ESM sits down with former Giants/Jets punter Steve Weatherford, who has embarked on one of the most interesting career paths in NFL history.
When one thinks of the great Super Bowl heroes in New York Giants history, conventional conversation often skews toward Eli Manning, David Tyree, Justin Tuck, Chase Blackburn, and Mario Manningham.
Forgetting punter Steve Weatherford, however, would be foolhardy.
The Giants are preparing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their most recent Super Bowl trek this season, a 21-17 triumph over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. That upset victory began with the Giants gaining some early momentum through Weatherford’s leg. Forced to punt in New England territory, his 36-yard boot pinned the Patriots at their own six-yard-line. An ensuing intentional grounding penalty on the very next play led to a safety that gave the Giants a 2-0 lead before Manning found Victor Cruz for a touchdown when the Giants got the ball back after the unexpected double. That kick was one of three that Weatherford situated inside the New England 20-yard-line during the historic evening.
As Weatherford, now based in Texas, prepares to rejoin the rest of the 2011-12 Giants squad, the 38-year-old has had little, if any, trouble staying busy. The punter, who also spent three seasons with the New York Jets, has become a health and fitness guru, his feats of strength routinely on display on his Instagram account, and welcomed his sixth child earlier this spring. Before the Giants reunite at MetLife Stadium this year, Weatherford will make an early return to East Rutherford on June 28-29 through a motivational seminar entitled “Become the CEO of Your Life”. It will be a two-day event slated to be held at the Hilton Meadowlands centered on five power pillars that will boost listeners’ personal and business relationships. Tickets and can purchased here or by texting Weatherford at 949-763-5934
Upon his return, ESM sat down with Weatherford to talk past, present, and future…
Q: You’ve had one of the most interesting career paths in professional football history, going from specialist to fitness, health guru, and motivational speaker. What was the biggest factor in your shift from NFL punter to motivational coach/fitness expert?
A: If I had to boil it down to two things, I think it would be vision and disciplined focus. There were a lot of things that I was involved in that people were like, ‘Dude, why are you doing that?’. When I was in the NFL, I remember linebackers and positional players asking ‘dude, why are you working so hard, why are you so jacked?’, because I didn’t need to, to be a kicker. But I always had a vision for creating the strongest and the most flexible body that I could.
I didn’t work out just for football I worked out because I wanted to see what I was capable of doing. So from a vision standpoint, that allowed me to move that discipline and focus that it took to get into the NFL and be able to develop a skill and then be able to call upon that skill. I only played, think about it, seven plays a game. I think the NFL punter average is about 4.3 plays per game, so I was on the field for 28 seconds a game. To be able to discipline your focus, to be able to block out distractions, and being able to replicate a highly complex skill in adverse conditions when you have 250 pounds, athletic mutants running at you, it took a lot of mental and physical conditioning.
I would say the biggest factor would be vision, the fact that I had a vision of what I wanted to be or do, and still do. It’s the next version of myself that I want to become. I mean how much of a bummer would it be if I retired from the NFL at like 34 or 35 and those were like my best days? It’d be sort of depressing, retired at 35, and I just refused to accept that. I think that’s because I had vision, just constantly exposing myself to different people, or their different hobbies and different experiences and I think that will continue to allow people like you and me to continue to dream dreams and chase those dreams. Having vision is great but if you’re not disciplined and focused. It’s really easy to get distracted, and it’s really easy to be not disciplined.
Q: How did it feel to leave an impact on both of New York’s NFL franchises?
A: I’m from Terre Haute, Indiana. I certainly wasn’t supposed to play in New York, or win a Super Bowl, or play for the Jets, or play for the Giants. I feel like I’m playing with house money, but I definitely am not satisfied. I’m blissfully dissatisfied. I’m so happy with my life, but I want to experience more, I want more relationships, I want to learn more, I want to know, I want to grow more, I want to do things that people in my family haven’t done before, just because I decided I can.
Q: The NFL released their COVID and vaccination protocols for the 2021 season last week. As someone who knows a thing or two about athlete health and wellness, what are your thoughts on the policies?
A: To be fully honest with you, I saw a tweet and some Instagram posts about it, and that’s all the research that I’ve done so far. From what I gathered, the league is going to make the players who decide not to get the vaccination very difficult. ,
I know we’re not gonna get into politics, I don’t want to get into politics, but this is the National Football League. These guys are going to sweat all over each other. If people want to get the vaccinations for their reasons, get them. If people don’t want to get the vaccinations, then don’t get them. The people that got the vaccinations shouldn’t be worried about it, because you’re getting vaccinations. So what’s everybody worried about? Let’s play some football. That’s my opinion.
Q: What lessons can the 2021 Giants take from your championship squad back in 2011-12 as they seek back to get back to NFL relevancy?
A: I think it’s just synergy. If you look at our team from the 2011 roster, the one that won the 2012 Super Bowl, there were probably 10 other teams that were more talented than we were on paper.
But I believe it was two things: I believe it was our ability to achieve chemistry, but more important than being able to achieve chemistry, It was the timing in which we achieved the chemistry. We didn’t play our best football until we got into the playoffs, and we barely got into the playoffs. When we got into the playoffs, we went into, we went into Green Bay, we beat them. We went into Candlestick Park, we beat (San Francisco). We beat the Falcons at home. No one was really giving us much of a shot with any of those teams, but that’s because they hadn’t seen us play the level of football that we’re playing at that exact moment.
I almost felt like every day we woke up during the 2012 playoff run, we felt like we were the best version of the team that we had seen up until that point, and we just continued to get better, and to get better, and to get better. We played our best games when it mattered the most against Tom Brady and we did things that people didn’t think that we could do. It was because we got everything out of every person on the roster, and we did it at the right time.
