Mark Pattison

Trust Spotlights

Mark Pattison


Mark Pattison is a 5-year NFL vet who played for the LA Raiders/LA Rams and New Orleans Saints. After transitioning from football, Mark discovered a passion for climbing mountains that has kept him busy off the field.

When you were exiting the league, what were some of your thoughts going through your head?

If I go back, I transitioned around 1990/1991, I had no idea how to really channel all the energy from playing football after being committed for such a long time. I include college football in that as well, because at the D1 level you’re all in. It took me a year and a half to really figure it out.

I don’t think I’m too different than a lot of players today. One of the things The Trust has done a really good job of is really developing its programs through their marketing, emails, what’s promoted online, and through people we can talk to. There are a lot more programs to help guys transition today.

Part of my frustration was I wanted to do something on my own, not necessarily go work for someone. It took me awhile to get that sorted out, but over time it all played out. I started three multi-million-dollar businesses. I’ve been in that space for a long time, but it took me awhile. Once I got in I went full steam, using the same energy I had from football just rechanneled into my work day-to-day.

Once I got in I went full steam, using the same energy I had from football just rechanneled into my work day-to-day.

Who did you turn to for support and/or guidance?

Fortunately, in addition to my school and football stuff at the University of Washington, I was in a fraternity. We had a lot of guys in there who were highly driven, motivated, and doing really great things.

When we graduated college we were 21 or 22? Now, during my transition, I’m 28 or 29. They kind of meandered the ladder of what they were doing in those years between, so I tapped into a lot of those guys who were doing a lot of good things which really seemed to help me.

Mentorship from existing business guys in the Seattle community helped guide the way. I was able to ask, “hey am I doing it this way or that way.” I kind of bounced around from people to people until I found my way, they were the guiding light. It wasn’t nearly as focused as what The Trust has going on today, though.

Describe your pursuit of scaling the Seven Summits. Where are you with this goal?

That’s a great question – I think really the key question is “well Mark, how did you even start doing this?”

I’m 56 years old right now and I was going through a bit of a difficult challenge about 6 or 7 years ago. Two key things were going on. I was going through a breakup with my long-time partner, my wife, and we had been together since college so 30 years, married 24. On the other side of that, my dad died of a massive stroke, so I was really dealing with those two things.

I had moved from Seattle, my hometown where I knew everybody, to Los Angeles. I didn’t know anybody, so it was a very lonely existence. After a couple years of walking around the block, and just asking myself “how did I get here?” one day I decided I needed to change my whole mindset and get unstuck.

I decided I wanted one more, great athletic achievement. Since I stopped playing football, I never really stopped working out. Growing up in the Northwest, in the greater Seattle communities it is very mountainous. I climbed literally hundreds of times up in the mountains, various peaks like Mount Rainier, and most of the major mountains in the Northwest. I started to think about climbing. I had always been intrigued by the guys who had come before me, those that had been on Everest and some of these other crazy mountains.

I did some research and I came up with the fact that no NFL player had ever climbed the Seven Summits. So, I said, “I’m going to be that guy.” It really helped me get out of my fog, that was one part of it.

Being in the mountains gave me a serenity and peace. There are no cell phones, your email is not going off, it just brought a lot of clarity for me in terms of where I needed to go next in my life. That really helped free me to where I am today.

Most recently, I got off my 5th mountain, Mount Denali, which is North America’s highest peak. I’ve now been on five of the world’s tallest mountains, on five different continents, with two to go - those are Mount Vincent, down in Antarctica, and the big boy which is Mount Everest in Asia. I’m very fired up to get there.

People have said, “are you scared to do that?” (Climb Mt. Everest) I'm actually not, I cannot wait to get there. You’ve heard this statement but it's really true in this case, “it's not about the destination, it's all about the journey.” I mean, I've been to Russia, think about that. I've been to Argentina, I've been all over the world now. It’s the people and the experiences I've had in these different countries and these different cultures that have just been amazing. For me now to go to Nepal and work with the people, the Sherpas, you're on that mountain for like 70 days so it's crazy. The experiences you get from learning from that culture and being around those people, it's just going to be amazing, I can't wait.

No NFL player had ever climbed the Seven Summits. So, I said, 'I’m going to be that guy.'

How do you think your time as a football player prepared you for tackling this goal?

There are two distinct things. One is from my college coach, a guy named Don James. Don passed away a couple years ago, but he was a legendary coach who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He took us and took the University of Washington to the highest peaks. Essentially, he taught me all about John Wooden's Pyramid of Success.

