People who are dream-oriented and goal-oriented are not satisfied until they’ve reached the peak of the mountain. Eben Britton played six years in the NFL. It was his lifelong dream to reach that level from the time he was seven years old. He started as a sophomore and right after that season, he started getting scholarship offers from just about every school in the country. Eben survived one injury after another, until he suffered a back injury which sidelined him, a herniated disc in the back that later on developed an infection. Eben shares how he discovered his own path to health after enduring injuries throughout his career as a starting offensive lineman.
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Healing From Injuries In The NFL with Eben Britton
Our special guest used to be an NFL star. Eben Britton played for the Chicago Bears and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was the first one as a rookie to start on the defensive line for Jacksonville in 2009. He was an All-American from the University of Arizona. He was an All-Pac-10 in All-American and 39th draft pick in 2009. Eben played football. He’s 6’6” and was 329 pounds and that’s a lot of weight to be on the field, but he went against Clay Matthews, Ray Lewis and Junior Seau. He’s only nineteen and twenty at the time. These guys have ten years on him, but he said he got in fistfights every Sunday on the field. This guy has broken and hurt every part of his body and now, he’s healing himself. He’s amazing. He’s lost over 80 pounds since he’s played. He’s down to about 250. He makes The Rock look small. He’s gigantic. He’s a father, a husband and he’s brilliant. He’s an entrepreneur. He’s in the limelight all the time. He’s got his own podcast. He’s always on TV for something and he’s always there to show up, to give back to the community and to be of service to people. We’ve got on my good friend, Eben “The Beast” Britton.
We’ve got Eben who looks like Conan the Barbarian. How are you doing, Eben?
I’m great. How are you?
I’m fantastic. How are you doing, Sean?
I feel great. I’m falling in love with myself again. That is key because if I’m not in love with me, I can’t love you guys. I love my kids unconditionally, but I have to love myself. The journey has been a rough journey as Eben knows and we’re finding it now on the adventure.
I’m sure Eben can speak to this too, but what makes it hard and I know you’ve experienced this is you feel like all the conditions have to be perfect for you to love yourself. I don’t think that’s the case. Even if your life’s falling down around you, you choose it and you commit to it.
There is no doubt about it. It’s one of those profound switches. For guys like us who are dream-oriented and goal-oriented, we are not satisfied until we’ve reached the peak of the mountain. If we haven’t done that, then we’re not able to love ourselves. It’s about just letting go of that and going, “I’m on my way. I’m exactly where I need to be right here in this moment. Let me love myself for who I am and how far I’ve come.” That’s a huge thing.
Tell us a little bit about who you are because you are one of my best friends. We’ve worked together for several years and I haven’t seen you in some time. You seem leveled. You seem calm and there’s a new side of Eben that I have not seen yet and it’s gorgeous.
I played six years in the NFL. It was a lifelong dream of mine to reach that level from probably the time I was seven years old. My mom would never let me play football. She always thought that it was too dangerous. Finally, I convinced her to let me play going into my freshman year of high school. It was off to the races. I stepped on the football field wanting to be a quarterback. I was already the biggest.
How tall are you then?
My freshman year I was probably 6’3”, 230 pounds at thirteen. The coaches were like, “If you played offensive line, you might have a future in this game.” I was like, “That sucks.” I don’t want to play a line. Those guys don’t get the girls. They don’t get any glory. I made the switch. I could see the writing on the wall. It was like a light bulb went on when I realized that this was the position where I could physically dominate another person and get out all of this rage that I had in me as this young kid. I could put it out on the field and I would be praised for it. Coaches loved me for it. I started getting scholarship offers after my sophomore year. I went up to varsity in my sophomore year. I started as a sophomore and right after that season, I started getting scholarship offers from just about every school in the country.When men's egos come into such a team-oriented environment, it disintegrates the meaning of it all. Click To Tweet
I chose Arizona. It could have been SC. I went to Arizona. I was All-American. I was all Pac-10. I got drafted by the Jaguars in the second round. I was the 39th pick overall in 2009. I was a starter in Jacksonville for four years. I had some bad injuries, a back injury which sidelined me. A herniated disc in my back that created sciatica down my foot. I can’t feel my foot on the ground. I had a back surgery. Eleven weeks after back surgery, I go down with an infection in the disc. They didn’t know what was happening. I was admitted to the hospital and put on IVs. They’re doing spinal taps. Nobody can figure out what’s going on. Finally, they figure out I’ve got an infection in the disc from some time during the surgery. It was a tough time. My wife was eight months pregnant at the time.
I thought she was in labor and she was getting wheeled down to the surgery.
No, because I was done for the year on intravenous antibiotics when Sandy was born.
You’re on intravenous antibiotics?
That is hard on the system.
Eight weeks on intravenous antibiotics and a nurse would come to my house and inject me with this stuff. It was brutal. During the back injury before the surgery, I had a dislocated shoulder which from the time I was about was a sophomore in high school, my shoulder would subluxate. It would pop in and out of the socket, which was excruciatingly painful. It’s like your arm is being ripped off. That would happen a few times a year until finally my second year in the league, we’re playing the Chiefs and my shoulder dislocates in the middle of a drive. I popped it back in on the field. We finished the drive.
I come out and I tell the trainers. I’m like, “My shoulder just dislocated. I popped it back in, but I need a harness to keep it in place for the rest of the game.” I was going back and I was like, “I’m going back in. I need a harness.” My trainer was like, “We should have a team doc take a look at that.” I’m like, “There’s no time for that. Let’s go. Get me the harness. I got to go. We’ve got a two-minute drill in about 30 seconds.” They give me the harness. I go back out there for the two-minute drill. The next thing I know, I’m pass blocking against Mike Vrabel. I throw a punch with my right arm. He swipes it and it comes out of the socket. This time it’s out of the socket in the harness, so I can’t pop it back in.
I’m the starting right tackle. I had to run off the field.
Who was your quarterback then?
Dave Garrard had gotten hurt so we had Todd Bouman in there who is a twenty-year vet, tough as nails dude. He was having the time of his life playing that game. Even after that, I came out of the game. It took three team doctors and about three or four minutes to get my shoulder back into the socket. I feel nothing because I’m juiced up on Toradol, Adderall and Vicodin. They get my shoulder back in the socket. Finally, the team doc says, “You’re done for the day.” I go into the locker room to take a shower. They give me some more meds. In my head right at that moment, walking out to watch my team finish the game, I’m thinking, “I’ll be ready next week for Dallas.”
