The 2013 NFL Kickoff is tonight starting with the defending Super Bowl Champs the Baltimore Ravens taking on the Denver Broncos. What better way to kickoff the season then by chatting with two-time Super Bowl Champion, entrepreneur, sports parent and Indy native Rosevelt Colvin.
Rosevelt was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1999, played for the Bears, the New England Patriots, and the Houston Texans. Some of his best years were spent playing linebacker for the Patriots, where he won two Super Bowl rings during the process.
Reaching the top but not forgetting where it all starts
I was able to talk to Rosevelt about his NFL playing days, Super Bowl experience, and his life after football as an entrepreneur and sports parent of four. As a sports parent I’ve enjoyed watching him teach, mentor, and coach kids, including my two sons, here in Indianapolis. He has reached the pinnacle of his profession, but still loves the purity of it all when it comes to young athletes and youth sports.
Tell us about your experiences winning two Super Bowl Championships.
Rosevelt: The Super Bowl is the greatest sports spectacle on earth, especially in the U.S. As young kids in the states you grow up watching them. The first (Super Bowl) experience was bitter sweet as I was only able to participate in non-football activities because I broke my hip.
The next year I was able to regain my physical stature as a football player. I was placed back in the starting lineup, and I was able to start in the Super Bowl. As a team we were able to go the Super Bowl again and win back to back championships.
How has winning the Super Bowl changed your life.
Rosevelt: That was huge for me, because as a young man growing up playing pop warner and through college, you want to be the best of the best in your sport. You want to reach the pinnacle, and to become a champion was an unreal experience that I will never forget. It is an experience I will cherish forever.
As an inner city kid from Indianapolis it was something I never really desired was to be a pro athlete. I just took advantage of opportunities I was given.
How did injuries shape the rest of your career?
Rosevelt: Through high school and college never had any injuries, until my last college game. I dislocated my shoulder and broke my wrist. That pushed me into the NFL with a red flag, and I played four years in Chicago with basically one arm. When I got to New England I broke my hip and was put on injured reserve, but I was able to work my way back.
I was still able to be affective and make plays, but there were things that I wanted to do, but couldn’t do. I would feel good in pre-game, the first and second quarters, but after halftime, through the third quarter, and into the fourth I started to lose a little bit.
As I started to move away from the injuries I started to feel better, but some other injuries kind of slowed me. The took their toll, but I wouldn’t trade (my experiences) for the anything. At the same time I wouldn’t wish it on anybody because of the pain and hard work you have to go through to get back to being a world class athlete.
How did that change your perspective of a post football career?
Rosevelt: It depends on the type and severity of the injury. I had the same hip injury as Bo Jackson did, who was one of the greatest to play baseball and football, and never made it back from that injury. For me, there was a time when I didn’t know if that would be my case. Now, I feel changes in my body when the weather changes. If I stand too long I feel it, when I play basketball Wednesday nights I feel it that night and Thursday morning before it fades over the weekend.
Another major concern people have is with head injuries and concussions. I never had a history of issues with concussions, but I have noticed significant issues since my 4th or 5th year. I can barely go to amusement park or fair because seeing (or experiencing) anything spinning bothers me. The game takes it toll, and you have to be willing to sacrifice a little here and there. You may have to do the same with many other professions.
How do you view the state of the game today in regard to younger kids and safety, like the Heads Up program?
Rosevelt: The NFL owners have an investment they need to protect. I won’t necessarily say we were taught wrong as younger kids. There were some things we didn’t have like proper fitting equipment or the tools that are available today for kids. Now they (the NFL) wants a process, programs, and policies to keep athletes and players from putting themselves in harmful positions.
The Heads Up initiative is to show young men how to protect themselves where they are not using their heads to strike, but focusing on the techniques. I am an ambassador of the Heads Up program. Locally, here in Indy, we have a few little league programs involved. This gives us adults a chance to teach children at an early age like they do in other sports like baseball, basketball, soccer.
Football programs we weren’t always taught the proper way to tackle. Sometimes it had to do with trying to develop toughness in kids at a young age. I remember some very tough drills that were not necessarily safe for the kids. One particular drill (the blind side) called for a kid who went offsides to run down the field, and someone would come up and blind side him. It happened to me once, knocked me clean off my feet, and I’ll never forget it. Now we realize we don’t really need that to develop young football players, or to develop toughness.
