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Going into his 8th year in the NFL, Oakland Raiders defensive linebacker Tahir Whitehead shares his story on what it took to make it to the big stage and what it takes to stay there.
Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, Tahir did not want to become a “product of his environment”. Newark is generally associated with crime, violence, and many other typical stereotypes of an inner city. Tahir realized he would not be able to be successful and achieve what he wanted to if he did not make a conscious change. In his junior year of high school, Tahir realized he had the opportunity to become the first person in his family to go to college. Tahir made the decision with the encouragement and support of his mother to switch schools his senior year of high school in order to get a fresh start to focus on bringing up his grades and doing whatever it took to make it to college. He would not let himself become another statistic. Tahir accredits his high school football coach for pushing him and advising him to put his head down and keep grinding when waiting to hear about football scholarships.
With the opportunity to go to Temple University, Tahir’s new teammates and coaches continued to help him excel with important lessons on and off the field. Even though he may not have been the strongest or fastest, Tahir used hard work to continue to thrive. In order to win and achieve greatness, Tahir knew he had to do his 1/11th. In football, each player on the team needs to do their individual jobs and if all 11 players on the field do their one part, they will succeed. In life, Tahir translates the message to make sure he is always giving 100% in each role he plays.
Accountability is a major part of Tahir’s success. Facing the man in the mirror keeps Tahir focused on the job ahead. At the end of the day, he knows if he did all he could to be the best he can be. Taking ownership of his actions is one of the major factors of what makes Tahir a great leader. In life there will always be someone waiting to take your job. In the NFL, it is no different. Every year there is a draft class, players around the league on free agency, and even players on your team all fighting for the starting position. In order to attain the starting position, you cannot take any days off. Tahir explains how you need to go to work every day being the ultimate professional who is constantly grinding and working hard.
With his success, Tahir now has the opportunity to give back. This year he will be hosting his 5th annual youth football camp. Instead of just going through football drills, this year Tahir also wants to enlighten Newark youth on how to succeed and be a professional regardless of the field they aspire to be in. He plans to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community, stress the importance of not slacking on schoolwork and grades, how to transition to college, and how to carry and conduct yourself throughout life.
Tahir has hundreds of tackles in the NFL, but has tackled and continues to tackles thousands of obstacles in life.