How old were you at this time?
I was 23. I’m thinking, “I’ll be ready to rock next week,” and when the game ended, I went into the training room at Arrowhead Stadium where the Chiefs play. The team doc says, “I can’t let you go back in there. There’s too much damage in that shoulder.” My shoulder was hanging on by a thread at that point. It’s a 280-degree tear of my labrum. Your labrum is this little disc of cartilage that sits in your scapula. It’s where the head of your arm bone sits because there is no actual container for your shoulder joint. It’s mostly soft tissue and then this little cup that’s not a cup, it’s like a saucer of cartilage. That’s your labrum. I tore 280 degrees of that. My shoulder was sliding in and out.
It was 90 degrees from just falling off?
Yes, from there being nothing there to hold it in place. I had shoulder surgery. It’s great. I haven’t had a problem with it since Dr. Andrews in Alabama. I flew down there. I saw him. He took great care of me. He’s a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon. Then only to come out of that year still having a back problem because the back problem that I had surgery on a year later was bothering me. My back was a disaster. It wouldn’t be another year until I had my back fixed in surgery and then get that year taken away from me because there’s an infection in the disc. It was a tumultuous run in the NFL for me. I had a lot of injuries. I had reached the pinnacle of my sport.
I was a starter. I was a team leader. I was a team captain. I was a guy that coaches looked to, to raise the energy level of the team, to carry the team and to inspire the guys. I was always that energy rod for the teams that I was on. To just have my physical body start taking is beating, it became difficult. You go through that feeling, that loss of love for it especially in football, you’ve got to love it. You’ve got to love the pain. You’ve got to love all of that and the business of football beat that out of me. I was busting my ass to get back out there. I was doing everything I can to get healthy and meanwhile, I’m looking back at these coaches who care about you on a personal level because humanity can never be totally taken out of it. At the same time, they’re looking for the next guy to come in and take my spot who’s cheaper, who costs less money.
It was cutthroat at the highest level.
I spent one more year in Jacksonville. I had a horrible year. The team got sold meanwhile during my back infection year, which was my third year. Jack Del Rio, our head coach got fired. Shahid Khan bought the team. He hired Mike Mullarkey to be the head coach who is abysmal. We ended up going one in fifteen and he benched me. He made a decision to bench me six or seven weeks into the season and at that point I just totally cashed out. I was ready to be done with my football career. Then I was going in the free agency. It was supposed to be a big year for me. I got rushed back from an ankle injury that year. That happened in week one. The team fell apart. I went into free agency and I got picked up by the Bears. I spent two years in Chicago. In that first year in Chicago, I found my love for football again. I was the sixth man. I was the monster tight end. I got to come in for 20 to 30 plays a game and dominate. That was a lot of fun. Then the next year in Chicago, it was that old thing. When men’s egos come into such a team-oriented environment, it disintegrates the meaning of it all. You can’t have egos in the military because then people get killed. In the NFL when egos come in, that’s when you have a terrible season and the team goes.
If there’s no unity, how can you expect to be playing well together?You need to have a connection with the people. You need to be accountable to others in your family, outside of your sport. Click To Tweet
One question because you brought this up in the past. In Florida, you found the shaman dude. Tell me about that because this show as we know is about helping us heal. You’re going through emotional pain. You’re going through physical pain and you are on every anti-inflammatory pain med and talk about all of that. Give me what you found with the shaman and why you decided to go down this route.
Before I get to my witch doctor, who reignited my spirit in many ways because I was down in the dumps when I met him. The way that these injuries are dealt with in the NFL is just tons of pills, whether that’s prescription anti-inflammatories like Cataflam, Celebrex and Indocin. These things wreak havoc on our digestive system and on our liver and kidneys. Not to mention just Advil, Aleve and Tylenol that guys are taking to get through the week because their back hurts, their neck hurts, every part of your body hurts. Your elbow doesn’t straighten out because you got so much scar tissue and probably some chipped bones in there.
What you went through was par for the course.
This is what every guy deals with. 98% of guys in an NFL locker room are taking a daily dose of powerful anti-inflammatory drugs just to get through the day, to sit there through meetings and then go out and practice so that you feel okay. There are those on a daily basis, then when you start getting injured, you’re an older player who’s got something nagging, you’re taking Vicodin a few times a week if not every day.
It’s free for you. You’re just getting it.
You tell a trainer, you tell a team doc and they get you what you need. That’s how it works because they need you on the field at your best. If you think you need a couple of Vicodin before going out there for a game, you can get that. They started cracking down on Toradol shots.
It’s right in your butt cheek that they put that big shot of Toradol. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory. Guys would be lining up outside the doctor’s office and you go and pull down your pants. A dude shoots you in the butt cheek with this big needle of Toradol and it makes you feel like you can run through a brick wall.
It’s making you high too. After taking a Vicodin and Toradol, whatever they’re throwing you, do you feel numb to everything your body is going through?
You think you are Superman. He’s already 6’6” and 330. Now, you’re eight-foot-tall and 500 pounds and you’re going to battle.
You wake up the next day though feeling like you were hit by a train.
You told me stories that you went against Seau, you went against Clay Matthews, and you went against some beasts of people. At 23, you’re going against a legend. How was that at 23 to go against someone who grew up going, “I love you. You’re my idol,” and now you’re going head-to-head. It’s like Kobe with Michael Jordan. When Kobe first started, he was eighteen or seventeen. He went against Michael. Even though he can get through the game because he was like, “You’re my idol. I grew up watching you.”
I just saw a funny video on YouTube about Chad Ochocinco. It was a play they ran and he was trying to block. He ran right at Ray Lewis because he was like, “If I can hit him from the side when he’s not paying attention, I might be able to run him over.” He just gets clotheslined by Ray Lewis. He’s just absolutely demolished. He runs the sideline in his coach goes, “What are you doing?” He goes, “I thought if I snuck up on him, I could run over Ray Lewis.” Ray Lewis dropped him.
How was that against Ray Lewis? How tall is he? Let’s put things in perspective.
