Monday, February 17, 2014


Biographies of NFL players are nothing new.  Almost every great NFL legend has cranked out a memoir after their playing days are over.  We love to hear about how they overcame obstacles, fought through adversity and ultimately stood at the podium to claim the Super Bowl.  We love winners!

What about the rest of the players?  Most of us only ever hear about the Brett Favre's and Peyton Manning's of the NFL world—long, hall-of-fame careers.  Finally a book has been written about the "other guys"—Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson.

What do you mean you've never heard of Nate Jackson?  Most people haven't, and that's the whole point of the book.  This biography shines the light on an undrafted free agent who was signed by the San Fransisco 49ers in 2002.  He went on to play for six seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, changing position to tight end.  

If you are a hard-core fan of football and want to know what it really feels like preparing for a game, fighting through injuries and tackling a ball returner during a kickoff, this book has it.  But what I really enjoyed was the descriptions of the rest of an average NFL journeyman's life—the boring stretches between games, the strange balance between danger and monotony during training camp practices, and life on the road.  It also has some really funny, absurd moments—in one scene, a fellow inactive player gets drunk on the sideline while one of the coaches fights a noseblood that gets so bad, he is literally leaking blood through his eye sockets.  (Well, maybe it was funny looking back on it.)  Jackson is a talented writer and does an excellent job of walking the reader through what the average Joe in the NFL sees, hears and feels—physically, mentally and emotionally.  

The book also extensively chronicles Jackson's injuries: tearing muscle from bone, going for an MRI, watching the blood separate in a centrifuge, and non-stop painkiller injections, tape jobs and physio appointments.  The body can only last so long despite (or in some cases, because of) these treatments.  Many readers will no doubt skip over the long, wordy doctor reports, but Jackson includes them—they weren't my cup of tea but maybe someone with a medical degree could do a better job of deciphering the complicated medical reports.  

I recommend this book if you are looking for a different style of biography—it is definitely an unpredictable, realistic look of the life of a grinder in the brutal world of the NFL.