Q: The 2011-12 team will be celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year. What’s the No. 1 memory you’ll take from the championship journey?
A: Training camp. There’s something special about collective suffering, and not just through world championship football games. Anytime that you go through a really difficult time with a group of people, be it boot camp in the military, or you know these firefighters or your law enforcement, Marines, that’s when you build the closest relationships. So my favorite memories were doing the stuff that we hated doing.
We actually have our 10-year Super Bowl reunion coming up. We’re going to be honored before the first game of the regular season this year. It’ll be cool to see a lot of those guys because after that season was over, some people went to free agency, went to other teams and it was the last time that I saw them. You still see them on social media and stuff, but it was the last time that I got to see a lot of those relationships in person. So it’s exciting to know that all those guys are gonna fly back ten years later.
Q: Your punt after the Giants’ first possession set up a safety that allowed you to take an early 2-0 lead. What do you remember about the kick?
A: I didn’t know it at the time, but Chris Collinsworth, who was doing the game for NBC, said at halftime that we would’ve given the MVP to the punter, Steve Weatherford. I was glad they didn’t have a TV on in the locker room the way that they normally do, because if I heard that, I would’ve had to change my pants! It was a pretty radical experience to have like the best game of your life in the biggest game of your life, especially against somebody like Tom Brady.
We knew that we needed every inch that we got. So every time the punt team went out there for the four punts that we had, (New England) wound up starting at the six-yard line, the four-yard line, and the eight-yard line. That really drastically changes how Bill Belichick’s going to call plays. You’ve got to rearrange game plans to give Tom a little bit more room, especially knowing that the first drive became a safety on the very first play.
Special teams played a big part of doing what we did in 46. I’m not just saying that because of my punts, all of the units did amazing. The whole reason we were in the Super Bowl was that Lawrence Tynes hit a field in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game and then overtime. It took every single guy on our team to do what we did.
Q: How can special teams assist a developing offense like the one we’re seeing with the New York Jets right now?
A: I remember when I was in my first year with the Jets. That was Mark Sanchez, his first year as a rookie quarterback and I remember Rex Ryan literally pulling him aside with me after practice one day. (Ryan) said ‘listen, Mark, we don’t need you, and we don’t need Steve to win the game. Our defense is the best defense, the National Football League has ever seen. I want you to possess the football and get us first downs, you don’t have to do anything more than what you’re doing right now. When you can’t, we’re going to use Steve and pin them deep inside of the 20, and we’re gonna let our defense do what they do’.
I think that was relieving for Mark, not because it was like, oh, Steve is gonna bail you out, I don’t want listeners to hear it that way. It was more along the lines of Rex saying, ‘listen, punting’s not a bad thing, because our defense doesn’t give them points. If we can just possess the ball and get a touchdown every once in a while, we’re going to win games’. That’s literally what we did and Mark Sanchez was able to take us to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie and as a second-year quarterback in a really, really difficult division.
Q: We celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend, as the timing couldn’t have been better for you to welcome your sixth child. How has fatherhood changed your outlook on life?
A: There’s no need for being a dad, just like there’s no handbook for being an entrepreneur. We only have our experience of our fathers to recollect and look back on how we want to be a father. We have an opportunity to father six times over. It’s really forced me to uplevel my ability to create structure, to create order. It’s kind of like what we talked about earlier, we talked about vision, we talked about discipline to focus. We all have a vision of being great fathers, great providers, great businessmen, great employees. But to be able to put some structure, and some order in almost kind of like implementing the playbook.
When I was in training camp, Tom Coughlin gave us a playbook with the rules and regulations of the team to have expectations and had our agenda. We were responsible to know all of that. He said if you execute this and you get to get to know this well, you have a chance to be a champion and the chance to be a New York Giant. There’s no handbook for being a father and that’s one of the reasons that it’s so difficult because we only have our own experience of it. One of the things that I’m into right now, right after I retired from the NFL, I got into entrepreneurship, I started a fitness company, a supplement company, and was able to gain some success. But that one thing that I was missing, the one major mistake that I made was I didn’t have a coach anymore so I didn’t have anybody to give me my agenda for the day, tell me what time to go to bed, what time to wake up.
I had a disciplined focus, but I didn’t have structure in order, and so I didn’t have a business mentor I didn’t have somebody to tell me. You’re doing too much, go be with your family, etc. All I knew was harder I work the more successful I’m going to be.
Q: What does the future hold for the Weatherford family? There are certainly NFL teams that would love to have you aboard as a special teams and/or strength coach. Would you ever consider a return?
A: I really really love what I’m doing right now, working with entrepreneurs. The last thing I can envision myself doing is being a coach and the reason for that is that their structure, their order, the amount of time that that would require of me to invest into their mission could never supersede the mission that I have with my six kids.
As for the future, we’re actually about to launch our YouTube channel, My wife and I. We’re going to launch I guess you would call it a reality TV show, and it’s going to be focused on our faith, family, fitness business, and it’s pretty much calling me and my family around everything that we’ve got going on. We’ll be able to build a pretty nice community of people that support us on social media, so we’re going to take our show on the road to YouTube, and be able to have a platform to be able to share our lives. It’s called The Steve Weatherford Show: High Performance Tactics to a High Performance Life. So, for anybody that’s reading this, if you enjoyed our conversation and you want to hear more, you can come to this event, subscribe to our podcast because it’s personal development, it’s leadership it’s mind, discipline, it’s helping you create and live the life that God created for you to live.