I don’t think Ray is that tall. Ray is like 6’1”, 260 or 255. He’s a tank and a freak athlete. He’s so smart.
How old is Ray at that time if you’re 23 or 24?
He was a little older when I came in. He’s probably in his early 30s.
He’s still in his prime.
He’s a guy who took great care of himself. It’s a mind trip. The thing for me was that this was my destiny. Everything I had done from the time I was thirteen years old, how I ate and how I slept. My mom taking us to yoga classes from the time I was thirteen years old even when I didn’t want to. She is dragging me to a yoga class and the dividends that that paid. Extra trainers, extra weightlifting, field drills and all different stuff and the extra coaches I had. Everything I did was about making it to the NFL so that when I got there, I was like, “Yes, I’m blocking Ray Lewis. I’m blocking Junior Seau. I’m going up against Mario Williams, all these beasts because I’m a beast.”
You’re the biggest guy on the field. I can imagine.Sleeping well is a sign of great health and vitality in a human being. Click To Tweet
One of, for sure. My best weight in the league was probably about 315. My heaviest was 329, 330. I finish out my fourth year in Jacksonville and it was horrible. I had lost all faith in this system called football. I believed in the family, the tribe of a football team. I believed in my coaches. I believed that this was a family. In that fourth year, to get benched after working through so many injuries and for nobody in the building to articulate to me why they were benching me other than, “We don’t want to have to give you an opportunity and free agency. We don’t want to have to pay you. We want to start this young guy.” This isn’t for me anymore. I talked with my wife about it. I talked with my dad about it. I talked with people that were very close to me. For instance, our center was a guy named Brad Meester who is a twelve-year veteran. I talked to him about it. I was like, “I don’t know if I want to play anymore. I don’t know if I want to keep doing this.” Four years in the NFL, that sounds pretty good.
That’s challenging to work up to something your entire life and then you’re faced with the decision to have to walk away.
I was in a dark place. I didn’t know what to do.
How old were you when you’re contemplating walking away?
I’m 24 or 25. I’m having these conversations. My wife is like, “Whatever you want to do.” We just had a baby. That’s been a massive learning experience and an amazing awakening for me too. I had this family. I had no clue what I would possibly do.
Then your wife went back to law school.
She was going back to law school in the midst of all of this.
You guys met in college.
Yes. We didn’t start dating until my rookie season when I came back to Tucson for my buddy’s wedding. Brittany, I was always in love with her and she would never date me. I had her number and I was like, “Shoot her a text. See if she’s around. You can grab a drink and catch up.” I sent her a text and I was like, “She’s either not going to have my number and don’t know who this is. She isn’t in Tucson anymore or she is going to want nothing to do with me or not answer.” I did it and she texted me back and it was pretty surprising. She’s like, “Who is this?” It’s like, “It’s Eben.” We went out for drinks and that was it.
She said to me you walked into her apartment and she looked down the street or something. She said, “I’m marrying this guy,” and then she started walking. I don’t remember.
When I picked her up that night, she said.
She went from wanting nothing to do with you until she sees you and she’s like, “This is my dude.”
I came back a grown man. I was a kid when I was there.
He comes in and she’s like, “Who is this gorgeous man walking?” I got to ask about the witch doctor.
I’m in a dark place. I don’t know if I’m going to keep playing. My buddy, Brad Meester, is like, “You never know. Give it a shot. You might go somewhere else. You might find your love again for the game. If not, great. You tried. At least you went and you gave it one more year to prove to yourself that you were done. If that opportunity comes, you should take it and try and see what another team would be like.” I committed to myself I’m going to bust my ass in the weight room. I’m going to get as strong as I possibly can while I’ve got this downtime. Every morning I would go to this gym that was right down the street from my house in Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida. I would hit the weights hard and the StairMaster. I got myself into good shape. Meanwhile, I started seeing this guy and he’s like this little super wiry guy who looked like he came out of the swamp or the bayou or something. Not necessarily because he had a beard and long hair, but just the way his body looked.
He looked so strong and I could tell he was probably older, like in his mid-50s, early 60s. He’d come up to me be like, “I see you out here every day. You’re just climbing mountains.” I’m one of those guys in the gym and I’m leaking sweat. I’m soaked. My shirt is just soaking wet because I go into the gym to bust my ass and to get better. He noticed that and somehow, we started talking and the next thing I know, he’s talking to me about Chaga mushrooms and he’s talking to me about lion’s mane and different types of ginseng and matcha green tea and how important drinking green tea is for you. Ashwagandha, educating me on all these awesome herbs and roots and mushrooms and things that help your body heal and do what it needs to do at its optimum level.
These are herbs and roots and mushrooms that have a historical use in cultures for Millennia. It’s only in the last 300, 500 years where we stirred away from that.
He started educating me on this and I started educating myself on it. This is the type of stuff that fascinates me. A part of this, which was my savior through my football career dealing with all these injuries and the beating I put on my head, through handfuls of concussions, was I always gravitated towards the herbal option, the natural choice. For me, that started with cannabis. Cannabis, as maybe some of your audience knows, is one of the most powerful neuroprotectants, antioxidants in the world. It’s one of the best things to help your brain heal, to protect your brain from damage and also to help us deal with inflammation in a very primal base level. One thing that cannabis does it helps our bodies deal with inflammation in a natural way without having to use all these prescription drugs.
In my football career, I gravitated towards that because being a guy who’s very in tune with his body, taking these pills made me feel terrible. I couldn’t sleep. I felt these knifing sensations in my gut after very short periods of taking prescribed doses of opiates like Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycodone. Taking these things at prescribed dosages, after three days I was already feeling withdrawals. I was waking up at 2:00 in the morning with a knifing sensation in my gut with cold sweats and chills and total mania in my mind. Meanwhile, I could consume cannabis. For being totally honest, being in Florida back in 2009, 2010, 2011, not having access to any real high-quality medicine, I’d buy a bag of flour. I’d buy a bag of cannabis.
You’re picking up weed to help yourself heal.Showing up is winning about 95% of the battle. Click To Tweet
I realize that I could come home and smoke a joint and I felt better. I felt rejuvenated and recovered the next day. I could sleep that night. I felt the physical pain in my body soothed as well as the psychological stress that I was feeling having to compete at that super high level constantly.
