my show in here.

—Do you want me to leave?


I have no idea who she is. I leave her dressing room and find another room. Before long I'm summoned to hair and make-up. I'm going on MSNBC with anchor T.J. Holmes in 20 minutes. Those two itty-bitty paragraphs about marijuana in the book have made me something of a " weed specialist" over the last few weeks. I have appeared on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel to talk about my experience with the plant while I was playing football. Current players can't talk about it. And a lot of former players don't feel comfortable talking about it either. I don't mind anymore. I'll talk about anything.

They mic me up and lead me down a hallway, through a door and into another hallway, where two women sit in front of monitors with headphones on. They mouth hello. I smile. We keep going down that hallway and around the corner to the sound stage. Cameras swivel and slide. Men in headphones and horn-rimmed glasses nod. Talking heads spit their cant, make their case. The segment ends. These talking heads have bodies, it turns out, and feet, which they use to stand up and walk away.


Time for the stoner jock. I take my seat and shake hands with T.J. He thanks me for coming on the show. 5, 4, 3, 2—live television is terrifying—1. T.J. reads the intro on the teleprompter:

—When we talk about drugs and professional sports, it's usually us talking about performance enhancers. Smoking marijuana before the game is not considered something that's going to help you perform better. But what about after the game? It could be a huge help. That's according to at least one former player who is raising eyebrows by advocating for the use of marijuana as a viable pain killer option in the NFL.


—You played in the NFL for six seasons, Nate, did you use marijuana the whole time?

—Yeah, pretty much. When I needed it. When my body started to break down as the season wore on.


—How prevalent is marijuana use recreationally in the league?

—It's hard to say. Maybe half.

—And how prevalent is it for medicinal purposes to relieve the pain?

—I'd say that's why the guys are doing it, subconsciously.

—Well, what's wrong with the pain medication that the team provides?

-Well, they're not for everyone. And I think they're bad for you. My experience with pain pills like Vicodin and Percocet—I didn't like them. They weren't good for my body. But they're really easy to get. That's what the doctors give out. And they're highly addictive. A lot of guys get hooked on those and leave the game with a serious addiction. Marijuana was not like that for me. I had no physical withdrawal symptoms from it and it alleviated the need for pain pills.


—You know what they're gonna say: These guys just wanna get high. They just wanna get high!

—Ha, well if getting high relieves pain, then, yeah, they want to get high. But isn't that what pain pills do? They get you high in a different way. They don't heal the injury. They just take your mind off of it or dull those pain sensors or whatever. And I think marijuana has a similar effect.


—Now, marijuana is a banned substance in the NFL. Considering that, do you feel that you cheated the game?

—Ha, no, I don't think I cheated the game. Like you said in the intro, it's not a performance enhancer.


—All right, we'll leave it right there. You … stopped using after you got out of the league, right?

—Ha, yeah, of course!

—Not using now? The pain is gone?

—Yeah, it's gone!

—Why are you smiling like that?

—Why are you smiling like that?

From T.J.'s show, I go to the Hyatt on 57th and 7th and whore myself out on radio row. Every sports radio show in America descends upon the Super Bowl city for the whole week prior to the game and sets up shop in one big, sweaty room; table to table, ass to ass. Then they look for guests. Many of the producers have seen the Real Sports piece. They see me walking around and ask me to come talk pot. I am happy to oblige.


Who can laugh the loudest? Who can tell the most macho story? Who can book the most famous guest? Who can rattle off the relevant stats? Who can be the moral compass? Who can predict the future? I marvel at the conviction with which radio personalities lambaste players. I marvel at how thoroughly they deify the profession.

They all ask me about drugs. I give it to them straight. There's one drug that's more dangerous than all the rest. It's called football. But there is glory in that drug. There is virtue. There is honor in throwing yourself on those train tracks. A lot of people make a lot of money from that sacrifice. In fact every motherfucker in this cavernous hangar-sized hotel ballroom makes money off of that sacrifice. They depend on it. They need it. And they will manipulate every argument to ensure that the virtues of football remain unsullied, so that their jobs and their names stay unsullied too.


The Radio Row circle jerk takes the life out of me. So does the rest of the city. My voice is gone. My brain is mush. My lips are chapped. New York wins again.


I fly back to California and watch the game with my family on an old-school projection television in a rented beach house near Santa Cruz. It is my dad's 85th birthday. We eat pizza while the Broncos get rolled by the Seahawks. As the camera zooms in on a perplexed Peyton Manning, my brother asks me if it's sucky to see them lose like this. Not really, I say. I mean, it sucks for them and for the fans.


—I want to see them do well and all, but it doesn't affect my mood. They're playing a football game. One team will win and one won't.

I sip a beer and look out on the ocean.

After the Super Bowl I drive back to L.A. on Highway 1, through Big Sur. I stop at the Henry Miller library. Henry Miller held a dagger in both hands. Henry Miller slashed and killed. It takes balls/ovaries to write what you want, exactly how you want, in spite of the world, in spite of relationships and judgments and expectations. The library is located at one of the thousands of bends in the coastal rode. "The Henry Miller Library: Where Nothing Happens." It has a large open yard with a stage on one end. I step out of the car and into the mud. The redwood trees shoot straight up all around me, bug ladders to god, casting soft blue shadows over the swaying ferns.


Smoke hangs over the yard. I walk down the winding dirt path, lined by rocks and occasional sculptures. At the base of a redwood is a 12 foot-tall crucifix. Through the trees, the sun sweeps in and slices my vision into smoky green pieces of rhubarb pie. I squint through the pulp at the crucifix. It's made of old computers: Apple IIe's. I take out my iPhone 5 to snap a picture, squat down. Just when I've found my frame, I feel a nudge on my butt. I look down and a black and gray cat is inspecting me.

