Lance Briggs is one of the most consistently excellent defensive players in the NFL, having been to seven straight Pro Bowls from 2005 to 2011, earning three All-Pro honors in 2005, 2006 and 2009. He was also a major part of the Chicago Bears defense that led the team to the Super Bowl in 2006, where they eventually lost to the Indianapolis Colts.
For a player with such an illustrious NFL career, you would expect that Lance Briggs was highly touted when coming out of college, but he was the 68th overall pick; a pick that in hindsight, was a huge steal for the Bears. Despite some initial unhappiness with his situation and subsequent trade requests and contract negotiations, Lance found a home with the Chicago Bears. His leadership has never been questioned as his performance on the field has commanded the admiration and respect from his teammates and opponents alike. Briggs is, in fact, so well liked by his peers, that at one point following the 2007 season fellow All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher was willing to take a pay cut to keep Briggs on the team.
Early in the 2012 season, Tyler Burgess had the opportunity to interview Lance Briggs at his home in Northfield, Illinois. They discussed the challenges of succeeding in the NFL and the opportunities to give back to the community, while planning for a life after football.
Q: You’ve established a foundation called Briggs4Kidz. Why did you start it, and what is its primary focus?
A: It really begins with not forgetting where I came from. There were kids who were talented in many different ways who didn’t have the opportunities that other kids did. What I wanted to do was create an organization that targeted those less fortunate kids, and our goal is to provide financial and emotional relief for them. For the last six or seven years, during the holiday shopping season, we have taken more than 50 kids from the Chicago Housing Authority, Boys Hope Girls Hope and the Salvation Army to the large Target in downtown Chicago and let them pick out whatever they want. It’s always rewarding to see their faces. My team works really hard throughout the year so we can see those happy faces come Christmas time.
Q: Your passion for Briggs4Kidz is evident. What events do you have coming up, and where can our readers get more information?
A: I work three camps in three different areas. I have a football camp here in Chicago, a camp in Tucson where I went to college and one in my hometown of Sacramento. We are also working on a charity event for the springtime—but you can get any information, whether it be contact info or where to donate at Briggs4Kidz.com, LanceBriggs.com or Lancescomicworld.com.
Q: Take us back a little bit. Tell us about the moment you first realized you were good at football.
A: I can tell you when I first realized I loved football. It was 1988 during my first year playing football; I spent it sitting on the bench. I got about six or seven plays a game, where they had to play me. At the end of the year, when my mom asked me if I wanted to play again, I was excited. I said, “I do. But this year I want to start. I want to earn a starting job.” So I knew then that this is what I wanted to do. That was when I was seven years old.
Q: What are the biggest changes in coaching you have seen, between high school, college and professional levels?
A: I think as you get older, a coach’s patience grows a lot shorter. I think a lot of it has to do with the coach’s job being on the line as you progress, but it also has to do with expectations for you being higher, and the learning curve being a lot steeper.
Q: You currently having the second longest streak of Pro Bowl selection. How does that make you feel?
A: It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I want that to be the norm, and my play has been consistently good for a number of years now.
Q: Another thing a lot of people talk about is that you don’t miss games. How important is that?
A: I’ve been durable. I’ve only missed a handful of games throughout my career. I feel lucky and blessed to be able to play as long as I have, and to be as healthy as I have been. Hopefully that will continue.
Q: If you could play with any player, living or not, who would it be?
A: There is a long list there. I would like to play with Joe Montana. He was a hero of mine growing up. Really, I would like to play with that entire team and get to see smooth Joe throw passes to Jerry Rice.
Q: Is there any person that would leave you speechless if you were to meet them?
A: It would have to be a great grandfather or grandmother of mine that I have never met. I am still learning a lot of my family history, so to see someone from my family tree would probably leave me speechless.
Q: New players have a lot of anxiety upon entering the league. How did you feel your rookie year, and what advice would you give your younger self?
A: I wanted to play so bad, but one thing that ran through my head when I got on the field was, “Don’t screw up, don’t screw up…” To young guys, I would say just stay sharp leading up to Sunday, and just let it all out on the field.
Q: How do you see your legacy with the Chicago Bears, and how has that changed since you started?
A: When I was a rookie, my goal was to start and to prove that I was worthy of starting on the team. Now, ten years later, I want to win a ring. I want to be remembered as one of the players who brought a championship back to the city of Chicago.
Q: What’s the worst part about traveling for an away game, and how do you cope with it?
A: Scheduling. Sometimes you have a day game, and the meetings start as soon as you touch down in the airport. Time can get really tight, leaving no time to go out for dinner or to see friends.
Q: Do the Thursday games help or prevent some of that?
A: The Thursday games help that, in terms of opening up the weekend, but it is tough on the body, going out and playing on Sunday and then within 5 days, playing another game.
Q: Since you were a rookie, there have been a lot of rule changes to protect players from injury. Do you ever think about getting injured during a game, and does it affect the way you play?
A: No, I don’t think about getting injured at all. I think about hitting people, dropping back and getting picks, turnovers and rooting for my teammates.
