Welcome to the decade of 2020! At Life By Design we want to make sure you have the right tools, motivation, and network to make this decade one of ‘increase.’ That’s why we’ve chosen to kick off this year with Andre Reed and Alex Johnson on the front cover! Andre Reed is a former NFL wide receiver who spent fifteen years with the Buffalo Bills and one year with the Washington Redskins. Alex Johnson is the founder of Fantasy Sports Con, a Fantasy Sports convention that aims to enrich the lives of others through players foundations and charitable acts. This month we want you to hear our features share their stories and their advice on how you can make this a decade of increase.
Life By Design: I’m super excited, blessed, and honored to interview NFL Hall of Famer, Mr. Andre Reed, and our very own Stegela Success Mastery member, Alex Johnson. But first, let’s talk to Mr. Andre Reed.
It’s definitely one of the ultimate goals for any football player to become a Hall of Famer. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a professional football player?
Andre: I didn’t know football would take me anywhere. I just kept playing, and it was not until probably junior year in high school that I saw the bigger potential. I just was playing football to stay out of trouble. I wasn’t a bad kid. My mom and dad felt that football was good for me. I gravitated to football. I knew from the minute I was born I was going to be a football player for the rest of my life.
Life By Design: Was it like an undeniable desire that you’re going to be a football player? Or did it just happen organically?
Andre: I think both. I had a passion for it. Did I know it was going to take me as far as it has? No. I had no idea that football would be not only in my life professionally, but also as a backdrop to my charity work. And those things have come full circle because one led to the next one. Sports really set the tone for who I was going to be later in life. And, all the people who I’ve met and all that I’ve been blessed to accomplish was through sports.
Life By Design: 16 seasons. That’s a long time! And it wasn’t like you were up and down in your performance. You had a very solid career. Your average yards are like first downs (10+ yards). You were drafted, not as the first string, but as a second or third. How did you surpass and break through the ranks to be on the starting line-up?
Andre: My dad always said to me, “life is about chances and opportunities, and it’s up to you to deal with that opportunity the way you want to. Don’t let anybody else dictate the outcome of your own opportunity.” And that was my opportunity. I’m either gonna show it or I’m not. I was always put to the test as a kid. I was a littlest. I was the thinnest. Everything about my whole upbringing, I wasn’t supposed to be where I am right now. And I took that as motivation, not only to the naysayers, but for myself, that I can rise to the occasion. That I can be whoever I want to be, and not who somebody thinks I should be.
Life By Design: What was your mindset going into every game?
Andre: Whatever situation I was in I was going to make the best of it. My dad always told me, “don’t let anybody tell you you’re not good enough.” I took it upon myself that, whatever my situation, I was going to put my best foot forward to be successful.
Also, life is about being focused on what you’re doing, and it doesn’t matter how good the guy is throwing it to you. You have to be focused not only to make him look good, but you want to look good too. As long as I was prepared up here in my mind I knew every game that I was prepared.
Life By Design: Preparation is a must. You’ve mentioned in your quote and emphasized the word “discipline.” What is your definition of discipline?
Andre: You’re not going to get anything done if you’re not disciplined. I was taught at an early age that if you don’t have discipline, you’re not going to go anywhere. I learned discipline from sports.
Life By Design: Let’s talk about the power of collaboration. Alex, I know you’ve been in the corporate world. You’re tackling more into the entrepreneurial journey and now your nonprofit. The theme of this month’s edition of the magazine is ‘increase.’ Please share with us how this connection with Andre Reed got started?
Alex: I met Andre at a grand opening of the Theatre Box in San Diego when my friend and I were standing at the bar. Take note, we took the “black tie event” seriously. We were each in our black suit and tie. Andre greeted us and asked what we do. We looked like the security guys. We knew he was messing with us. We didn’t really recognize him at the time, until a buddy of mine came over and mentioned his name. I’m a big sports fan. I never really knew what he looked like, but for sure I know him from the record books. So anyways, we had a great time that night, and then a few months later I started putting together the idea for this sports convention. I reached out to him on Facebook: “Hey man, do you remember me? I was one of the security personnel at the event.” He laughed, so I just took that to mean he remembered me.
I shared what I was putting together and asked him if this is something that he might be interested in, and he goes, “absolutely!” He connected me to his team and we got started from there.