Stress is a real silent killer in a way.
With mental health, I can only imagine you guys are making great money. A lot of you guys didn’t come from money. Here you have millions of dollars, you’re living the high life and you’re beaten down. You are just constantly bruised and hurt and stepped on. I can imagine a guy of your size, a six-pack was nothing, a twelve-pack of beer was probably nothing to you. You’re adding alcohol to the Vicodin and to the Percocet. Now, you’re drinking alcohol and that was added on to the whole thing.
Do you know how many guys are coming home and drinking? You’ve heard the stories of Junior Seau.
I was with Junior after Dan Henderson’s fight.
These guys don’t know what to do with themselves. You’re a trained assassin. You come home and you’re supposed to be normal and be a father. You’re supposed to be a husband.
You’re spending probably six to eight hours a day in that stress mode, that fight or flight, that sympathetic nervous system.
Then they’re asked to go participate in speaking about things and to show up to sign autographs. They are owned by the NFL and the League, which owns Sundays and so much money out there. You started to see this guy.
I started to see him and he starts educating me on all this stuff. I felt re-energized. I came back to life. That helped me, with free agency and getting back to Chicago or coming to Chicago. It put me back in touch with myself as well because this was always a part of my interests. My soulful journey was this other way of being, this alternative way of healing yourself. These herbs that help you get grounded and find more mindfulness and lead you towards yoga, opening your spirit up and opening your soul up. For me, football shut me down. Football became such a focus and being the focus of my entire family’s energy, it was always about, “How do we make Eben the most comfortable because he needs to be able to go do what he has to do on Sundays?” I was left alone.
There wasn’t anything expected of me outside of my football duties. That’s just not realistic as a human being as far as being a healthy, stable human being. You need to have a connection with the people. You need to be accountable to others in your family, outside of your sport. Getting introduced to this new way of being, this new way of taking care of myself and approaching the world reintroduced me to myself. It was a huge part of my transition out of football in many ways. Although I ended up having a couple more years, I believe that these plant medicines put you on the path of your destiny. They lead you back to yourself in a way that allows you to achieve your true purpose.
You did two years in the NFL and you started getting back on to this herbal healing journey through the shaman. My question is what was the NFL’s perspective on any of this specifically cannabis? Was it, “It’s okay, we don’t make a big deal about it,” or it’s off the table?
Cannabis is a banned substance in the NFL. They don’t allow it, but there are ways to navigate around that. There’s an annual drug test, they test you once a year for street drugs, which marijuana is on that list.
Is opium on that list too and they’re prescribing it? My point being is you’re taking Oxy, which is an opium. The psychology behind all this is stupid. It makes me angry because I was on the drugs. You were on because of what I went through. As soon as we start to educate ourselves on this and you educated me on the plants and the herbs, it’s night and day. I got my mind back. My brain was numb. How do you go through life just being numb? They just cleared a new Oxycodone.
It’s just new opioid that’s apparently ten times more potent than the opioids that are already on the market. The opioids that are already on the market are already dangerous.
They’re already killing 70,000 plus people.
I pulled this up. This is not in the NFL but these are the five drugs they test for most. It’s cocaine, opioids, phencyclidine, amphetamines and then marijuana. In my opinion, marijuana isn’t even the same league as any of these substances. I’ve never done cocaine, but I don’t see or have heard of any real medicinal quality to that.
They use cocaine in anesthetics. In pain, there is one that’s a pharmaceutical grade. It’s Anbesol. The stuff that you put on your canker sores in your mouth. Benzocaine is a derivative of cocaine.
What you were doing in your body was not condoned by the NFL.
To me, every single NFL player, every single football player needs to be taking at minimum CBD supplements to protect your brain, to fortify your system against all the trauma that you’re going to be dealing with. Cannabinoids are trauma reducers. They help to mitigate the effects of the trauma that we experience as human beings going through life. The NFL has an annual test. You have a general idea when that’s happening. It’s sometime between when you first report back to your team in April to about the first week of training camp. You might have a four to six-month window there where you can’t consume anything. You have to be clean.
Also through that time, I had a therapeutic use exemption for Adderall. I took Adderall just about every day. I took away too much of it, but the truth is that from all of the concussions and the head banging I was doing, I was depressed. Every day, I’d wake up I was in a fog mentally. I had slow thinking. My cognitive function was slowed down dramatically and Adderall came into the picture and picked me up out of that. It’s speed. It’s pharmaceutical cocaine. If you pay attention in the NFL, you’ve seen a spike in TUEs for Adderall and it’s because of that. Many football players are dealing with slowed down brain function and they’re being put on Adderall because it’s, “I can’t focus in meetings. I can’t do this. I have ADHD. I have ADD. I can’t pay attention.” It’s because of all the hits to the head that we’re taking.We're tribal creatures. We need to have this connection. Click To Tweet
Then you’re going home, you’re drinking alcohol. You’re taking more pills. For me, I guess it’s just because I’m an anarchist or whatever, an anti-establishment type guy that I was always like, “I know this stuff weed is illegal, but it makes me feel better. It’s the one thing that I take where I wake up the next day and I feel recovered. I feel spiritually rejuvenated, physically rejuvenated and emotionally rejuvenated. I’m ready to go rock another day at the highest level I can possibly do it.” In my last two years in Chicago, I don’t think I took any painkillers. I didn’t take any prescription anti-inflammatories. I navigated the system the best I could with cannabis. I used it when I could, when I knew I was done with the test. I also admit I used Ashwagandha every day.
Ashwagandha, to my knowledge, is what they call an adaptogen. It helps reduce stress in the system. Any substance that’s helping reduce stress in the system is massively beneficial because your body can’t heal and your body can’t recover. Your body can’t perform at the highest level if it’s constantly stressed out.
It’s an Indian herb.
It’s Ayurvedic. It’s for your vitality. All these things basically help our bodies produce and regulate hormones and keep us in homeostasis. It means sleeping well. These are signs of great health and vitality in a human being and a male.
You found love again for yourself, you found the love for your game and that’s when you left the Jags. Can you talk about that process? Then you went back to school and you got your degree, which to me is amazing.
