Former NFL wide receiver Plaxico Burress wants the NFL’s incoming draft class to listen to his words of advice very carefully because he doesn’t want to see players make the same mistakes he made during his playing career. In a letter to the incoming draft class on The Players’ Tribune, Burress said it is because he is the guy who shot himself that rookies should listen to his words of advice carefully.
“Because I’m living proof that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done,” Burress said in his opening. “You could have it all — you could be living the dream — and then one stupid decision can change everything.”
Everybody knows the stupid decision Burress made. He carried a gun in New York and accidentally shot himself. That decision cost Burress two years of playing time, but he ended up losing much more than time on the field.
“I lost valuable time with my wife and children. I even missed the birth of my daughter, who was born while I was in prison. I basically lost everything all because of one stupid decision,” Burress explained later in his letter. “And a lot of what I lost, I’ll never get back.”
Burress’ letter to NFL rookies is lengthy, but the basic lessons he wanted to share are centered on trust. Who to trust. Who should not be trusted. How only the player can make the judgment on who to trust, and the ramifications that can come from making a bad judgment. Burress also warned rookies they may not learn some of the things they may expect at the league’s rookie symposium.
I went to the rookie symposium with all the other rookies, and people came in and talked to us about finances and how to act like a pro and all that. But they also had us put condoms on bananas — no lie, they brought out baskets of bananas and baskets of condoms, like it was an eighth-grade health class. It felt like they spent more time teaching us about STDs and how to conduct ourselves in public than about how to protect ourselves from scams, risky investments and other financial dangers.
After the symposium, I could put a condom on a banana, but I still didn’t know how to write a check.
The basic point Burress seemed to be making is how things will happen quickly and it will be important to grow up as quickly as possible in order to avoid making bad choices that could have far-reaching consequences. In his closing, Burress reflected on what he may have done differently if he had the opportunity to go through the NFL once more.
I always hear retired guys who have been through some shit in their lives say things like, “I wouldn’t change a thing because it made me who I am today.”
But would I change anything?
Hell yeah, I would.
I wouldn’t have shot myself in the damn leg. I wouldn’t have even gone home to get my gun that night. I would have known the laws on carrying a gun in NYC. I would have been smarter.
Here’s hoping the new batch of NFL players hear the messages being relayed by a former NFL player who has gone through the league and come away with a handful of experiences worth sharing.