A man and a young woman run the shop. The young woman volunteers. They scurry about outside with the cat, tending to the fire and setting up chairs while I peruse the small store, which sells books, paintings, records, and souvenirs. It smells like burning wood and old paper and sea water and dirt. Being here makes me want to lock myself in a cabin and write. So much blood in every single book: a man's entire life. A man's sense of worth, his agony and tension played out in each word of each page of every book from both ends of eternity inward. It's an ominous thought: that any book I write will be just a grain of sand in this desert. But I love this desert. I live here now.


I buy a few books and talk with the girl. She moved to Santa Cruz from Michigan and loves this coast, this area. She possesses the peace of mind that I've always envied: knowing who you are and where you want to be and not longing to be anywhere else.

I drive on to L.A. and over the next three days, record the audio book of Slow Getting Up. "It's over now. It's all over." It feels good to read these words aloud. That night we have a soccer game under the lights in Santa Monica. I'm getting back in touch with my body and learning how to move again in a more fluid fashion. Football trained me to be a linear exploding robot. I lost my ability to be supple and patient. I lost my natural athleticism, my finesse. They are coming back, slowly. But I also still have a psycho in me. Sometimes I have tunnel vision and attack the ball and run over someone. I feel bad when that happens. But I also feel good. I write a poem about the feeling good part.


It feels good to hurt you.

It feels good to cut you down.

It feels good to watch you bleed.

I'm thinking of it now

And it makes me smile.

(Am I a sick man now that I've said it?

No. Words are nothing.)

It feels good to watch you cry.

It feels good to crush you.

Your pain gives me so much pleasure.

I wish I could quantify it.

Anyway. The next night I go to play music with my friends. We haven't jammed together in a while. We drink magic mushroom tea and plug in. God presses play and the music flows in from all corners of the room, rippling the air with purple chords and a bass line sent from the future. We do not have to try. We pluck the plasma and laugh ourselves into a sonic flower that folds us in origami and sets us adrift in the mushroom sea.


And I mean adrift. As we stand outside in the fresh air laughing at the tree, my phone buzzes in my pocket. I squint at the wiggly lines and the white light. My mind adjusts:

—Nate this is your neighbor in Denver. There's an emergency at your house. I'm calling you right now.


I weigh the words in silence. My phone rings.

—Hi, Nate. I am standing outside your house and your garage door is open and water is pouring out into the street. Another neighbor saw it and she told me and …


I feel blood running from my ears.

— …What should I do? Should I call 911?

—Uh! ... Yes! ... Do that! We have to stop the water!

—OK, I will and I'll call you back.

She calls the Fire Department and I call Matt Mauck, who threw me my first preseason touchdown of my career 10 years ago and is now my dentist. He lives around the corner and arrives at the same time as the firemen. They pop the lock and go into the basement and shut off the water. I speak with the fireman on the phone and he gives me the skinny: busted pipes ... lluvia torrencial ... flood ... lotta water. I manage to communicate well enough to kick the can down the road until the next day, when I get a flight and head to the dirty swamp. Charlie Adams picks me up and we go together to assess the damage.


As we pull into the driveway, I'm not breathing. There are thick beads of condensation on all of the windows. I turn the key and enter the flooded grounds. The night before, there were five inches of water in the basement and two inches on the ground floor and water raining down from everywhere. That's what Matt told me. But now there's no more standing water on the first floor. It's all been absorbed in the flooring and dry wall and has made its way down to the basement and drowned my hoarded memories before exiting through a small drain next to the furnace—the culprit.

The furnace broke and the pipes froze and burst in 17 places. It was minus-10 degrees in Denver a few days ago. When the weather warmed up, the pipes thawed and the water flowed freely through the 17 holes, all in the façade of the house. It was 36 hours of indoor rain, enough to collapse several sections of the ceiling and short circuit the garage door, which thankfully opened and alerted the neighbors.


I walk through the house and water squirts up around every step. A mitigation team comes and starts the dry-out process: big reverse-humidifier thingies. Everything below the second floor has been ripped out, down to the two-by-fours. There are no walls, no ceilings and no floor.

All of my Broncos artifacts were in the basement: jerseys, helmets, clothes, pictures, letters, everything. Not sure what I was going to do with them before the flood. That part of my mind was sealed off. They would have sat down there until I sold the house. Then when I moved they would have been put in storage. Then when I died they'd be someone else's burden.


As I write this chapter, I am sitting in my hotel room at the TownePlace Suites, room #325, paid for by my insurance company. It is an extended-stay hotel behind an enormous Ikea in a business park south of Denver. I can see Park Meadows Mall from my window. My TV has HBO and swivels. I heard two neighbors having sex on my way down the hall after dinner tonight. She said, "Don't stop fucking me!" Then it got quiet. He stopped fucking her.

The carpet in my room is dark red with yellow lines connected by yellow circles, parallel strings of dirty pearls. The pearls have smaller yellow circles in them. They have breakfast downstairs every morning from 7-10: cereal and green apples and eggs out of a package.


My Denali is in the shop. Its transmission went out. It was having trouble getting out of first gear. Turns out there was no more second gear. I don't know when it'll be ready. It's a one-mile walk to anywhere. And really, I don't mind. It gives me time to think; to pore through every detail of my life, dust it off, place it on the table, and smash the fucker to pieces.

See also: My Injury File: How I Shot, Smoked, And Screwed My Way Through The NFL


Nate Jackson played six seasons in the National Football League as a wide receiver and a tight end. His writing has appeared in Deadspin, Slate, the Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, TheWall Street Journal, and TheNew York Times. A native of San Jose, California, he now lives in Los Angeles.Slow Getting Up is his first book. Follow him on Twitter, @NathanSerious.


Image by Jim Cooke.

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