That was during the lockout in 2011. The owners locked the NFL players out. A new collective bargaining agreement was on the table and not getting worked out properly. The players had some demands that the owners didn’t want to fulfill. The players got a terrible deal out of this current collective bargaining agreement. They tried to spin it as a great thing for the players but it wasn’t. During that time, I went back and finished my degree at Arizona, my Bachelor’s in creative writing, minor in philosophy. I was a free agent after four years in Jacksonville. I get picked up by Chicago. I worked out actually for Seattle before that. I saw Pete Carroll who had recruited me to USC. I saw Tom Cable who’s a Seahawks O-line coach who recruited me to UCLA.
It’s this cool homecoming to see these guys and they were very kind. They didn’t call me back, but I ended up signing in Chicago anyway. I signed in Chicago. I was on the fence. The day that I went in and worked out, I came back into the facility and showered up. They’re like, “We’re going to take you upstairs to meet with everybody before we get you back to the airport.” They take me up there. I take one step into the director of player personnel’s office. He’s like, “Eben, great work out there. We want to sign you. We want to keep you here. We want you to be a Chicago Bear.” I was on the verge of tears because I didn’t know if I wanted to even do it. I was like, “Okay, I guess.” I was exhilarated that I had proven that I could still do it and that this team wanted to sign me and yet I was like, “Can I do this? Is this in my heart? Can I do this?” Because it’s a battle and you’ve got to love that battle.
I took it and I said to myself, “Just do one year. Give it one more year and we’ll see how it goes.” I fell in love with it again. It’s an unbelievable team. It’s one of the original NFL teams. George Halas started the NFL. He was the guy who came in with this idea that we should put this league together and created these teams. Chicago Bears were one of the first ones. You can feel that energy, that history in the team and the city. They’re the best fans in the world. To those fans, it’s the ‘85 Bears who won the Super Bowl who are one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history and then there’s this year. Everything between, we don’t care. We still love the Bears.
It’s almost that you found the tribe you are looking for that you hadn’t found that in the NFL before.
It was a new batch of coaches. They were super energized. I carved out a niche for myself. I made myself indispensable to them and they made me this sixth offensive lineman, but also they made a whole new position for me because I was dominant with my run blocking and my pass blocking and they made me this monster tight end spot. There’s even a story that the Chicago Tribune wrote about me and how the productivity of the offense was 20%, 30% higher when I was in the game. We had a record-setting offense that year. That was pretty awesome. I had none of the stress of having to be a starter which I appreciated, which allowed me to soak up every bit of that experience in that last year because I wasn’t stressed out about having to face a guy or play for 90 straight plays.
I could come in for 20 to 30 snaps, dominate, be fresh and get out of there and I wasn’t beating myself up the same. It was a magical year. We were one game away from clinching the NFC North when we lost to the Packers in the last game of the year. Damn Aaron Rodgers pulling Aaron Rodgers moves through a last-minute bomb to Randall Cobb. After that season, I thought I was going to get a nice contract and nothing came through. The Bears actually wanted to sign me for two more years but my agent turned it down which looking back was probably not a great idea and we ended up signing for one year. The Chiefs also wanted to sign me, my old-line coach from Jacksonville is now in Kansas City. I felt like I had built such a great relationship with the Bears team and the coaches that I wanted to come back.
Your wife is now going back and forth between law school.
She’s going to law school in San Francisco. We had a whole exodus out of Jacksonville and I came up with the idea because law school is very finicky and the bar is very finicky. You can’t have too many units from too many different schools and Brittany had started her law school in San Francisco right when we had started dating. She did one year there and then when she moved to Jacksonville, she transferred to a law school in Jacksonville. Then now I’m a free agent. God knows what’s going to happen. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again. The bar requires that you have all of your units from basically no more than two different universities. Otherwise, it just throws up red flags. I said, “Let’s set up base camp in San Francisco and let you finish your degree there. We’ll be closer to the family.”
Out in Florida, we were about as far from all of our family as we could possibly be. We got a place in San Francisco. Meanwhile, I get signed by the Bears. She’s moving to San Francisco with our baby to finish up law school and I move with the Bears to Chicago to work and to make money for us. We did that for that first year in Chicago. It’s tough. She’d come out every weekend with Sandy. It was a tough year. That second year she had finished law school and that I had my second year in the league. She started studying for the California bar and then that season, that neck, that second year in Chicago started off terribly. I came back. The energy was all off. We had had this record-setting offense and now the coaches’ egos were blown up and we weren’t preparing the same way. You could smell the ego from a mile away. You could see that the energy was just different. Everything was off. The chemistry, the magic of what we had a year before was totally gone.
These guys, you could see it in their eyes they were taking it for granted that we were going to be a record-setting offense again. Lo and behold, we had a terrible season. We ended up going four and twelve or six and eight or something like that, six in ten. It was not a good year. I blew out my hamstring the first day of pads. My hamstring exploded. I was doing one on one pass rush against this guy Jay Ratliff and he bull-rushed me and I stepped into a one-foot-deep by a one-foot-wide pothole on the field. It was terrible. My hamstring literally exploded. It was a bad injury. I missed the rest of training camp. I missed pre-season.
We’re going into our last preseason game against Cleveland and I could just sense something was off. Just like in Jacksonville when I got benched and nobody wanted to talk to me, nobody could look me in the eye and I could sense something going on again. Right before this preseason game, last preseason day, I hadn’t practiced. I wasn’t able to do anything because I was just rehabbing this hamstring for the next four weeks after that thing got hurt. My O-Line coach comes up to me two days before this preseason game he’s like, “I really think you should play in this preseason game. You should try to get out there.” I’m like, “That was the plan.”
Coming off the hamstring injury? Why rush it?
I guess this was a move where they were being thoughtful of me, but they knew they were going to cut me. They wanted me to get something on tape so that I could at least get picked up by another team or have a chance. After that preseason game, they are making the final cuts and I was cut. They cut me and I was devastated. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me after Jacksonville and then coming to Chicago and being with these guys. That whole second year felt like smoke just being blown up my butt.
For me, I was in the hospital for months and I miss being with my daughters. I can only imagine how you’re going to work every day and you’re not able to see Sandy. It’s tough. Tell me about the darkness that took over then.
