Former NFL player, Tim Tebow’s Shaken tells the story of what life looks like when your dreams don’t go as planned. In this exclusive excerpt, he illustrates the highs and lows of what it feels like to make the cut. It’s exciting, personal, and soul-shattering.
Adapted from Shaken pages 9-12
The locker room was somber. A strange mixture of sadness, tension, loss. Guys stood in front of giant wooden lockers, where stored on hooks and shoved in corners were more than just sweaty shorts and worn helmets. More than stuff. My teammates were staring at the tangible signs of unmet expectations. Shattered plans. Good old disappointment.
It was late August, time for roster cuts. NFL teams start out with ninety guys, and by the end of the week, the number drops down to fifty-three. And during those seven days, you can’t help but feel on edge. Especially as you walk into the locker room after a workout and, from the corner of your eye, see a buddy, someone you trained and worked so hard with, now glum, black trash bags in hand. It was like that all day.
One by one, a handful of my New England Patriots teammates started cleaning out their lockers. Told to go home. That it was over.
Some could hide well the obvious disappointment they felt. And with others, it was written all over their faces.
I felt an uncomfortable blend of emotions. On one hand, it wasn’t me getting called into a conference room and then later dumping protein shakes, deodorant, and cleats into a noisy trash bag. On the other hand, I felt for them. These were my friends. And their run with the team was done.
As awkwardness hung in the air, weaving through tense, quiet chatter, I clapped one guy on the shoulder and said, “Hey, man. God’s got a plan. He’s got this.” To another, I gave a bear hug, saying nothing.
As the day unfolded, I thought about my standing on the team. I felt like I had gotten more comfortable with my performance. We had just beaten the New York Giants 28–20
the night before, August 29, 2013. In this preseason finale I had finished 6 of 11 in passing for 91 yards with two touchdowns. Yeah, maybe I didn’t do my best, but I was just starting to click with the team.
And then, sucker punch.
It was my turn.
I didn’t see it coming. Maybe because I was one of the last players to get released.
I spent that Friday training in the Patriots facilities at Gillette Stadium. As I worked out, in between squats and deadlifts, I was tuned in to the grim atmosphere. I was probably subconsciously waiting for someone looking for me to pop his head into that room packed with an arsenal of steel exercise equipment. But no one came. That helped to take some of the pressure off, letting me breathe just a little bit easier.
After my workout, it was hard walking into the locker room, where a trail of trash bags and worn football equipment flooded the floor. Seeing teammate after teammate getting released made me tense up again. I said good-bye to the guys while metaphorically looking over my shoulder, waiting for something to happen. Maybe someone to call me into an office. Maybe a text. But nothing. A part of me began to think I was safe, and a sense of security began to sink in.
Sometime earlier, Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots and a man I respect and really like, had told me he was looking forward to seeing me at his get-together the next day. He was hosting a barbeque for the team and the staff at his home. Thinking about his words, I felt like it was a sign, a good sign.
Feeling semi-settled, I left the facilities and hung out with my brother Robby and my longtime friends Bryan and Erik. I love these guys. We can be pretty sarcastic with one another and quick with our jabs, but we’re also not stingy about offering encouragement when needed. It’s a good combo.
Aware of the ongoing cuts and my corresponding tension, my three buddies hung out with me the rest of the day. We hit up a movie theater close to the stadium, hoping a good action flick would help ease some of the remaining tension. And after wasting an hour and a half of our lives watching what was a terribly boring movie, Erik and Bryan headed to the airport to fly home to Jacksonville as Robby and I headed back to the hotel room. As the rest of evening wore on, I still hadn’t heard from Coach Bill Belichick or his staff. While the absence of communication boosted my comfort level, I still felt pretty overstrung.
By the time my alarm blared early Saturday morning, I was thinking, Phew! I made it! And it was likely in that same breath of relief that I noticed an incoming text message on my phone from Coach.
“Timmy, will you please come in?”
My stomach dropped. I stared at those six words for a minute, my mind reeling. The feeling of security began to shatter.
I drove to the facilities, trying to stay above the mental fray. In moments like these, there’s such a temptation to get caught up in the unknown, trying to figure out a situation that’s beyond your control. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen. It was that simple. And as equally hard to let sink in.
I tried to focus as I pushed open the glass front doors. The place was practically empty because most of the team was headed to or already at Mr. Kraft’s barbeque, which I still had planned to attend. I kept calm as I walked down the gray hallway, not thinking much, my flip-flops flapping noisily on the tiled floor. But when Coach Belichick’s poker-faced assistant led me to the sparse conference room, I knew. In an instant.
Enter the sucker punch.
Book Title: Shaken
Author: Tim Tebow
ISBN: 9780735289864 | $25.00 | WaterBrook Press
Adapted from SHAKEN Copyright © 2016 by Timothy R. Tebow.Reprinted by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.