Paul Pratt was interviewed by Diane Miller of FirstDown4Ever which partners with community leaders and athletes who are interested in changing the world. A link to the article is here and the text is below.
You can never underestimate the power of a mentor. Especially for a kid who could use a little more help in a sometimes unforgiving world. I think that the work Paul Pratt is doing is just phenomenal.
It can be tough growing up in a single-mother household.
This interview with Paul speaks closely to my heart. His program takes place a few minutes away from where I was born in Los Angeles. I didn’t have a dad in my life. My mom raised my sister and me alone. And it was athletes who played a role as mentors to me.
So I believe wholeheartedly in the work of Paul Pratt with his organization 2nd WINd MENtors, which mentors teen boys ages 13 to 17, from single-mother households. The program both serves as an outlet from life’s stressors and also helps equip these teens with important life skills.
Pratt has played for the NFL with the Detroit Lions from 2009 to 2011. And now, he’s transforming his love for football into a medium to help kids for single-mother households to have just as much a shot at life as anyone else.
I was able to interview Pratt to learn more about his program. Are you ready for a dose of inspiration? Great. Onward.
- How does your role as an athlete apply to this program?
My role as an athlete helps me to have an impact on these young men. Playing for the NFL was the culmination of the years of discipline I’d given to honing my passion and skill for football. And many of the skills I learned from this don’t just apply on the field, but off as well. Perseverance, faith despite frustration, balancing your strengths with teamwork—this applies even in school, in life, work. Areas that all of the young men in the program will experience at some time in their lives. We’re based in LA and target young men, age 13 to 17, from single-mother households.
- Can you walk us through what happens in your 7-week sessions?
January 12th was our first kickoff group. The session starts out with a physical workout. A training where they can be active. The second part of the program teaches professional and personal skills. Communication skills. Listening. Making eye contact. We address leadership and other values. The physical part lets them sweat it out. And then open up. Many of these kids would never go to therapy to talk. So this is alternative and provides a space to talk, learn and have role models. Our goal is to have a different topic every week with guest speakers including other pro athletes. We won’t say who ahead of time to give them a reason to show up. We stress something as simple as being on time and showing up. For the NFL and professional sports, that’s an expectation.
- What have been some surprises and challenges along way of starting this program?
We opened our non-profit status in 2017. I thought I was procrastinating for a while, but now I know it wasn’t that. Maybe I needed to clean up and get my life in order before it was time to launch. After picking up the phone, doing some networking, finding coaches and talking to others with a lot of wisdom, I decided in October that it was time to start the program.
- What was the motivation behind this particular cause?
After playing professional football, I asked myself what my value and identity were. I had anxiety and was depressed like a lot of other athletes. I was trying to find out who I was and where I was going. I realized that football was my talent, but giving back to the world was my gift.
- Where would you like to be in 5 years?
I’d like to do 7-week cycles with boys in the same age group to really maximize the effectiveness and learn as I go. Eventually, I’d like to expand outside of the LA area. I’d like to team up with other athletes with the same interests, and work with them to show them how to do the same 7-week camp in their communities around the country. I’d also like to work with girls, too, and not just boys.
- What’s your sports story?
Football has been great to me and at times heartbreaking. I always compare football to a dating relationship. It’s like dating the person who is way out of your league, but you’re doing what you can to keep the relationship going. You know that one day soon, they are going to find someone better and move on from you. It’s the worst break up I’ve ever had. In high school being a star athlete, and as much as I did and as great as I played, I never felt like I had that validation and approval from my head coach, therefore I never felt enough. I didn’t think my talent was good enough to go to a big time college so I choose a small college at the time (University of Nevada) and took those insecurities there to see if I could be a big fish in a small pond. It wasn’t until my leaving LA Fitness and starting training with Hall of Fame Darrel Green that I got the confidence in myself as a player I had once as a kid in Pop Warner. When I landed on the Lions I was at max confidence and excited, but I did face some obstacles like I’d had in high school. I played for two seasons. And when it was over, it was over. Normal life was upon me but my identity was still stuck as a NFL athlete. It took years to get my identity and value as a human being back, and still at times I struggle. But I am in a better place now than ever, more confident in myself and knowing what my life purpose is, and what God has called me to be to the world, His Light.
So in short, Paul Pratt has made the leap from football player to youth mentor. He worked really hard to make it to the professional level of sports with the NFL. An athlete at heart, he now takes the lessons learned on and off the field, applying them to his passion project of helping teens.
As his program evolves, I can only wonder how many kids lives will be changed for the better. What kind of foundation they’ll be able to go out into the world with, and pursue their own passions and goals wholeheartedly because of it.