Secrets to Making It in the NFL (and Staying There)

By Jayme Lamm – September 1, 2015
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

Many of us pride ourselves on our strength and the fact that we are fierce competitors, but few of us actually make a living from it. Heading into his 13th season in the NFL, former Longhorn and current Austin resident Cory Redding knows strength and competition all too well. It’s been his job, his focus, his passion, and his hobby since before he could remember. 

Since 2003, when he was first drafted to the league, Redding has been able to narrow down the competition and keep an eye on what he needs to do to keep moving forward. 

“There are three things in the NFL that are for certain every year: There’s going to be a draft, so you have those young guys trying to take a job, you got guys who are trying to earn a job, and you got guys who are trying to keep a job,” he says. 

As a defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals, Redding is naturally a big guy, weighing 305 pounds at the time of our interview (although he says his bio always lists him as heavier than he actually is). Professional football players get to live a unique and sometimes glamorous lifestyle, one that is most definitely earned by someone with as much tenure as Redding. Although we “regular folk” might wish for the privilege of experiencing all the nuisances and luxuries of what it’s like being an NFL player, Redding laments that his size comes with its disadvantages off the field. 

“I’m a big kid, but I’d really love to get on roller coasters,” he says with a straight face. 

“Because I’m too big, either the thing that goes over my shoulders won’t clamp down because my torso is too big, or if it’s a cart, I can’t [fit] because my knees or my legs are too long…I don’t like to go to amusement parks or get on rides. I never really get on hammocks, [and I] never bungee jump because I’m afraid the little rubbers would probably snap in two. It’s just the normal stuff that an average guy can do that’s a little bit of a struggle for me because of my size and my height—even just riding comfortably in a taxi instead of turning sideways,” he jokes.  

Weight and height aside, having lasted so long in a league as brutal as the NFL is a testament to his work ethic, but there are other impressive accolades Redding brings to the table. Like the fact he’s only missed eight career games during his entire professional career. He said conquering the task of staying healthy and always being there for his team is simple: keep moving

“I was told this story—a gazelle in Africa wakes up every morning knowing that it has to outrun the fastest lion in order to survive, and a lion wakes up every morning in Africa knowing it has to outrun the slowest gazelle to survive—whether you’re the gazelle or the lion, every day you better get up running and get up moving. I took that as part of life. I gotta move, I gotta continue to keep moving and keep my joints lubed up and flexible. Once you stop being active, that’s when things start to break down. You gotta continue to be active and get outside—run around for 30 minutes, go play kickball or freeze tag, go to the park and run around for a little bit, go fly a kite, go swimming, biking—do whatever you can to be active. That’s pretty much what I tell the kids when I go speak: Put the PlayStation down and go get a breath of fresh air,” Redding explains. 

Staying in motion is definitely part of his secret, but he also attributes much of his longevity in the league to taking care of his body (massages, chiropractors, at least seven to eight hours of sleep, etc.). Beyond the physical, there is a simple concept Cory Redding keeps at the forefront of his mind that many athletes probably overlook.

“This goes for everyone, young or old, to incorporate these four letters in their life: HTRA: Having The Right Attitude. No matter what situation life throws at you, whether positive or negative, if you have a positive attitude towards a negative situation, the outcome will be so much better, and you can do it with a clear mind,” he says. 

Spoken like a true professional of not only football, but also life.


Rapid Fire with Cory Redding

The workout move Redding calls a necessary evil? Burpees. 

What do you listen to when you workout? Mostly rap…gospel sometimes. I switch back and forth, and sometimes I’ll put on country. Some Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, George Strait—all those classic guys—I listen to a little bit of everything.

How did you meet your wife? We met in class at the University of Texas.

What do you miss most about the ’80s? Classic movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Back to the Future.


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