Heads Up football is a great way to help kids develop proper techniques at an early age. The NFL does a great job with not only partnering with USA Football and Heads Up, but also flag football programs. They are teaching different ways to learn and develop in the game of football without having pads and a helmet on, or without having to make contact with someone.
With flag football you can teach kids a lot of different things. Teaching them to throw the ball instead of running every down. Our league requires at least one pass play every third down.
It is just as important to learn the game, as it is to get tough. I was never the strongest of fasted kid as I made it more mental than physical, and doing that took a lot of the grunt work out of being a football player.
You own several businesses. Did you always have a mindset focused on entrepreneurship?
Rosevelt: I’ve always had an outgoing personality. I get that from my mom who was an actress, appeared in commercials, and taught music in the (Indianapolis) public schools for 44 years.
My life after football (officially) started when I broke my hip and I realized football was not always going to be there. The process began with the Bears when as young guys we started to see the grind, and felt we didn’t want to do that forever. But year five I told myself I need to figure out what I want to do after football, and I began to prepare.
I spoke with my wife about starting a franchise. One we considered was UPS. I liked the structure, the set up, and the low risk it was to get started. It was also something my mom felt comfortable managing as she was going to assume that role.
My dad has always been an entrepreneur. He started a foundation called ALFE (Association for Loan Free Education), which assisted minorities in Indy with getting scholarships so they could go to college. He also opened up a fish market, and started a construction company. The “be your own boss” mentality, and the freedom that comes with it came from what I saw in my dad. My injury sort of pushed me toward it.
I also listened to what was said at the NFL Rookie Symposium. I developed relationships with media people. I was cordial and open to doing interviews, so people saw my personality. That opened doors to be an analyst with the Big Ten and the NFL in different markets. Here in Indy I do the Colts pre-game show.
This year I will be working with CBS in Boston doing the post game show, and the radio show the following Monday. My life and career has been filled with opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of. I have been so fortunate and so blessed by these opportunities, that I am in awe of them. When I get these opportunities I do my best to hit a home run with them.
We have the UPS store, my wife opened a bakery called SweeTies, and I run the All Pro Flag and Cheer league. All in addition to my second sports career as a football analyst.
How was it being an Indy native beating your hometown Colts?
Rosevelt: I was a die hard Colts fan. We didn’t have a team until I was seven. I remember the Mayflower trucks shown on TV moving from Baltimore to Indy. I worked in the RCA Dome as a teen, making cotton candy for the fans at the Colts games. I was there for the Eric Dickerson Days, Jack Trudeau Days. I remember the AFC Championship game when the Colts played the Steelers and got cheated as the (Steelers) wide receiver came from out of bounds back in bounds to catch the TD. I was die hard Colts all day long.
I went to Purdue and played four years. The Colts passed on me in the draft, and in free agency a couple times. The Patriots got me at a time when they were really good. At the same time Peyton (Manning) was bringing life to football in Indiana. Brady vs. Manning featured to future Hall of Fame quarterbacks at their best.
I remember being so hyped, and so excited when we played the Colts. I wanted to be a Colt because I wanted to play in front of my family and friends. That is one of the greatest things to play in front of your people. It didn’t happen so I tried to do everything I could to be the best player on the field when we played the Colts. Unfortunately, for the Colts and the city, it didn’t work out that well. If not for Tom & Bill being together at that time there might have been a couple more trophies in Indy instead of Foxborough.
You have four kids, what sports do they play?
Rosevelt: Xavier (16) is a junior starting linebacker for his high school. Nijah (14) is a freshman cheerleader, track runner, and is considering volleyball. Raven (10) runs track and loves dance. Myles (8) will be the tallest and probably most athletic, as he just turned 8, but is the size of 10 year old. He plays football, basketball, and runs track.
We love it! We love the innocence and purity of youth sports.
What do you say about the trend in youth sports today?
Rosevelt: More and more parents are seeing the dollar signs, or what they can benefit from their child, or being connected to a child who may become that “next one.” Everybody wants that, and thinks there child is “the one.”
So, who is really out here competing…the parent or the child? Are they (kids) benefiting from this push?
A lot of parents are living their dreams through their kids or fulfilling their financial desires through the kids, and not allowing their kids to enjoy their sport, or just be a kid. It creates a bunch of spoiled kids, or kids who just don’t want to do anything because their parents are forcing them. Although you do get kids who enjoy being out there, who enjoy all the playing (experience) they get.
