Change: Hard, but Necessary

ADVERSITY / If you were to ask the average person what NFL stands for and he will tell you, “National Football League”; however, those who have played know that it stands for “Not for Long.” The average NFL player career lasts 3.5 years according to the NFLPA. I always believed that when the end came, I would see it coming.

A very loud ring awakened me from my from a deep sleep in my hotel room in Oxnard, California, where the Oakland Raiders stayed during our training camp. I could not believe someone would call at 6:00am. My wake up call normally came at 7am. Limping to the phone, irritated, sore and half asleep, I grabbed the receiver and barked, “Who the hell is this?” My coach gruffly replied, “Brad, you are cut.” “Leave your dorm room key on the bed and drop off your play book in the training room.” Stunned and in disbelief, my heart stopped. I sat on my bed dumbfounded. I wondered if I was having a nightmare. Did my dream just end? I was at the top of my game and had so much music left in me. I prided myself on being ready for the unexpected, durable, disciplined, selfless team player, tireless in my pursuit of excellence and a relentless competitor. How would these character traits and qualities which I had used to become a first round draft pick from USC, and a starting left guard in the NFL, translate in the real world? I would soon find out.

PAIN BECOMES A GIFT WHEN IT CREATES CHANGE

I packed my belongings, threw them in my car and quickly said uncomfortable goodbyes to my Raider teammates who cared but could not allow themselves to feel because it would weaken them. Waves of emotions swept over me ranging from anger, fear, shame and a sense of failure. I felt sick as I started my car to drive home, knowing that this was it. My wife and I had been in the process of purchasing a home and had just enrolled our children in school. We had moved every six months for the last 8 years and were finally settling in one place or so I thought. I was 30 years old and since the age of 5, I had grown up attending the Chiefs’ training camp with my father, played football at USC and then I played for the Kansas City Chiefs. In my eight years with the Kansas City Chiefs, I had three different head coaches and five different offensive line coaches. Every coach wants his own type of player. The Chiefs new head coach cut me in 1987, for a 300lb. first round draft pick. He hardly played at all in the preseason, and yet they gave my job to him. He ended up benched and never playing again. After being cut by the Chiefs, I signed with the Oakland Raiders. During the Raiders training camp, I struggled with a high ankle sprain and now was driving home for good.

Questions hit me like punches. I asked myself, “Brad, you have a college degree, but do you have the life skills to make it in the real world?” “Brad, will you be able to support your family?” You just got cut. It’s over. I broke it all down, desperately asking God, “Why?” and “What will I do?” As someone who was known for his confidence, insatiable drive to dominate and pit bull toughness, I was shook to the core. I had to leave a game which I loved. How would I redefine myself and create a new career. When you’re so successful and adversity comes, you find out what kind of man you really are. Even though the last few years had been difficult for me professionally, I would not have changed any of it because it developed my inner strength and faith, or so I thought. Comforted knowing that my wife Nicky possessed a great faith also, which combined with her resiliency and toughness would anchor her, but this was so unexpected. As I arrived home, she came out with our children Sasha, 7 and Beau, 4 greeting me with love, and yet, their eyes searched me for answers I did not have. Although fear echoed deep inside me, fortunately, failure was not an option. My next chapter would require a deeper intimacy and faith in God: more than I had ever known. The heaviness of the unknown hit hard as my new reality set in.

2 Replies to Change: Hard, but Necessary

  1. Mary Carrido says:

    Brad,
    This is a wonderful testimony that I hope you continue to share with many and with greater deepth. The journey the Lord has you on is where the years as a NFL player was actually bootcamp to prepare you for your true calling according to God’s Will not Brad Budde’s needs and wants.

    The call on your life for God will transform many like yourself. I am confident your faith have increased substantly over the last 5 years. May you walk in boldness and yet meekness so your life experiences will help others know that football is not what defines you but rather the character of Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior is what you are and have become.

    In Him I Serve,
    Mary

  2. Dick Whitney says:

    Thank you for sharing this. You played a lot of great football and all its rewards & honors are wonderful.
    The NFL teams cut you but you are on God’s team & he never gives up or cuts us.

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