When reporters call or people recognize me, it has something to do with my NFL career, FOX News, or one of my books. What people rarely talk about are the years between them.
I was blessed to have a ten-year career in the NFL and to retire at the top of my game. I was excited to begin my next phase in the world of business. My brother had a game changing business concept, and I was all in. For eight years, we fought tooth and nail to make things work; but eventually, like many young businesses, it failed.
Within eight years of starting my business, I found myself moving from my Long Island home with an in-ground pool and two luxury cars parked in the garage to a Brooklyn one-bedroom basement apartment with my young family of six. I have a loving family that supported me through my dreams, so I was determined to return the favor and make sure they had everything they needed. It wasn’t easy.
I remember the long nights combing through the classified ads, calling every number listed, looking for a way to climb out of poverty. Before I knew it, I was working as a chimney sweep during the day, and I’d spend my nights working as a security guard. I’ll never forget the embarrassment of being recognized by a New York Jets fan as Burgess Owens, former first round draft pick and team captain a decade and a half before, cleaning his chimney. That moment of embarrassment decades ago is now a memory I reflect on with pride because I knew no job was beneath me in my quest to provide for my family. It’s a chapter that I can share with my children as proof that our country is one abundant with second chances.
I was blessed not long after to begin what became a long successful career in the corporate world. I will never forget my time as a chimney sweep in the city where I once played football in front of millions. To some this may seem like my American dream ended, but in reality it’s where it began.
I know my story is not unique. Everyday Americans lose everything, and parents lie awake at night wondering how they will provide for their children. For Americans, rising above our circumstance is in our blood. It’s who we are. We love being the underdog, and we love becoming more than we are.
Unfortunately, right now each day businesses are being forced to close their doors, and workers are forced to sit at home while their American Dream becomes just a little further out of reach. Over the decades, we’ve made poverty harder and harder to leave. Small businesses continually fight the burdens of increased regulations, while low-income and middle-class families carry the weight of Congress’ over-spending.
We talk about spending in Congress as if it’s an abstract idea. When in reality it directly hurts our low-income and middle-class families: from corporations needing to cut budgets to the mom and pop stores closing their doors. Again, the government takes the American Dream and places it just a little further out of reach.
We see it in education when children are not given the education they deserve, not because there is a lack of taxpayer money, but because we’ve created a bureaucratic nightmare to the point it never reaches them. Again, the government takes the American Dream and places it just a little further out of reach.
We see this happen also when veterans return home after serving our country and are not able to get the physical or psychological help they need. They wait in long lines hoping to be seen and often are not. The government takes their American Dream and places it just a little further out of reach.
I am not running for Congress as a former NFL player. I am running for Congress as a former chimney sweep. I lived my American Dream, and I am prepared to fight with every fiber of my being to make sure my children, grandchildren, and those of their generation have the ability to live theirs as well.