March 16, 2016 started out like any regular day. I put my pants on…because that’s what people do in the mornings, and headed out to conquer my day. I was down in Salt Lake City doing some intense training at a place called Gym Jones (same gym that trained the guys for the movie 300). I had moved down there for five weeks to get focused and recalibrate for the 2016 season with the Seahawks. After starting out that year 2-4, we were able to come back and make a pretty serious run in the playoffs, beating the Minnesota Vikings, but losing to the Carolina Panthers. Even though we lost against a team that we should have beat, we definitely accomplished more than anyone thought we could have at the beginning of the year.
The previous year had been a blur. My wife Matti and I got married on March 29, 2015, and I signed a three year contract with the Seahawks just about two weeks before that. After another long season, I was really looking forward to being away from home and decompressing. I knew that I needed to if I was going to be ready for the next season. After all, I still had two more years on my contract and it seemed like everything was going well.
That afternoon, after a heavy day of training, I ran over to a golf course for a lesson. I was always sick of guys going out golfing together from the team and me never being able to be competitive. About midway through the lesson, I hear my phone buzzing. I glance at it and it says “John Schneider.” My heart dropped. For those of you who don’t know, he is the Seahawks General Manager. A man that I have the utmost respect for, not only as a leader, but as a person. It went to voicemail. It’s never a good thing when the GM calls you in the middle of March and you have two more years on your contract. I glanced at the guy who had been giving me my lesson and I could tell he felt uncomfortable. I don’t blame him. I had a look of grief on my face that would bring Dwayne Johnson to tears. I knew what was about to happen. I had always wondered when this day would come. John Schneider was about to give me that ten million dollar contract extension because I was such a nice guy….NOT.
I called him back and it went to his voicemail. The next eight minutes were the most agonizing of my life. It was like that bandaid that is just barely hanging on as you wait to rip it off. Finally he called, I let it ring a couple of times, obviously I had to play it cool. He got right to the point. “Gresh, there is no easy way to say this, but we’re releasing you. We aren’t going to bother with trying to trade you, we just want to go ahead and part ways. We found someone else.” I didn’t know what to say. He handed the phone to my head coach Pete Carroll. “Gresh, thank you so much for all you have done for us over the years. We appreciate you and wish you all the best.” A huge rush of emotions came flooding in. I responded with a heartfelt thank you. I told Coach Carroll how it had been my dream to play for him since I was in high school and how grateful I was for the opportunity. After the exchange of pleasantries I hung up the phone. Absolutely the worst break up ever. Everything I had known for the last six years had happened in Seattle. I mean, I won a freakin’ Super Bowl with the men on the other end of this empty phone call. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and not feel what I was feeling.
All of us are going to have heartbreaks. You can’t avoid it. As much as I didn’t want to feel the pain, I knew that I needed to. I experienced a loss and it hurt. Instead of shoving those emotions deep down where no one could see them, I opened them up to trusted family and friends. I hated it. But you know what? Eventually the sting started to lesson. We can spend our whole lives running from emotions and unless you let yourself feel it, you will never heal it.
Life is this beautiful flower-filled mine field that gives us the most breathtaking joys and most devastating losses. The valleys of life help us appreciate the peaks. It makes us who we are. When you eventually step on one of those life crisis mines, be brave. Find someone who loves you and open up about it. Be kind to yourself by allowing your soul to heal through the strength of others. One of the most important relationships you have is the one with yourself. Treat that person with the highest honor and dignity, because you deserve to be loved well.