....we all played at some level and players in today's age play for the overall love of the game, just as we did during our childhoods.
I played football because it was enjoyable and entertaining. Why else does anyone play any sport? Certainly, you succeed in sport because you are a talented player and your skills translate to the professional level; but it's the thrill of victory that brings about the sense of belonging and what brings out the very best or the very worst in all competitors. There is simply a plain old love and an enjoyment of trying to go beyond your wildest dreams and expectations, to find victory when defeat seems imminent. When this thrill hits you, you feel it and it can't be replaced by any other feeling around.
I would say to the young players out there today: Don't ever forget this thrill and don't forget why you play the game. It is easy to get caught up in the "why me" syndrome and start seeing the politics of the NFL, which leads to an athlete losing the desire and the initial love he had for the game.
These outside politics can steal your heart away from competing and cause some athletes to lose opportunity and focus when these problems arise. An opportunity also can be lost because a player holds a negative feeling toward preparing and focusing on working hard toward a goal he can attain and control.
A player's control over his own destiny can only be steered by that player alone and he cannot focus on the front office, teammates and others who may or may not hold him back from reaching his own goals. This cycle of self doubt and contempt can lead a player to underachieving, as has been documented in some famous cases. So I must say: Players should focus on their own priorities and what they need to accomplish to make their dreams come true, and stay away from other outside distractions on or off the field that could bring them down.
The relationship that you experience with the guys and the teammates of yesteryear is another reward from playing the game of football. You can carry those friendships that you inevitably develop over the course of your career, through a lifetime. If a player enjoys competing in this great sport on a daily basis, than he will be focused on the positives that the game can bring to him, and not the question marks that could potentially hinder his process.
To the new generation of football players out there: Focus on the reasons for why you play the game. Remember the love for football that attracted you to the sport in the first place, and the sense of accomplishment that the sport brings when victory is gained.