The other guy who was a big influence, once I got into the NFL, was Jim Mora, Sr. He was a head coach in the NFL for a long time, 18 years, for the Colts and for the Saints. He was such a hard charger, and there was no grey area or no “if you lose, it's okay, you gave your all.” It was just either win or lose. I think those two guys really helped me set my sights on how to individually goal-set.

Metaphorically speaking, when you talk about mountains, it is literally take a step, and then another one, and then another one. Keep your eyes right in front of you, because if you look at the top it seems really intimidating. You're going over crevasses and everything else. Just like how you're hit with different things in business or life, there are detours you have to take. Staying focused helps you just keep going, get to the top, or back down safely.

Scaling mountains isn't necessarily a “team sport.” How do you find motivation to be active without a locker room full of guys relying on you or motivating you?

It’s interesting because you actually are with a team when you climb these big boy mountains, but that doesn't necessarily mean going on a hike you want to do outside your town. We have an expedition team of nine people and you are literally tethered to another person on the rope.

We had one guy who fell in the crevasse and we had to pull him out thirty feet. We had another guy fall down an ice ridge where 22 people have died. We had to pull him off that and bring him back. If we're not all working together, it doesn't happen.

Leaving the league was a hard transition, as there's nothing better than having that camaraderie in the locker room. You spend, in many cases, years and years with different guys. The relationships you form, it's hard to kind of replicate that. But, there's a lot of things you can do to put yourself back out there.

For me, it's been mountain climbing. The other day I climbed - I live here in Sun Valley, Idaho, now - we got a bunch of locals and we hiked very casually to the top of the mountain and then rode the chairlift down. It was fun and that didn't require anything big. All the way up we're having chit-chats about whatever. It's not the same as football but it’s about just trying to, again, re-channel your energy. The whole key is putting yourself out there.

Speaking of being in a team environment, you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a few NFL players and war hero vets, what was that like?

That was extraordinary!

Chris Long, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, started an organization called Waterboys. I played with Howie Long, his dad. Essentially what Waterboys does is raise money and awareness to build water wells for the Maasai tribe down in Tanzania. I was very fortunate to be invited along with some other NFL players, Chris, Nate Boyer, and some other guys. I think we had three or four Green Berets, a couple of them were wounded. We had one gal, Kirstie Ennis, who was an above the leg amputee and another guy was blind. I brought Jim Mora Jr. and together we raised over $47,000 dollars - it takes $45,000 to build your own well.

Then we got on a plane and flew down to Tanzania. It was my second time climbing Kilimanjaro.

The first thing we did was go out to two different villages out in the Serengeti. You can't believe the amount of gratefulness these people had. I mean we came into town, there's probably ten of us, and we built this water well. Imagine, we walk into town and we're like the Beatles. They're celebrating us like we just gave them billions of dollars and all we did was dig a well so they could walk over and turn on a spigot so this little thing called water can come pouring out, to be able to help them solve those problems was just amazing.

And the camaraderie we had telling stories going up the mountain with the old guys, it was kind of like being back in the locker room. I'm so grateful I got invited along with that and I continue to fundraise for Waterboys.

And the camaraderie we had telling stories going up the mountain with the old guys, it was kind of like being back in the locker room.”

Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently during your transition out of the league?

That’s what I've been working on for a long time and sometimes I get out of balance. My girls are now 19 and 22, one just graduated from USC and the other one is at Arizona. So, it's not like right now they are little where I have a lot of management or driving them around and that type of thing. I'm kind of in that “next phase of life.”

As it relates to the big mountains, I've identified each one of these Seven Summits and I’ve planned to do one per year. That’s what I've been doing so it doesn't take up all my time. I'm not trying to jam everything in to twelve months.

This has really been a journey, but I train all the time. I'm standing in the mountains right now; I'm always on the mountain, multiple times a week. I take a couple hours, get up early and go do that training.

As it relates to going forward, I've been really blessed. I have a podcast called “Finding Your Summit,” and it’s all about people overcoming adversity and finding their way. That's taken off, along with my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Just within two years, I have grown to an audience of over 300,000 people.

I'm out doing public speaking, too. A lot of what I talk about is overcoming my adversity and what I had to do to get out of my own way, to get unstuck, and I've kind of dumbed down Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.

My speeches are centered around the word “S.U.M.M.I.T.S” and how to move through them based on the things my coaches taught me. We all have things that hit us, and the question is, what do you do about it?

It’s a lot of my first-hand experiences and then metaphorically tying mountains back in. Everybody has to climb their own mountain to get where they want to go to, so I'm doing that - trying to live a balanced life. Like I said, sometimes it's a little unbalanced but you know, I love it and I'm in a good place right now.

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