no time to rest: a q&a with wide receiver nelson agholor
You likely already know Nelson Agholor as the wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, or maybe from his time spent playing college football at USC where he was a first-round draft pick in 2015. Maybe his impeccable style off the field is what caught your eye - we wouldn’t blame you. However, Nelson’s character and the impact he has on his teammates, his community, and his family are definitely what caught our eye, and why we are excited to announce him as the latest Rhone Ambassador to join our Outliers! We sat down with Nelson to talk football, fitness, and life. Here's what he had to say.
How does pilates make you a better football player?
Well, I mean, I believe that pilates has been the way that I learned how to gain strength with mobility. For a lot of my life, I just did your traditional weight lifting, squats, bench press. But when I learned how to practice bodies and go through some movements, I learned how I could get length, but also I have strength through length. So I didn't shorten the muscles. I elongated them and actually gained strength doing that.
What is one thing that you're currently working on improving about yourself?
Just continued faith in the process. It's like the number one thing that every day we have to do. Because in my field, it's results-driven, and sometimes you have to forget about the results and get a little bit more lost in the process and have faith that your process is working the right way.
And how do you think having faith in the process will help you accomplish your goals?
Well, because it's a marathon, honestly. That's how we look at it. Each year there's obviously one goal is to win the championship. But in your career, you're defined by all of it, by the total. So you can't get lost in what happened one year. You have to remember that you have to get better each year. And if you're continuously focusing on the process and the regimens that you have to make you a better football player and a better man, you're going to reach that ultimate goal at the end. It may not seem like you're there early, but at the end, in the end of the race, you'll be there.
So about that championship. That was a very memorable year where you guys obviously overcame some adversity right at the end. What was the collective feeling like for that group going into that game?
Well, one thing about that group is we faced adversity. We lost a lot of guys. We lost our starting quarterback and a lot of defensive players that were pivotal to the success that we thought we would have all year long. And we just realized the "next man up mentality" and that continuously grinding was the most important thing for us. I think the most important thing about that championship team is we stayed true to our process. Regardless of what happened, regardless of all the outside stuff, the outside noise, we had a process that we knew would work. We practiced very hard on Wednesday. We knew Thursdays we prepared for situational football. Friday we were fast and furious, practicing our red zone stuff. And then Saturday and Sunday we recovered the right way so we could go fast come Sunday nights or Sunday at 1:00 pm. And that process became habit and come Super Bowl Sunday, we just cut loose and made it happen.
So clock ticks down to zero in that game. You guys are the winners. What is the feeling like for you personally?
Second to none. My high school football coach always told me "delayed gratification." I had success early, being a high recruit coming out of high school, going to college and being a first-round draft pick to the NFL. He would always say "delayed gratification." And it was for a moment like that. It was for a moment like that to be like, wow, all the sprints, all the extra balls, 5AM, 6AM JUGS, whatever it is...to be out there on that stage and to contribute towards the ultimate goal, to be a world champion...it was super special.
Tell me about your upbringing. How did your parents raise you? What is one critical lesson that they taught you?
My parents don't do much verbal communicating. All they do is show you. My parents are both from Nigeria; that's where I was born also. My mom was lucky enough to win a visa to bring us to America, but as soon as she got to Tampa, Florida, she started working three jobs. My dad did the same. We barely saw them. They worked from morning to night and didn't come home sometimes and just went from one job to the next. I continuously saw the work ethic that they had and they made no excuses. I remember being evicted from my apartment as a young kid, and my parents didn't make an excuse. They just put together whatever money they could to rent a house. And we went from a small apartment to "OK, the rent might be more, but they know the kids need to be in this home", and they figured it out. So my parents taught me to find a way or make a way and make no excuses.
You talk about hard work. I know you juggled being a student-athlete and having a job in high school. What was that like being a high recruit, having all this success, and still having to report in at a regular job for a teenager?
Well, that was a choice. I made certain decisions to separate myself. I was a five-star recruit getting ready to go to Southern California. I could easily have just coasted. But I made a choice to actually have the experience to work a real job. I cut lawns when I was really young, but like to actually have a boss and to learn something like that meant a lot to me. And I felt like it would give me value when I got to school and help me as I transitioned from a young boy to a man. So it was something that I really care about a lot and something close to my heart, the job and all.
