I took the above picture about two months ago. I used my iPhone, and the quality speaks to my limited skills as a crap photographer.
The man on the bed is Thomas Jones, the former NFL running back whose 10,591 rushing yards make him one of the most productive players in league history. These days, as an up-and-coming actor, Thomas lives in a studio apartment in the heart of Hollywood. There are no posters inside; no rings; no medals. Literally, there are zero reminders of Jones’ superstar past. He has a pile of quarters for laundry. He rarely watches TV. Or goes out. He’s in this to act.
That is why I wanted to write about him.
I tried selling the Jones idea to multiple outlets. And was rejected. And rejected. And rejected.
The general reason: Athlete-turned-actor is nothing new.
My argument: This guy is different.
The general follow-up reaction: Yawn.
Then, one day, I pitched his saga to The Athletic, the new sports site that also allows me to write a weekly column. And Paul Fichtenbaum, my old editor at SI, immediately said, “Do it.” Then George Dohrmann, my old colleague at SI (and current editor at the Athletic), read it over and said, “This is the kind of story we want to tell.”
And here’s the beautiful part: By “kind of story we want to tell,” I’m pretty sure George meant two things. A. An interesting saga; and B. An interesting saga that was generated by the writer. See, these days far too many outlets have stopped trusting the instincts of its scribes. I’ve seen this over and over again—1,000 pitched ideas, one or two accepted. In the past, it was rarely this way. Sports Illustrated wanted to know what you were seeing. ESPN.com wanted to know what you were seeing.
Now … I dunno. It’s rare.
Anyhow, I’m babbling. Today The Athletic debuted its national site, Ink, and it’s truly fantastic. Great writing, great storytelling, great editing. And I’m thrilled that the Jones piece, AFTER STARRING IN THE NFL, THOMAS JONES IS RUSHING FULL SPEED TOWARD HIS SECOND ACT, has seen the light.
It was a labor of love.
It was a self-generated labor.