I’m unemployed for a week. I’ve got no money. I’ve got a $5,000 rent payment that’s coming up and I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve got my financial adviser on the phone. He’s trying to talk me down. My agent was like, “We’re just going to stay frosty. The first team that calls, we’re going to get you out there.” Nobody called for a week. He said it would be at least a week until after week one and there we are week one, watching the Bears. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m totally devastated and demoralized. I’m watching this game. The Chicago Bears play the Bills in week one and three starting offensive linemen go down in the first half. These guys are on the phone to me in the third quarter, the GM calls me up and he’s like, “Eb, are you still in town? We need you.”You have to take initiative over your own life. If you want to be healthy and happy, you’ve got to do stuff to make that happen. Click To Tweet
You’re watching it and they’re calling.
They called me in the third quarter.
That’s a roller coaster of emotions because they just chopped you and now they’re like, “We need you to come back.”
I get called back. They signed me back on Monday and it’s supposed to be like everything’s great now. I was just bitter and done mentally. I was just like, “Screw you, guys. I don’t know how I’m supposed to come in here and give my best when it’s clear you guys could not care less.” It was tough.
The tagline of our show is, “Just show up.” You just showed up. Regardless you showed up like, “I’m here. I’ve got to support my family. I’ve got to support my wife and my daughter.” That’s what happened. That’s half the battle with anybody is just showing up.
There’s no doubt about it. I’ve learned coming out of football just showing up is about 95% of the battle or maybe more. Maybe it’s 99%.
We’ve met some people in our paths, all of us that had mental issues and they can’t get out of bed. It’s a disease. It paralyzes you and I say to people, “You just show up.” You have nothing to lose. I can only imagine how many guys in the second team, they’re trying to get a spot as a starting person and they’re showing up every day in the game killed. We met someone here locally that was on the second team in the Jaguars, Matt Estrada. He said you are the lead on the team. He showed up every day, just not getting a real check. He was getting $200 a week.
There are guys really chasing the dream.
Here you are, you played 44 games in the NFL.
I came out of that experience. I had no idea who I was. I always had this thing. I came from a family that was half athletes and half artists. My grandmother is an Academy Award-winning actress, Estelle Parsons. My father is a former D1 collegiate basketball player turned painter and I grew up around the house filled with paintings of my dad creating his art. My mother’s a lifetime writer and journalist. This artist’s soul is deep in my DNA. I felt that I never wanted to associate myself as a football player. I was more than that. That’s why I went to Arizona. I picked creative writing. Somehow along the way in high school, I realized that you could major in Creative Writing and that sounded like exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to write books. I wanted to be a writer.
I chose Arizona because that would allow me to facilitate this artist side of myself. Through my NFL career, somehow I lost that. I lost that sense of myself as an artist and this whole part of myself. It was subconscious. I didn’t realize it. Coming out of that experience, I thought I’m going to have it all figured out when I’m done. I’m going to write. I’m going to be a writer. The reality was I have no clue who I am. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with myself. There’s a ton of depression and anxiety, “How am I going to make money? What am I supposed to do?” I thought I had an idea of what I wanted to do when I was done. Sean, you and I met because of divine circumstances.
Let’s talk about how that all happened.
Tell us how you guys met because it’s an interesting story.
My mom has always been a catalyst in my life for things. She’s a total healer. Since we’ve seen each other though, I’ve learned that my earliest ancestor came to America in 1624. This woman named Mary Bliss Parsons was on trial for witchcraft three times. She was considered a witch. We’d come to people’s farms and entire livestock would die. All the cows on the farm would die. People believed that she put hexes on their families that she was stealing men from other women in the village and put people under spells. She was on trial as a witch three times and got off every time. She comes from a background, I believe, of the Druids. The Druids were some of the original shamans. They were the elite class of people in the early Great Britain and the early United Kingdom.
Most of the British, Irish, those are very much ancestors of Vikings who even before that, I believe emigrated from Siberia, which is where shamanism was birthed. That trickled down to the Vikings in Scandinavia and then jumped the pond and ended up in Great Britain, Ireland and England. My great, great, great, great, great grandmother, Mary Bliss Parsons, was the beginning of this in our family. I’ve had mediums tell me, “Eben, you’re a shaman. You were here to clear the karma of your family’s past, which is pretty heavy.” I felt that lately on this new path coming out of football.
That’s an interesting shift to have someone say, “You’re a shaman.” “I’ve been playing in the NFL for the last six years, what are you talking about?”
I felt that. I was looking back on my NFL career. I was the shaman for my football teams. I was the guy that everybody came to for help or to be comforted to consult them. Meeting Sean was the beginning of getting me back on that path. I had no idea what I was doing at the time. I just may have written an article that was about my experience dealing with injuries and Adderall and all the prescription pills that I was given during that time. I was like, “I’m going to be a writer,” but I just couldn’t do anything. I could barely do anything.
You think about it, coming out of a time of living where every minute of my day was planned out. I was going to be lifting weights, in a meeting, watching film, in a team meeting, eating food, stretching, practicing or recovering. Now, I’ve got to come and create my life and I had no clue even how to put one foot in front of the other. I get a call from my mom one day. She says, “I met this guy. He came into my spin class and I’m not sure exactly what he does, but you guys would have a lot to talk about. He’s all into everything you’re doing. He is opening up a gym. You were just about to start opening up a gym.”
Let me tell the story about Abbie because I started to go to spin because I was looking to get back into anything I can do in rehab and be independent again and not have to ask people to help me to work out. My trainer at the time, my therapist, Sylvia Arellano, we had a schedule going all the time about going to spin and I loved this one instructor. I thought she was amazing. You like your instructor, whether it’s Yoga, whether it’s your coach. One day, she didn’t show up and I almost left. I was so bitter and pissed off and this woman shows up, Abbie Britton and she’s leading the class and we’re sweating and I’m feeling great. I’m feeling higher than life because it’s so hard for us to get back out, the serotonin levels going and get my adrenaline going because that’s how I’m used to healing my rage.
We’re getting the endorphins from the workout.When you're in that dark place, you've got to break out of isolation. Click To Tweet
I was in that class and I was feeling high off the bike ride. All of a sudden, she stops me. She says, “I want to say a prayer for my son who’s paralyzed getting out of the NFL.” All I heard was paralyzed. I didn’t hear the NFL side. I tried to get off the bike in the middle of the class and I’m strapped. I got to talk to Abbie. Something about me is like, “I got to meet her son right now.” I talked to Abbie. I told her my whole story, “I had a skin flap taken off my head. I suffered a stroke and I was paralyzed. I need to meet your son right now.” There’s something about this divine thing. She called you. We met for lunch in a vegan restaurant.