I (actually) got my football scholarship playing basketball because we didn’t have film (back then). So Rick Smith from Purdue, now with the Houston Texans, came to watch me play basketball and then worked me out. That led to my scholarship.
Some of the benefits (today) are you get a lot of experience and exposure from year-round teams, AAU, and club sports. Many kids earn scholarships here.
But overall, doing it in moderation is key. As a parent you have to make sure you understand it is not about you, and make sure you choose the best way to help your kid be successful. And success is not just being the #1 draft pick.
Success may be the lessons learned from sports that will allow them to be a biz owner, the best CEO they can be, or a part-time or hourly employee that arrives on time and does what they are suppose to be.
What type of sports parent are you?
Rosevelt: I am hands-on. Because of my professional experience I have a lot of influence with my sons, in particular with football. And I love basketball as much as I do football.
Me and my buddies always coach our boys. Not that we try to not to make them the best player ever, but we teach them the fundamentals of the game, respect of authority, refs, officials, and make sure they understand what hustle means.
I’m a hands on coach and father. I try to give my kids the necessary tools to help them be successful. I’m not a big track guy, so I may be able to find a coach who can help them be better at track. They may have general athlete questions and things I can help with in that case. But I want them to learn about taking care of themselves, their body, and to help them be ready to be their best.
I also teach them to make their education a priority. I am sitting here as a 36 year old man – today is actually my birthday. I honestly feel like I could still be playing football, but injuries didn’t allow. I know there are guys out there playing football who have no idea how to play football, but are out there because of potential. I would be in my 15th year if not for injuries, so I know you have to have something to fall back on.
The info I soaked up from a business standpoint from Mr. Kraft (New England Patriots owner), working with Bill Belichick, and every person who operated that facility and entity was very impactful. I learned a lot. I’ve applied much of it to my marriage, my life, and my businesses.
Would you consider private coaching for your kids?
Rosevelt: I think you have to assess your child first. When it comes to football I think I have great expertise. But when it comes to my 16 year old son he really doesn’t want to listen to what I have to say although he plays LB, my position. He wants outside training, which I allow because ultimately I want to give him an opportunity to enjoy sports and become successful.
I don’t object to private training. My kids run track, and I am not a track guy. My son plays basketball and I coach, but at some point I will have to step back once he gets past 3rd or 4th grade. What is really important is instilling in them hard work, because other coaches may only teach them the basics, not necessarily hard work and respect. They have to understand they need to work at it. I’m open to anything that will help my child benefit from the experience.
Who played a key role in your growth and development throughout your life and career?
Rosevelt: Not one particular person. I was inspired by what I saw as a young kid. I never desired to be a pro athlete. I wanted to be successful, but not like rappers today who want money, cars, and all that. I wanted to be successful from being able to put a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food on my table. I saw my parents do that for me and my sister, I saw my neighbors, I saw the deacons and other people in my church, as well as my teachers. That is what I saw, and that is what led me to take advantage of opportunities I had.
There were two people I really looked up to. My uncle, who was an engineer in Texas, was one of the most successful and significant black men that I saw that wasn’t on TV. My dad was important with him being in the home obviously. We have a different type of relationship, but he showed me work ethic and discipline. I look at a lot of different individuals. I look at my mom with my smile, personality, and helping people. There were teachers at Broad Ripple High School, as well as my counselors and coaches at Purdue University.
Each and every phase has molded and shaped me into someone my wife, and my parents can be proud of. A God-fearing man who puts Christ first and heeds the advice of those who laid the path for me, and now I’m doing the same for my kids and the next generation.
What role has your faith in God played throughout your life and career?
Rosevelt: I was raised in the church. Not as many kids today are being raised in church. My mom was choir director, and my dad was a deacon. My faith in Christ has benefited me. I went to college and drifted, but I was able to reach back and rectify the situation. That was due to having a foundation and belief that allowed me to understand where I was.
I have had highs. As a child I collected Sports Illustrated, and to see myself on the cover was unreal to me. To have the freedom I have at 36 years old, I cannot complain.
I have had lows. After my hip injury I was bed ridden for 3 months. A 240 lb man, NFL linebacker, having to depend on my wife to help me go to the bathroom and change my clothes was humbling. To sign a $1m contract in 1999, and in 2002 have $50k to show for it is a little bit embarrassing.
I’ve been fortunate through my ups and downs, but I try to keep doing positive things to help others. And I try to set a foundation for my kids and families.