So what led you to football when you were young? Did you just take to sports really easily and zoned in on football or was there a specific character in your life that lead you to fall in love with football?
Sports in general were was important to me because, like I said, I wasn't born in America. So when I got to America, the game of football and basketball kind of broke the barrier. I was accepted in the community because I was fast or I could move around in whatever sport I was playing. So I guys picked me up and I got friends from that. And it's super special because so many people find different ways that they can be integrated into a new community. The game of football was what brought me into a community. I went to high school to play basketball and I met my high school football coach, Dominick Ciao. He really made the game of football super special to me because he made one promise to me as a freshman. He said, "You know, Nelly when I'm done with you, every school in the country will give you an offer and you'll become an all-American." I was a hundred and sixty eight, a hundred seventy pounds at the time when he told me this. And, you know, I truly believed him because of how he spoke. I watched every coach come in and out of school-- a small, little private school, where we didn't really have any better recruits like that. But you'd see the Monte Kiffins, the Urban Meyers, Chip Kelly, everybody, and it was like, wow, dreams come true. He made it really special for me.
What kind of lessons did he teach you about behaving off the field as well? I know he was a great football coach and definitely got you up to your highest standard of performance, but what did he teach you about being a man?
First of all, it was a really special school. It was a private school that was K through 12, and he would tell me every day that one of the most wonderful things about this school is every day you have little kids looking up to you. I had kids that I was a role model to in the ninth grade. These elementary kids would watch me play on Friday nights and they wanted to be like me and wear my number three jersey. But not only did they want to be like me as a football player, but they wanted to see me be a good person. So in the classroom, when we interacted with middle school kids or elementary kids, I had to make sure I was on my best behavior. And he actually put me in position to become one of the school leaders as a senior where I was a prefect at this private school, which is something most athletes probably frown on. But I respected it because it meant a lot to me to know that I was a leader of men and women in the community and I was able to help young kids kind of figure it all out. He instilled all those things in me.
Does that still influence you to this day? You see really high profile cases of athletes acting out and misbehaving and not being leaders in their community. What choices do you make today that are reflective of that decision to be a leader at such a young age?
Everything he taught me at a young age is what inspired me to start some of my non-profit. I have a nonprofit called Our Kids, Our Responsibility and I believe that it takes a village. I am who I am today because of so many different people, my high school coach being one of them. So, therefore, when I form a village for the kids that I influence, I make sure that I put them around other people that inspire and invest in them so that they can grow and reach their goals. So he started that for me and I became a five-star recruit at Southern California, a first-round pick in the NFL, somebody that's living a wonderful life and I wish for that same thing for the next generation of kids so I started this nonprofit for them.
What's one piece of adversity that you're currently facing? How do you plan to overcome it?
Adversity is kind of relative to the holder. For me, it can be something simple. But I would say that right now, we're 3-2, and I want to make sure I do everything I can to help us be an explosive offense. So I would say on the football field, just dialing in and taking advantage of what opportunities come my way. So that's a bit of adversity to just make sure you're always ready. You stay ready because sometimes opportunities are limited.
Tell me about a time that you had a moment of realization that shifted your perspective.
Year three in the NFL. I was drafted as a first-round pick and I got here and we weren't that good of a football team. We struggled. We live in a great city here in Philadelphia where football is a very passionate thing, and in year three, I realized that my hunger and the chip on my shoulder had to be even greater because the people here love the game and they have high expectations for you. You have to have an even higher expectation of yourself and be hungrier than they are. And every day you have to invest to grow. There's no day that you can be like, OK, I can relax. It almost became an insanity for me where I never settled. Every day I had to do something. So I think in year three, I had that epiphany and that became who I am. There's never a day you can take off from putting into yourself. Every single day you have to do something towards that. I realized that until it's off-season or until it's all done, there is no time to rest. You have to invest. So I think that that was the year that I really had that epiphany.