I didn’t know much about cannabis, the CBD, but I started to like it and take it. I was shy with the cannabis because it was illegal still in California or whatever it was. It was very shady. I’m seeing my neurologist and I’m seeing my internist and everyone’s by the book, “Here’s your drug. Here’s your anti-anxiety.” I said, “Eben, let me ask you a question. What about this cartridge and the CBD and THC? I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’m taking some. Can it help me just calm down?” He lit up. He’s like, “I know everything.” I said, “Can you teach me? I’ve got to heal myself.” Eben and I went on this journey.
We started a company together, which we’ve both since we exited.
We started to fear them. We tried some stuff and Eben was great because all I knew is I put Eben in front of everybody. He could close the deal or at least open it up because he played in the NFL. He’s larger than life. He’s a very smart man.
I can’t say enough about how much I learned from Sean. Sean, we joke about it. I’ve got a Master’s in Business over the two-year period with this guy. From selling the psychology, going around doing that, we knew we wanted to get involved in the cannabis space. Both of us shared this story of this powerful plant helping us heal and we wanted to bring that to others. That always resonated with me. Sean, every day in a dark time for me where I had lost faith in myself or forgotten about my power as an individual, helped start to coax that out of me again and he started to help me re-align with myself.
We were both angry. All I knew is he played football. People don’t realize, I haven’t met The Rock when I met him years ago. The Rock is tiny compared to Eben. Eben is a giant with a heart. His brain, when he starts talking about somebody he loves, it’s off the charts. As I started listening to him and him talking and taking these meetings, we convinced investors. We convinced a group of people to get behind us. We started a company in CBD and we launched it. It became a worldwide company. It did. In the course of two years, which doesn’t happen. Everyone talks about starting a company, but no one does a thing. 99% of people who have an idea never executed anything.
He showed up all the time, whether it’s at my house or his house. We found an office space. We connected all the dots and it was just an amazing time that put us all here. I was trying to get through my own issues and Eben was so nice and so wonderful saying, “I’m going to help you train.” We will wake up at 5:00 in the morning and go to a park and walk in the mud because I knew I just had to start doing something. As much pain I was in, he was in worse. I can tell there are days he didn’t want to move. His back was killing him, his shoulder and my whole body is screwed up and I’m speaking, seeing and hearing. As you started doing the cannabis and opening up all of our network, look at Dr. Dina.
Sean knows everybody. He is those silent Hollywood dudes who knows everybody.
You inspired me to get back into my passion, which is the producing. I’ve always been the guy behind the guy. Eben’s a star and he’s going to be a star beyond anything I could ever imagine. What he realized about me, he said, “Sean, you have a brand. You have to start building up your own show and start talking to people.” It’s because of Eben Britton here. He and I just started doing things together and it caused the show to happen. The first inspiration on Adventures in Health was sitting in my backyard with Eben Britton and his brother saying, “I want to do this.” He’s off doing his podcast and everything Eben was doing was on par for the course of his life. He was always of service to people.
It was a confused body and mind. You weren’t connected and now you are. That’s amazing because you were given this athlete of a guy, 6’6” at 315. That’s ginormous. I just got back from Tokyo, no offense but they come up to your belly button. All of them. I have lived a life of being an entrepreneur. I’ve traveled the world. I had been very successful. I have done a lot of things and meeting you, you changed me. Our family started hanging out together. Our daughters were similar in age. With Eben, the love and affinity were there, but he was disconnected from it. Not until you went and found your own way again and reconnected with who you are built this whole thing. I’m proud of you. It’s healthy to cry because your body has been beaten up, taken apart and even operated on. You’ve been at the top level. Everybody wants to be in the pros and you did it and now you’re creating your own show.
I’ve got a podcast. I’ve got a lot going on.
Mike Tyson’s your partner. I grew up with the legend but the more I learned about Eben Britton, the brain injuries. I know the CTE and what I go through is very similar. We can talk about that on your show. I knew Junior Seau not well but well-enough to go, “Something’s wrong here.” CTE, what does it stand for?
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. This is what they’ve titled the end result of all these concussions and all this repeated head trauma. It’s degenerative brain damage. It causes dementia and all these things.
They cite that as one of the leaders to Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s devastating.
That’s what this show is all about. I believe that it takes work, but guys like me, guys who were coming out of the league who have dealt with all of this trauma, you can heal yourself. You do the physical practices, you meditate, you eat the right foods and you exercise. Exercise doesn’t have to be going and killing yourself in the gym for an hour and a half. Do your yoga, take a walk around your neighborhood, and get out there. That’s all exercises. It’s just about getting the body’s blood moving, getting oxygen, moving in and out. You’ve got to go deep. It was painful and it was uncomfortable to go through everything that we’ve gone through, Sean, but it was all part of the process of finding myself.
I’d show up and we had a flight of stairs to block out and all I remember is Eben’s upstairs. I got to walk upstairs. I didn’t go there because of the beach. I got there because of you. I was so excited to see Eben because I needed to show up because if I didn’t show up, I’ll let him down and how do you let this guy down? You don’t. It’s true. You understand the pain I go through, you may not have seen the exact pain but to have your hip displayed, to have your shoulder out of the socket all the time. I came to you one day and said, “I just saw my orthopedic surgeon. I’ll fuse my shoulder.” He’s like, “Don’t you dare do that. You’ll never have access to it again. Your brain’s going to wake up, it will reconnect, start doing some shoulder shrugs,” which I had been doing a lot more and the pains went from eleven to now like a two. He’s stretching it beyond.
When I first started full-time working with Sean, we’ll try and take his left arm over his head, we get about halfway and he’d be screaming in excruciating pain. Now we’re in Yin Yoga and he’s with ease, just throwing the arm up over the head. It’s amazing to see these alternative paths to healing the body and how they do work when you show up and you just start doing it.
You said a deep massage would help me heal the circulation to my left side. You may not have known what to do, but you knew spiritually how to do it and then how to heal me. I’ll never forget that. That’s brilliant. We’ve had our ups and downs because I forget everything. He knows that. He used to be uncomfortable walking into a restaurant and everyone will be looking at you because you’re larger than life. Now you’re like, “Bring it on.” You’re going to help.
