As an NFL player, Sundays were always the most important day of the week. Monday through Friday meant 13-14 hour days, complete with steady training, dieting, grueling practices and film study. Then came Sunday; time to put all of that hard work into action.
I still remember the sights, sounds and smells of the game, from my first start against the Colts, to the last time I walked into the tunnel after beating the Jets. Whether it was my first game, or my 201st, each Sunday I woke up full of anticipation. I always ate the same game day breakfast -- three eggs over medium and a bowl of oatmeal. Then I calmed my nerves with soothing music, a playlist that always included Lionel Richie's "Easy Like Sunday Morning." If all went well, we wrapped up the day with a win. But even in loss, I was surrounded by guys who to this day remain my closest friends, my brothers.
Life after football was challenging, in more ways than one. I not only missed the time with the guys, but also the energy and excitement from our community of fans. What was I going to do with my time, especially on Sunday, a day that had been so important for so long? I tried golf, dabbled in acting, and even busted a move or two on Dancing with the Stars, all of which I loved. Still though, none of these activities -- rigorous as they are -- could recapture the excitement and camaraderie of an NFL Sunday.
What I didn't realize until recently is that my other passions -- working with the Jason Taylor Foundation, anchoring ESPN, cooking and, of course, parenting -- have actually been filling this Sunday void. During my NFL days, my idea of Sunday Fundays -- suiting up to take on an opponent -- was much different than the current take that many Americans have. But now, I've truly embraced this approach and the concept of Sunday Funday has taken on a whole new meaning. Now, more than ever, Sunday Funday is a time for family and friends to gather together to enjoy good food and drinks, good conversation and good football.
These days, instead of getting fired up for a game, I fire up my kitchen and invite friends and family over to watch the games, swap stories and enjoy some great munchies in between snaps. Cooking has become a whole new competitive outlet for me. I even developed my own burger recipe using jalapeños, mozzarella and pineapple. It's a little taste of Miami, with just the right amount of spice. And the best part is these burgers cook quickly in the microwave, so you don't miss a minute of the game, but still get to enjoy that just-off-the-grill taste. They are perfect for satisfying all of your hungry fans.
Sometimes it takes a big change to find new opportunities. Sunday Funday has eased the transition to a more relaxed life away from football and has allowed me to focus on parenting, one of the greatest joys in life. What I've learned in retirement is that it wasn't the hitting, the adrenaline or the thrill of victory that I missed most about the game. It was the guys in the trenches, and in the locker room. My surrogate family if you will.
Sunday Funday brings that feeling back. Only now the smells are far more enjoyable.