There's never been a time where critics have had easier access to high profile people like yourself. What do you do on a daily basis to remind yourself to not listen or move past those guys? Not that they don't matter, but in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, "they don't count." What do you do on a daily basis to kind of move past all that noise?
In what we do, it is very hard to not listen to, and that's the reality. It's how you interpret what they're saying. When you listen to it, do you believe it? You know, cause some people are are not always as strong. You know, they listen to it and they hear it so much that it becomes them. Do you remind yourself that you have people that you must prove wrong? Does that drive you? Sometimes I look for that type of stuff. I need a little bit of chirp to motivate me. I need for people to doubt me to motivate me because, in a world where you can get comfortable when you've accomplished some things, you sometimes have to remind yourself there's somebody that's wishing you don't accomplish what you truly deserve. So with the critics, I use them as my biggest motivator. Every day I want to have some guy out there that said, "oh, he's not this" see me and be like, man, I was so wrong. You're one of my favorites. I live for that.
Do you have a mantra or life motto that you kind of repeat yourself every day?
I would say "find a way or make a way." That's something my high school coach used to say to me. We live in a world where there's always going to be adversity. No matter what it is, whether it's adversity or you don't have the exact equation or solution to a problem right away. Some people just give up but you've got to make a way because the only thing that matters is that end result. How you get there--no one cares. You just got to get there. So find a way to make a way I would say is my most important mantra.
What is your vision for the future? Life after football, what does look like for yourself?
I see myself in a position to make it a little easier for the next generation. That's really what I want to do. I love my struggles. I love all the things I've gone through. But I would be so mad at myself if I had all these answers and didn't share them with the next generation so they have a little bit less resistance when they're going through their path journey. Sometimes see myself as a school principal and a high school football coach because I would love to be there for young boys and girls to remind them, hey, stay away from this. Or hey, remember, these techniques in sports, you know, and things like that. That's where I really see myself.
You mentioned that you're helping your sister go through college. What is it like to be able to not only lift yourself up but to lift the people that you love the most up with you?
It's just amazing. It's my purpose. My mom is a big believer and has strong faith, and she always prays every day that the Lord changes things for her, and I think he really did with me. I've been able to do so many things for my family, and it ain't me. It's somebody greater than me. So when you have a chance to let your little sister go to college and experience a better life and be able to manifest a life for herself, I don't hesitate to do that because I'm invested in her so that she can invest in her family. It's a generational positive and not a generational curse. From here on out now, she goes to college, her kids will go to college. My nieces and nephew will want to go to college because she graduated.
You touched on your charity work a little bit. I know you're really proud of that. Is there anything that you want to establish about your charity work that's important to you?
I just want to make sure that it's a consistent thing. We've done so many different projects and I just want to make sure we can reach as many people as possible. Here in Philadelphia last year, we had about 100 girls come to our Girls Got Next program. We want more. We want more young ladies to come. I think it was a really powerful platform with some special people that came together to help high school girls transition to college. That project is about instilling confidence in women, and I think that that's the most important thing in a world where people like to prey on people that lack confidence, especially young women. I want all the women to have the most confidence. This all started with my baby sister. I started thinking about her when she was in sixth grade. Every day I would always talk to her about life and making decisions and having true control over her decisions. And now I don't worry about her in college. She lives her life because I know she's going to be all right. She's got three older brothers who love her and one that spent a lot of time trying to remind her what's real and what's not. I want to continue to do that project all over the world, not just in Philadelphia but back in my hometown in Tampa, where I went to college in California. I want to make it a big platform because I know some special women and I would love for them to continue to instill confidence in young ladies.
Why did you want to work with Rhone and how do the products fit into your everyday life??
It was easy. I saw Rhone as a brand that was very innovative and they talked about men that are leaders in this world. And I was like, this is me. This is a brand that not only will be with me throughout my playing career but throughout my whole life. I love everything about the athletic wear, but I also like the comfort of the dressier you wear. It's always about swag, but comfort. I can swag it up with tennis shoes, loafers, I can wear a nice jacket and wear a blazer over it and I can look great, but also be comfortable.
To see more from Nelson, follow him on Instagram: @nelsonagholor