I read somewhere that men who think twice before saying nothing are wise. Prudent rational thought can mean so much when navigating the map of one’s life.  Some believe this is a learned skill and not an innate quality.  Yet, Mark Collins, Sr. does not really remember a time when he was not inclined to think before acting.  He attributes his success in navigation to being careful to think before acting, and to planning ahead. With 2FiveSports, he wants to help others do the same thing.  He’d like to make a difference in the lives of student athletes by helping them learn to plan ahead.

Mark Collins, Sr. is a former professional athlete who played in the National Football League [ http://www.nfl.com ] and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with him when he was in Baltimore, Maryland.  Mark was in Baltimore to speak to student athletes and share with them some of what he’s learned throughout his life about playing both college and professional sports.  I traveled to Maryland to interview Mark, to not only learn more about what he has going on with http://www.2fivesports.com but to also learn more about the man. 

I felt very fortunate to be able to have this opportunity.  What follows is a summary of what we talked about during what I’ve referred to on Twitter as, “The Interview” because I suppose that’s exactly what it was.   

You can google, if you’d like to learn more about Mark’s stats while he was in the NFL.  This article is not about Mark, the player.  It’s more about Mark, the man and his dreams and ambitions after football.  According to Mark, though, it’s never really been about “Mark, the player” as he’s always seen himself as “Mark, the man” and football was just something he did.  He never let being an athlete or being in the NFL define him, and he considers himself blessed for having been given the talent to play. [ to be continued ] 

It is now midday on March 12, 2014, and I'm returning to my notes from my discussion with Mark.  I am thinking about what it was about him that made me want to meet him.  He's not the first athlete I've interviewed but my other interviews have had to do with issues that mattered to me.  For example, when I interviewed Kyle Turley, it was his advocacy about the concussion issues that ignited my desire to meet up with him.  When I met with Rocco Horvath, it was his courageous will to survive and beat the odds of never walking again.  So what was it about Mark that caused me to want to get to know more about him, and meet him in person.  Read on, and maybe it will become apparent, as I share more about the man, he is. 

I first heard Mark Collins, Sr. speak on the radio in an interview with Pamella Michelle.  She is the host of a sports talk radio show, Sports Infusion, [ http://www.sportsinfusion.net ]and I have, in the past assisted Pamela with social media work, as well as, been privileged to be a guest on her show.  During an interview with Pam, Mark was talking about his company, of which he is the CEO.  The name of the company, as I mentioned, is 2FiveSports. Yet, Mark didn't seem to be promoting his company, as much as he seemed to be sharing his passion and desire to truly be there for student athletes.  He wanted to share his knowledge, his experience, and get the point out that it's perhaps more important to develop as a person, than as a player.  I think that's what I admired about him.  He had a desire to help kids, and that goes a long way with me.

After hearing Mark speak on the radio, I reached out to him.  I wanted to let him know that I took what he had said to heart.  I admired that he was working hard to help encourage student athletes to develop their inner core self, as well as, their athletic portfolio.  My intent was merely to thank him for doing all he is doing to help student athletes get on the right path.  He does this by providing a platform for them to share their bio information, their athletic resume, and connect with others via his business 2FiveSports [ http://www.2fivesports.com ].  I offered to share more about Mark's business via social media, simply because I thought it sounded like an excellent opportunity for student athletes.  It is there that they can connect with others and work toward building a future toward playing college ball, and possibly advancing into professional athletic leagues.  

I never expected that I would meet Mark, though.  The thought of asking him to allow me to interview him didn't occur to me until after he had traveled to Las Vegas, the week of Superbowl XLVlll.  I was not in Vegas during the week of Superbowl XLVlll because I was in New York. When I learned that Mark was going to be a guest on @SportSXRadio [ http://www.sportsxradio.com ]the sports talk radio show I promote that is broadcast out of Las Vegas, I shared an email and expressed that I was saddened that I would not be able to meet him during his visit to Vegas.  He responded in kind, and mentioned that perhaps another point in time we might be at the same place or same time.  When I spoke with Mark, he mentioned that he was impressed with my social media work, and he also shared that he took some time to read some of my articles, and encouraged me to continue writing. Now do you see why I wanted to meet him? That's the kind of man he is.  He takes the time to notice others, to encourage others, and he just happens to be a 2X Superbowl Champion.  

That's what it was that impressed me about him.  He treated me, from day one, like I mattered.  He read my emails, he shared a kind word, he never once seemed to act a though he was above me in any way, merely because he was an athlete.  I really liked that about him.  I don't think athletes are better than other people, same as I don't think rock stars are, but that doesn't mean they don't act that way at times.  So give me a man or woman who takes the time to treat an everyday person like me, with kindness and respect, over someone who looks down on others or at least gives that impression.

My interview with Mark would take place in Baltimore, Maryland.  I would be on the East Coast working on some March Madness events, and he would be in Maryland for a speaking engagement at the Baltimore Ravens facility.  One might say that luck played a role in our being at the same place at the same time.  Yet, really luck had very little to do with it.  When I learned Mark would be within reach, I asked him if he was free to sit down and share more about his initiative to help student athletes and also talk with me about some of the questions I had about the NFL.

We met at the Marriott.  I usually get lost on my way to anywhere, and Mark was patiently aided me via text messages as I navigated my way through the one way streets in Baltimore near the Inner Harbor district.  When I walked into the lobby of the hotel, I noticed Mark right away, despite the crowd of student athletes that seemed to have taken over the area.  Mark was engaged in a discussion with a couple, who were talking with him about their son, and if you didn't know any better, you would have thought that these parents had known Mark for years.  Yet, Mark told me afterwards that he had only just met them that day.  Again, I cannot emphasize this degree of warmth and realism that comes across when he is speaking or present.  He just seems to care about people.