I’ll tell a funny story. We were in the deli. I told the waiter he played for the Chicago Bears. He almost ripped my head off. He’s like, “Don’t tell anybody I play for the Bears. It’s BS.” I’m like, “Be proud of it,” but what he’s not realizing is that he made that guy smile. He went home, he told his wife and he went on to live a great day. Eben is a cause for smiles and people that enjoy life again. That’s what I said, he’s beautiful. It’s the truth.
What I’m picking up too is that you’ve found your authentic voice and your authentic self after the NFL. To me, it sounds like you’re more inspired now than ever because you’re on the path that you feel like you were meant to be on.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
You speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Look at all the ballplayers who are currently playing. I remember we’re in the car and you’re taking a call from a guy who’s second season or think he’s still playing and he wants to start taking the cannabis and you’re like, “How do I do this? I hate the Vicodin, I hate the Norco, I hate the Xanax, I hate the anti-inflammatories,” and you are a coach. You are a leader. You are that guy. You would tell me stories about some of your players who could make it back home and if they made it back home, they want to kill themselves and kill their family.
It’s crazy because I go to the same thing with my people and the veterans, to say the least, but the suicide rate amongst the athletes, MMA, any amount of sport is so high, stroke with brain injury. In transgender I learned is even higher. Kids in high school, fifteen, sixteen who don’t understand their sexuality and they might be gay. So what? Let’s love them. They don’t make it to the end of high school and they kill themselves or the veterans who go away and aren’t killed overseas, come back here and they kill themselves.
There’s a theme I’m noticing here. Like you in the NFL, you had a purpose there and they weren’t looking after anything beyond that purpose. They weren’t looking at the recovery, they weren’t looking at caring for your mind, body, soul and your spirit because in my experience training professional athletes, training celebrities, it’s all of the pieces when they all come together, mind, body, soul and spirit. When you’re doing the physical work, you’re doing the mental work and you’re doing the emotional work, that’s when you thrive. That’s when everything clicks. That’s when you’re in the flow. If professional sports team at the NFL took this more well-rounded approach, they would see better performances from their athletes and they would have a better camaraderie on the team.
You’re saving lives. I believe that. I know you’re laughing, but it’s the truth. How many people are you going to effect in the next two, three, four, five years? Athletes who are now in high school, who are going to go into the NFL. You’ve met some of these ultimate fighters and these MMA guys, it’s a whole other world of that. We’re going to help these people. What we want to do with the show combined with what your show is doing, is give them alternate ways to heal themselves. Meditation, the yogas, a nice hike, some sunlight and certain things that we can do. We don’t need to go to a pharmacy and get drugs.
The thing that people need to understand is because we’re in this era of technology and phones and social media, we’re taking for granted these natural, necessary human exercises, which is being active and moving. Getting in and having close personal contact with other people, looking people in the eye and having a real conversation with them and getting all of those endorphins and serotonin and oxytocin. These are bonding molecules that we need because we’re tribal creatures. We need to have this connection. Like sitting here and having this conversation with you, I am lit. You have to take initiative over your own life, “I want to be healthy and happy.”
You’ve got to do stuff to make that happen. You can’t just be looking at your phone all day. You’re not going to be happy scrolling through Instagram every 35 minutes. You’re going to come out of that thing more and more depressed and depleted. You’ve got to go get out in the sunshine, you’ve got to go give somebody a hug. You’ve got to go call up your grandma and say what’s up to her and catch up with her. You’ve got to do that stuff.
You nailed it too when you were mentioning just the connection and the hormones that are released when you just have a conversation or you connect with someone. It came up where Sean was having a dark morning and not in a good head space. I was texting him. I was calling him and we got to the point where I said, “We’re going to set up the mics and we’re going to record and we’re going to talk through this.” It was dark. It was, miserable, but one of the things that came out of that conversation was I asked Sean, I was like, “What helps you get out of this? This is tough. If you’ve never known someone who battles depression, anxiety, any of this, it’s tough.” He was saying that one of the simplest things that help him get ahead of it is human connection more than anything.
It really is. When you’re in that dark place, the suicide, that’s where Junior did it and that’s where we have other friends who’ve done it. It’s hard because you feel alone.
It’s isolation. You’ve got to break out of isolation.
Eben, this has been amazing talking to you, just getting to hear your story. I’m inspired right now. I want to just go take life by the horns and drive it home. Let everybody know how they can connect with you, how they can find what you’re doing and we’ll share the love.
On Instagram @EDSBritton, on Twitter @EDSBritton. Also, check out my organization called Athletes for CARE. It’s stemmed out of cannabis advocacy. We offer resources to athletes, both current and former players looking for everything from cannabis education, job opportunities to financial support and funding research initiatives like cannabis versus opiates as well as cannabis for healing the brain as a remedy to CTE. You can check us out at AthletesForCare.org. Then my podcast, Caveman Poet Society, check us out on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn. Check out Tyson Ranch at TysonRanch.com. I’m also co-hosting a podcast with Big Mike, Iron Mike Tyson. That will be launching pretty soon.
I’ve got a lot to learn from this man right here. He’s amazing. Thank you and big thanks to our audience out there who are tuning in. If you guys have any questions, come connect with myself and Sean. We’re at AdventuresInHealth.tv and we’re on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Come find us. We love you.
- Eben Britton
- @EDSBritton on Instagram
- @EDSBritton on Twitter
- Caveman Poet Society
- Caveman Poet Society on iTunes
- Caveman Poet Society on Spotify
- Caveman Poet Society on Stitcher
- Adventures In Health on Instagram
- Adventures In Health on Facebook
- Adventures In Health on YouTube
About Eben Britton
Eben Britton is a former America football offensive lineman who played six seasons in the National Football League (NFL). Selected 39th overall in the 2009 NFL draft, he spent four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars followed by two with the Chicago Bears, last playing football in 2014. Britton started 23 games at right tackle, 7 at left guard, and 4 as a sixth eligible lineman, for a total of 34 career starts in 60 games played. He now hosts his own show called Caveman Poet Society which offers riveting insight into surviving and thriving as a professional athlete.