can still see it in my mind so clearly.
It was in 2002. My first minicamp rookie with the Cardinals. I was 22 years old and I was lying on the grass of the training ground, flat stomach, stretched and thinking, Dude … you did it, brother. You are in the NFL!
I, a child from a small town in East Texas, Jacksonville. A small town where we did not have many famous stores or restaurant chains. We did not even have Dunkin 'Donuts.
We had Donut Palace.
I remember at high school on Saturday morning in the fall, I went to my shift coach and there was a giant Donut Palace box on the coffee table filled with these little hot dogs wrapped in croissants with cheese. We called them cheese pigs. And we sat down all morning – me, the coach and maybe one of the other quarterbacks of the team – huddled around the television, crushing cheese pigs and ripping the movie from the game of the Eve.
About five years later, I was in the NFL, thinking about how far I've come, excited about it.
I wanted to be a franchise quarterback. I wanted to bring a Super Bowl to Arizona. I wanted to retire from a cardinal.
I do not fear the companion label. I kiss her, full of strength.
So, if you ever told me at the time that I would play for 10 different NFL teams over the next 17 years, I would have said, "Shoot, 17?" I'll take it."
"But 10 different teams? No way…."
I suppose that proves that you do not always have to choose your own path. But in hindsight, I am proud of the evolution of my career. I do not fear the companion label. I kiss her, full of strength.
Because it's a hell of a trip.
And now, strange as it may seem, after 17 years, this trip is coming to an end.
Today, I am officially retiring.
Gene Lower / Getty Images
When you decide to retire, all your life in football flashes before your eyes. And in this one, you see all the people who have helped to make your career possible.
Like my wife, Natalie.
I mean, you have to think … I played for 10 NFL teams, plus a stop to play with the Hartford Colonials in the UFL. So there was a lot of travel and time away from my family. And Natalie kept him at every turn. She was a rock. She did everything so that I could do my job lucidly, knowing that the children were good and that everything was taken care of at home.
Honestly, you can say that about many wives of players in this league – probably. Women really do have the hardest work, and they do not get the credit they deserve – that's all. We could not go out and do what we do on the ground if they were not at home doing everything they did.
I can not say enough about the role Natalie played in my career. Nothing would have been possible without her.
She is a super-woman.
Then there are our four children – Bridget, Aubrey, Aiden and Owen – who have always been encouraging, understanding and just great. There are my parents, who instilled in me a good work ethic and a competitive spirit. My brothers and sister, who were the best support system I could have asked. My friends, from school to college and beyond. My agent, Mike McCartney, and Priority Sports. Seventeen years ago, I was Mike's first man, and he's been with me every step of the way since. I could not have asked for a better partner for this trip.
Then there is ecoach and general manager who always tried my luck and thought that I could bring something to their football teams. All the trainers and all the doctors with whom I worked. Each chaplain of the team. All the guys I have to dress up with …
Honestly, I could go on for days. There are so many people who have played an important role in my life. Too many people to thank here.
But there is one person I want to acknowledge, because all the success I've had in my professional life can basically be traced in one way or another to a man.
He is called Matt Turner.
Courtesy of Josh McCown
Matt Turner was my high school quarterback coach, the one I went to on Saturday morning to study the band. But these sessions were not just about donuts, cheese pigs and gaming movies. We were not just hanging around. C & # 39; was job. He broke me. M? Dissected.
And he noted me – difficult.
He had a very specific filing system. He had a small sheet with a checklist of different criteria for each piece. And for each of them, you got a positive or negative rating. Then he added everything and you got an advantage or a disadvantage for the game as a whole. It was essentially a failure-success.
I will never forget this piece on which he noted me. I had touched a touchdown, so I thought I was going to have a benefit. All day, right? I mean, it was a touchdown. What's not to like?
But when he handed me the sheet, he gave me a less.
I was like: "Wait, wait … hold on, coach. I do not understand. I launched a touchdown!
"Yes," he says. "Good work."
Then he went through the checklist.
He said that my feet were not correct, so I had a problem. I was too free with the football – less for ball treatment. I did not take the appropriate drop, another minus.
During all the time that he was going through these inconveniences, I was just thinking, But it was a TOUCHDOWN, coach!
The only thing he gave me was the spin himself.
It was a little lesson, really – that you can not let the little things go. You can not be like Oh, well we scored a touchdown, so we're good.
It's coach Turner. He has always insisted on the finest details. He pierced it in me. That's how it has trained my older brother, Randy, before me, my younger brother, Luke, after me, as well as everyone else. And he still does it today as a head coach in East Texas.
I took his lessons with me to all the quarters I have ever been to. His voice has been with me throughout my career. I see the game through its lens. He is the best coach of my life, and one of the best humans. This is one of those people that you are better just to have known.
His voice has been with me throughout my career. I see the game through its lens.
This is the main reason why I like to practice so much. The attention to detail that he instilled me at such a young age has helped me to form a critical eye, which has been beneficial in the work that I have performed as a coach, but also in my job as a football analyst for ESPN – something that I intend to do more in the future.
Coach Turner touched my life in so many ways. I am grateful for him and for every high school coach who makes sacrifices to invest in young people.
My two sons are two-quarters in high school and I'm glad I can help coach them.
It's funny, I can not tell you how often I hear something with my boys, and I think, Oh my God, I look like Coach Turner right now ….
And I love it, because I can not think of a coach that I would like to emulate more.
I love you, coach!
For Christmas last year, Natalie took all my jerseys in my life – from Jacksonville High to the Jets of New York – and framed and individually mounted them in a room of our house. Everything is pretty cool.
Courtesy of Josh McCown (2)When I go back and look in this room, I do not see that jerseys.
I see opportunities.
Opportunities that I had to learn, grow and find new ways to contribute to different teams and help win football games. Opportunities that have kept me in professional football for 17 years and have shaped me in the man I am today. Opportunities for which I thank God, for they have strengthened my faith.
At the end of the day, no matter what team I was in, I tried to serve her to the best of my abilities, and I tried to influence my team in a positive way. I hope that I did that. And I made sure that when my number was called, I was ready and that I gave him everything I had, every time. I may not have turned out to be a quarter of the franchise I wanted to join at the Cardinals Rookie Camp, but I am extremely proud of my career.
So to all those who have been part of it: coach Turner, Natalie, my family, my teammates … Everybody – Thank you from the heart. It's a hell of a trip.
And I would not trade that for anything in the world.