Life By Design: Let’s talk a little bit more about your foundation. Andre, you’re one of the ambassadors for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. What prompted your interest in working with the nonprofit?
Andre: Well, you know the old saying: “to whom much is given, much will be required.” That holds true not only for me but for millions and millions of people. People who are blessed are expected to give back. As a little kid, somebody saw something in me and invested their time in me. I see myself as one of those club kids that, you know, didn’t have a lot growing up, but I had loved ones who believed in me. And that’s all you really need in life. Somebod
y invests their time in you and they see something in you that you don’t see and they bring that out in you. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I see myself in a lot of these kids that I interact with.
Life By Design: Alex, you understand and see the power of networking. What is the vision behind the project, Fantasy Sports Con?
Alex: At first it just became a fun project trying to put people together: fantasy sports fans and sports fans in general. It’s one of the ways I’m still very connected to my family. My brother and I have been playing together since 2008, so it’s one of the main things we talk about now.
So my thought was: how can I make the players come on board for something like this? Obviously getting to know Andre a little better and knowing his foundation, it was pretty obvious. Our players have these lives outside of their teams and their sports, and a lot of them, like Andre, are passionate about what’s going on in their communities and causes.
I wanted to give the players a platform away from their teams and their sports to grow not only their personal brand but also what they’re pursuing — charitable missions and passions.
Life By Design: Regarding your nonprofit, Andre, why did you choose to focus on children’s literacy?
Andre: When I was a kid, I remember my mom reading to me at home. With the Boys & Girls Club, it just really came together with reading and then creating an experience where they read books going to a game with me. These are experiences that these kids would not otherwise have the opportunity to do.
Life By Design: Can you both think of one pivotal moment when your career was at its hardest or lowest point, and how did you get out of it?
Andre: I played in 254 NFL games in my career and only missed 11 games. I think it was 1995 I was having a good season. I was first in the league in yards, receptions, and touchdowns. Then I got tackled and tore my hamstring. My season was done, and that was the first time that I felt that I was really tested because everything was going so well. How do I get back up there? Do I just stay complacent down here or do I try and get back up there? And I was supposed to be out the whole year.
I know I’m held accountable to the Man upstairs, so my faith and my dad really tested me to make changes, because things weren’t going right and I had to figure it out.
Alex: I’m from a small farm in Iowa. I had no idea I’d travel all over and end up living in San Diego. We talked about discipline earlier and I think one way that I always defined discipline is: “it’s doing the job when it’s not easy to do.” I’ve had my fair share of getting in trouble growing up. It’s not always the mentality piece that we talked about that is important, but it’s really about taking the right steps. I remember in college I got in trouble for driving under the influence. It was great for me because it helped me become an advocate for not doing that and being able to save lives. This was a kick in the butt to do better in school and figure out what I want to do, because I didn’t want to go back home. I didn’t want to live on the farm again. I wanted something different.
Life By Design: What quote or saying do you live by?
Alex: There’s a great Iowa basketball coach, Bernie Saggau, who said: “your only limitations in life are self-imposed.” I really liked that. People make excuses, but that doesn’t have to be the end. You have to push through.
Life By Design: What’s the one nugget of advice you’d give to an entrepreneur?
Andre: Just keep grinding! Once you have your foot on the pedal, make sure you put the pedal all the way down to the floor. If you don’t, somebody else will.
Alex: Networking! Connecting has always been my thing and I’ve always enjoyed it. And if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have met numerous folks who helped me start a business and a nonprofit. Don’t go it alone.
Now is the time for you to expand your business and start your year of increase. Life By Design Magazine greatly appreciates Andre Reed and Alex Johnson for joining our network of influencers. We also acknowledge both of these gentlemen for all the good they do through the Andre Reed Foundation and Fantasy Sports Con. To learn more or get involved reach out here!
Jennifer Meim is a Graphic Designer who works with Entrepreneurs to transfer their vision into fruition. Jennifer has a natural gift of being in tuned with her clients to understand and to see their vision. For at least a decade, Jennifer have supported and worked closely with founders and CEOs to launch their ideas from table talks to tangibles. Jennifer is a self-taught designer, and continuously strive to learn especially with new technologies. Her creative soul and genuine love for people makes her one of the most approachable, dependable, and trustworthy designers in San Diego.