Joe Hawley cleaned out his locker at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice facility for the last time a little over a year ago. He was retiring from the NFL after 8 long years as an offensive lineman. Although he was done as a player he was just getting started on his next amazing adventure.
This is Joe’s Story…
Joe was a kid who grew up in Southern California skate boarding and playing many sports. Joe is an interesting and very smart guy and he didn’t want to be defined in his life as just a guy who played in the NFL but rather someone that makes a bigger impact on the world.
Out of UNLV, Joe was an NFL’s 4th round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons, and battled most of his 5 years through a few injury’s, waiting his turn to start and blaming others for his lack of playing time. “I was blaming my position coach, offensive coordinator, the strength coach and everyone else I could. I was trying to figure out why they didn’t like me and why don’t they give me a chance”? Joe discussed this during the SportsBiz Podcast “Nothing about my attitude was creating a healthy situation for anyone, mostly it hasn’t good for me”.
What happened next was a pivotal point in Joe’s playing career and where most guys in the league point themselves right out of the league. Joe had enough of a sense of self awareness that he needed to stop pointing the finger and blaming others and start accepting that the responsibility of his playing time and attitude was on him and him only. The NFL is a lonely place.
“If I was left on the side of the road after getting released from the NFL, there is no one left to blame but me. I also realized no one cares, nor should they. It was 100% on me to change my attitude”.
That is when things started to change. After waiting his turn in the league to become a starter, backing up a starter that was retiring, he got his chance. Then the worst scenario for a player in the NFL, he suffered a season ending knee injury that required major surgery and once again he returned to the sidelines had a long road back with rehab and eventually was traded to Tampa where we finished out his career playing for a few more seasons.
“I learned a ton about myself during this time in my life”. Joe explained, “I worked through a bunch of adversity, figured out its 90% mental and that your attitude means everything for making your situation and how the people around you look at you different as well. It’s incredible how changing your attitude will lead to so many positive things.”
The day last Spring cleaning out his locker for the final time, a sense of relief overcame Joe that morning, "This sport us all I knew for so long, my body was used to it but mentally I was ready to move on".
"There still was so much more I wanted to do with my life and now I felt a sense of freedom to do that. For most of my adult life I was told when do be somewhere, what to eat, how much to weigh, how much to lift, have far to run and after a while that becomes mentally and physically exhausting".
Freedom is what he desired and appropriately, Freedom is what he named the dog he rescued to go on the next part of his life’s journey.
“I wanted to live with less and experience more. So, I ended the lease in my Tampa apartment, donated my furniture to a local charity, lost 60 pounds, got out of marrying the wrong girl and bought a super cool van to travel the country.” Explained Joe about having less. “I always wanted to go one of those road trips where you visit every MLB ball park. So that’s what I am doing.”
While listening to Joe’s story during the podcast, I thought this is one of the coolest life pivots I have heard in a very long time. If the donating everything you own, losing the weight of a 4th grader, ditching the wrong girl, buying a tricked-out travel van to set sail on the open road to camp, fish, eat, drink and go on MLB Ball Park tour wasn’t every guy’s ultimate adventure, then oh yea, let’s rescue a dog! I mean, come on!
So that is exactly what is doing, him and his dog freedom are setting off in a customized Sprinter Van this Spring criss-crossing North America visiting MLB baseball Stadiums and Historic National Parks capturing the adventure on YouTube and IG.
The only thing that could possibly make this adventure better and maybe into a TV show, if he took the other famous UNLV Alum, Food Networks Guy Feiri with him to Flavortown!
Joe’s new journey is about inspiring others to eat healthy, take care of your body, your attitude, have less possessions in life and experience more, travel more, meet new people, do things that are outside your comfort zone.
He is living a life that he preaches. In the past, he was never one for social media when he played in the NFL, a self-proclaimed introvert. Thought it was a huge waste of time.
That is part of his challenge to himself of getting out of his comfort zone. Joe now has a website and very active Instagram and YouTube channels. Heck he even bought a drone and edits all his own videos.
“When you don’t have enough video for your story, drone footage with some background music, is the greatest filler content ever”.
Like many former professional athletes, the transition from the lifestyle of being a public figure with unlimited access to people, attention and opportunities when you have that global platform. Everyone takes your call when you play in the NFL. It can be a challenge.
“However, life after playing, there is a transition process if you haven’t planned ahead and started to think about what you want to do that brings your life and those around you, value”. Joe explains “You aren’t going to just go sell cars for a living, unless you own the dealership”.
Joe was well aware that the next chapter in his life was creeping up and so he had this idea of Man - Van- Dog - Blog adventure brewing towards the end of his playing career.
This March he attended the NFLPA Speakers Bootcamp in SoCal to hone his public speaking skills. “If I want to go down this path of being a YouTuber, podcast interviews and keynote speaking sharing my story with the larger audience I want to get better and again challenge myself to be uncomfortable.
In the digital world we live in, this affords college and pro athletes the global platform to scale their brand and convert those fans/followers of athletes, like Joe to become an influencer.
The business of being a social media influencer is very real and the bridge connecting former athletes transitioning from a high profile sports career ending and a social media influencer solopreneur business beginning is becoming an easier path.
Besides Joe having a naturally conservative nature, living way below his means, and being the example that “Having Less and Experiencing More” by a former NFL player is inspiring to those following his same path or those career seekers who may look at building a “Life Resume” before they get locked into a career they may not love.
“My adventure with Freedom is just beginning, we are leaving Tampa in April and plan to experience new places, new people and continue to push myself out of my comfort zone. It’s the only way to get better".
It’s also the best way to experience Freedom.