Q After playing on Sunday, how long does it take for your body to start feeling as normal as it gets during the season?
A: It takes a little longer now than it used to. The way I have things set up now, I get a lot of massages, a lot of ice baths and a lot of other treatment. By the time Wednesday rolls around after a Sunday game, we are back at it again.
Q: When you choose to leave the NFL, how will life change for you, and what are some of your post-football goals?
A: When I finish playing in the NFL, life will move a little bit slower and my body will be a lot happier. I plan on treating my body very well. I am thankful for what it has allowed me to do up to this point. When I am done, I would love to coach kids in football. I feel that once we get to a certain level as professionals, one of the things we can do is give back to the young kids who are trying to learn football, since we made it to the highest stage. I love cooking, so I plan on going back to school for the culinary arts, and I also want to go back to learn a few different languages. I plan on keeping busy.
Q: Many players have established a brand around their name. What do you think the Briggs brand should represent to the public?
A: The Briggs brand is redefining self and the value of self. What you do is no less important than what anyone else is doing. I loved reading comics as a kid and when I went to college, I kind of kept it to myself because it wasn’t cool. But there is nothing wrong with liking comics and everyone should be able to express themselves in their own way.
Q: Oftentimes, players are unsuccessful in a lot of business ventures, though obviously in the media all you hear are the bad stories. Why do you think that is, and what advice would you give to the guys moving on to the next phase in their lives?
A: I think a lot of people like to gossip, and I think with the media, there is sometimes a lack of discussion on the positive things. So many celebrities and athletes are doing great and positive things in the community, but it’s being left out because of the negativity and other incidents that are happening. The public tends to gravitate towards negativity, which is unfortunate, but I hope that changes in the future.
Q: You hear a lot of stories about players who don’t manage their money well, and you hear about them filing for bankruptcy. Any advice you could give to the younger players about how they could manage their money more wisely?
A: I would say first, reach your savings goals and eliminate as much debt as possible. Set financial goals, like a weekly goal leading to a monthly goal, which leads to a three month goal and then a yearly goal, and so on. You have to make it habit so that you are in the driver’s seat.
Q: Tell us about your off-season life. How do you spend your time, and what do you enjoy the most?
A: I enjoy spending time with my kids. They are getting older, getting bigger, talking to me and holding long conversations, going to events together. I love spending time with my family—just in the back yard, doing barbeques with all the nieces and nephews. Everyone is just out having a good time.
Q: If you weren’t a football player, what other profession would you have chosen?
A: A baseball player. Between baseball and football, I just had to pick just one. I was a catcher and a center fielder. My high school had one of the top baseball teams in the state, as well as one of the top football teams. I knew in football I would be in the running, but with baseball I wasn’t as sure.
A: Every year in the off-season, I take about a month to a month and a half and work with the team, and I work with trainer Cory Edmond at NC State. It’s a grueling 5 week training regimen, and in the afternoons I do boxing training. So between the team workouts and those double days, I am always prepared once the football season rolls around.
Q: There has been a lot of controversy surrounding performance enhancing drugs, in baseball mostly but also in cycling. Football has remained relatively clean. Any thoughts on why that is?
A: The NFL is all over it, at least for as long as I have been in the league. I can’t speak for everyone, but at least for me, I have never even been into the whey proteins and things like that. For me, it’s just all natural.
Q: As a professional athlete, do you encourage your kids to pursue sports?
A: Absolutely. The most important thing sports teaches is how to live with each other and our differences. It’s one of the greatest melting pots. When I played college ball, we had probably 15 different cultures on the team, and we had to find a way to work together for one common goal. There are many life lessons that sports teach, and I think it is important that my kids at least give it a try, even if they decide not to play.
Q: How long have you been into comic books and what started it?
A: I was probably around six or seven. I just randomly went into a card trading shop with my mom because we collected baseball and football cards. There were shelves and shelves of comics. I picked one up, and I have never stopped picking them up since. I just have a passion for it. I just love reading the stories. In fact, I love reading them so much that a lot of my comics are not in the best condition from reading them over and over again.
Q: Out of all the comic books you have read in your life, which are your favorites?
A: I’ve always been a Darkness fan, as well as X-Men, X-Force, Batman, Catwoman; I’m all over the place.
Q: What are you working on now with your comic website?
A: We’re just working on new material, we are always listening to the fans and how they feel about new things that are coming up, for instance, the Avengers movie. Also, any of the new DC stuff that is coming out, Avengers vs. X-Men, which is really interesting to me. It’s a forum that’s really a way to connect football with comics.
Q: You mentioned that after you are done with football, you may go to culinary school. Is there a specific type of food you like to cook?
A: I love it all. I love cooking with lots of spices. Different flavors, marinades, gumbos, jambalaya—there is no one area when it comes to cooking that I am stuck to.
Q: When you do take a vacation, do you have a favorite destination?
A: Anywhere warm, with water, where you can walk around with sandals and go to sleep listening to the waves.