I observed Mark from a distance for awhile, and even watched as he texted me from his phone, while I was just a few feet away.  He had never seen me in person, so even as I stood directly next to him, he didn't know it was me, until I said hello and introduced myself.  Once I did, he offered me a warm embrace, and again it was as though we had known each other for years.  It wasn't fake or phony either, genuine kindness seemed to exude from the man.  I was not at all surprised to find him to be so pleasant.

We grabbed a table at the bar, and I set out to learn all I could about what he is doing with 2FiveSports.  He told me that he wants to be there for young student athletes and that he has created a platform where kids who are serious about sports can put their information up on his site.  The site allows for parents to connect with coaches, and he provides a legitimate service which can provide student athletes with an excellent forum to exhibit their abilities.  The cost of the service is just $99. a year, and so far he has received such positive feedback from both coaches, student athletes and parents.  People like that he is a former NFL player who has in a sense, been there.  Mark described to me how the recruiting process was when he was younger, and how many times student athletes feel they need a place to showcase their talents when serious recruiters can visit.  The internet can be so crazy at times, and many of the people out there who are promising student athletes with things that will prey on your kids, making all sorts of promises.  He has seen it happen, and he wanted to do something different.  

Mark shared that he likes to share stories, and that those who are listening to him speak, seem to enjoy when he shares stories about his own life experiences.  He tells how many times student athletes have a bit of a cockiness about them.  He enjoys meeting the students and sharing with them that they should not get too caught up in themselves.  He also wants to reiterate to those he comes across that no matter what, it's important to remember that whatever professional sport you might be engaged in, if that ends up being your fortune, it's important to remember it's just a game.  He wants to send a message to student athletes everywhere, that you should never get caught up in what you do.  In other words, don't let it define you.  He used the word microcosm to describe the NFL and suggested that it's so important not to lose sight of what truly matters.  

Another point Mark would like to get out there to the student athletes, is that sadly there are going to be those times when the world seems to be against you.  Family, teammates, the media, anyone and everyone might seem to relish when you fail.  One day you can be a hero in the eyes of the media, or even a fan, and the next day you are nobody when you make a mistake.  Citing some recent examples of some of the drama in the NFL, Mark suggests that this is all just 'white noise' and you need to let it remain a non-factor when you go about your life.  He thinks it is very important to do your best to drown out the outside noise.  Speaking of outside noise, I notice that Mark is the only black man in the room.  We are sitting at a bar, among a crowd of white people, and I ask him if he noticed that.  He smiles, and says, no there is another black man over there, wherever there is.  I just smile and ask him if he would mind if I ask a few questions about some of that 'white noise' because I'm curious to know his thoughts.  He says, he doesn't mind, and grants me permission to go ahead.  

So I tell him I am fascinated by the NFL and the way it is formed.  I share that I don't really understand the non-profit statu. While I'm not disputing it's legitimate eligibility for non-profit status, I don't understand it and am intrigued by it.  Mark shared that the NFL is a league that is intended to provide a public interest and there are so many different facets of it.  It's hard to truly understand it, even if you're on the inside.  He says he tries to maintain his own place.  When it comes to the dynamics of the NFL  he realizes that many avenues cross, and understands how it's nearly impossible to know all that's going on within the league.  I bring up the recent incident involving the Darren Sharper case, the recent rule discussions that pertain to the 'N Word' and mention the fiasco that occurred in Miami, with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.  As far as the Darren Sharper case, Mark doesn't understand what might have happened.  He mentions that it is possible to know someone and not truly know all they have going on inside, and he recalls that when he was on the NY Giants there were players who got in trouble for things, and nobody really knew what was going on but you can't always fault someone for not knowing.  Just like a neighbor who might end up being a serial rapist, and you just had coffee with him, sometimes people are able to use a mask.  Mark doesn't seem to have one and he doesn't have a desire to have one. He prefers to be himself and in that regard, he seems as real as they come.  As respects to the "N Word" he does not recall this ever being an issue when he played the game.  He just thinks that this is part of that 'white noise' again and you just can't let this sort of stuff distract you.  He doesn't have too much to say about the issues that happened in Miami, but did say he thinks it's important that a team work together to get the job done, and he values and respects coaches who are able to be strong leaders.

That being said, although Mark considers himself better than he ever was, and a very strong leader, he has no desire to coach.  He wants to do exactly what he's doing.  He loves helping others to shape their careers.  He believes it is important that leaders be not only mindful but thoughtful.  He feels that he has been blessed with talent and that was up to his hard work and commitment that allowed him to achieve the status he has achieved.  He thinks that having 2 Superbowl rings and having had a successful career in the NFL is pretty amazing, yet nothing he's done so far, compares to his being able to help others accomplish their dreams.  This is where his heart is now, and he's committed to making 2FiveSports a dynamic venture that will help others to achieve their dreams.  Mark will always give people the time of day, and loves that there are people who reach out to him via Twitter or Facebook and share photos of when they were twelve with him signing an autograph.  

So as the night closed, I found myself fascinated by Mark's ability to make me feel at ease.  I wasn't the least bit nervous in meeting him, and I felt like he was just a regular guy.  I think that's the most amazing thing about him.  After I left Mark that night, I found myself reflecting on some of the things he had shared.   Definitely, the most significant, was that he just wanted to be seen as a man, and not a former player.  He most definitely has accomplished that with me.  Dare I say, more men should aspire to be something as significant.  In a world where so many idolize athletes for their stats, I prefer to respect athletes who measure their own performance by the type of person they are, off the field. I'm just not sure one can get much higher marks than Mark.  You can follow him @2FiveSports, and learn more about his dreams to help others by visiting http://www.2fivesports.com It's a really great site. http://www.2fivesports.com