Edgerrin James

Trust Spotlights

Edgerrin James


Edgerrin James, lauded as one of top ten running backs of all time, spent 11 seasons in the NFL beginning in 1999. His unrelenting work ethic along with a systematic approach to the business of the game, positioned him to make his real mark in his post-football career roles of entrepreneur, philanthropist and, most recently, author.

When Edgerrin James became the 336th inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his speech got a standing ovation.

Calling himself “inmate No. 3-3-6,” & “locked up in the Canton Correctional Institution,” James told the narrative of his stellar career, and also what he faced in an industry wrought with misperceptions about him as a man.

However, people’s opinions of James never wrote his story. That, James writes himself.

My M.O. has always been be true to myself. You have to dig deep. WE define who we are, what is fun, what is right, how to act. You can’t let somebody else define that.

With more than 12,000 rushing yards over the course of his career, James personifies an unapologetic commitment to getting a job done without bowing to every demand.

“A lot of things are irrelevant but we make them a focal point to where they become a distraction,” he said. In an ESPN The Magazine piece from early in his career, James talked about his dreadlocks, his gold teeth, his penchant for keeping everything raw and real by saying if it looks bad, “You know when it looks good? When I’m talking to some bad kids about how they can be better…they want a baller, not a spokesman.”

Kids mean a lot to James. It was his humble Immokalee, FL beginnings as a kid that drove his laser focus to help his family through football. He built deeply meaningful relationships with his friends and family, and also committed to staying out of trouble.

He worked his way to a spot at University of Miami, and finished with the most 100-plus yard games (14) in school history.

The Colts then drafted him, and he became part of a crucial offensive trio that included James, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. He later played three seasons with the Cardinals and one more as a Seattle Seahawk.

“You gotta know when the game is about to leave you,” James said. He started planning his exit early with the strategy of disciplined, slow, steady strokes. “If you want to solve something big, you break it down to small parts,” James said. Even for his friends in the league who find themselves in a bad place, James’ encouragement is: you can start from where you are.

What separates this person from that person? If you break it down and fix little things ultimately you fix the whole. As long as you start to check the boxes, you give yourself a chance

It’s a principle he’s demonstrated determinedly from football to business to philanthropy and now as an author of his first book, From Gold Teeth To Gold Jacket. In it, James breaks down for readers the step-by-step critical thinking tactics it takes to get ahead, no matter if it’s sports or business.

Success in any arena, James contends, comes down to paying attention to what is distracting us from the bottom line. “A lot of people try to be something they’re not, and that’s not the way,” said James. “I read a lot, I study a lot. If I see somebody who’s doing something, I see how it’s possible for me too.”

However, no one gets everything right the first time. Even James.

Looking back, I would’ve had more conversations while at the University of Miami with business people who were right there on campus. That was a step I missed.

It’s a step he hasn’t missed again, having learned the value of intentionally leveraging all accessible resources, such as those that are made available to members of The Trust. As a member, James feels The Trust is a place where players can really come together and embrace their identity as men versus only equating value to their accomplishments as a player.

“We keep having the same conversations, but it’s deeper than that,” James said, wanting to drive industry changes around the game of football that really matter. It’s the same sentiment he trumpeted at Hall of Fame Stadium – one that reinforces a fierce independent spirit and the power in being true to oneself.

I always knew who I was: a great football player, a great father, a proud black man, a lion - and this was my mane - which many of those guys would later discover once they got to know the real me.

A decade into retirement and James continues to resoundingly write his own narrative.

The Trust is here to support you.
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