… 2-TIME PRO-BOWL SELECTION2000, 2005
… 2004 €“NFL SEASON LEADER WITH 1,405 RECEIVING YARDS; LEAGUELEADING
… NFL WIDE RECEIVER, CAROLINA PANTHERS, CHICAGO BEARS,
You play the way you practice.
I grew up in Lansing, Michigan, and there weren’t any NFL players to come out of my city. In fact, I was the first one drafted and the first one to make it from Lansing. For me, going pro was anything but a done deal. I knew being a pro athlete was a possibility because Magic Johnson and John Smoltz both came from my town. But me? A pro? It wasn’t on my mind. In fact, until I got to college, my favorite sport wasn’t even football, it was soccer. And my second love was basketball. When I got to Michigan State, I thought I would try to be a walk-on in basketball, but I messed up my knee and I thought it was over for me. Instead, it just pushed me toward football. It was apt that football would be my ticket because the coach who made the greatest difference in my life was my Pop Warner football coach, David Miller. He exuded toughness. He had us doing up-downs till dark. That was a grueling drill where you hit the ground face-first and got up as fast as you could dozens of times, or until you were completely exhausted. I never even saw the ball because I didn’t play a skilled position, which may be why I didn’t love the game early on. Defensive end and offensive guard were my positions, and Coach Miller showed me how important they were. He always said the toughest players are the best players. He let me know I could be a really good football player, and because I didn’t want to let him down, I worked my tail off.
IT TAUGHT ME TO BE A TEAMMATE
I may be a pro now, but back then I wasn’t even the best player on my team. In fact, until I reached high school I wasn’t good enough to be the running back, quarterback, or a receiver. It didn’t bother me that much, though, because I was trained as a team-first guy. I just went and made myself one of the hardest-hitting guys on the team. The coach made it fun and we won. Coach Miller is still around and he keeps in touch with me through my dad now. As soon as I signed with the Bears, coming from the Panthers, I sent him a signed Jersey.
FATHER KNOWS BEST
It was my dad who really foresaw my future as a wideout and he’s the one who got me to play the position at Michigan State. It worked out, since I got drafted by Carolina and eventually went to a Super Bowl. Soon after that, I signed a free agent contract with Chicago that makes me among the best paid in the game. Football helped give me confidence that I carry around with me today. I never say or think €œI can’t do this €I guess you could say I have a warrior’s mentality. It’s just how I am. Even today, I still have the lineman’s mentality because I don’t seek the spotlight. It’s not about me, it’s about the team. I guess the best example of that is the 2005 49ers game where I caught one pass for eight yards and yet I got the game ball for the way I blocked. That was my role that Sunday, and it was okay with me as long as we won, and we did win.
PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE
I just love pressure. I love the big games because with the big game comes the big reward. The first time I felt real pressure was my senior year in high school. We were a smallish, Class A school and we were playing a powerhouse school for homecoming game. It was a packed house and I just managed to step up and score three touchdowns, one of which came on defense, and we won. Another game that stands out was when I was a senior at Michigan State. We were playing at home in front of one hundred thousand people and I caught a bomb over Charles Woodsonhe wound up being a Heisman Trophy winnerand we beat them. I also managed to make some big catches for Carolina in the Super Bowl. I just taught myself to love those moments rather then fear ’em. He makes it sound easy, doesn’t he? But what’s he proudest of? That’s easy. It has to be my charity work. I raise money and awareness for muscular dystrophy, a battered women’s foundation, United Way, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. But the toughest and most rewarding job is, of course, raising my own four kids.
WITHOUT THE GAME, DOES MUHSIN MAKE IT?
Without a career in the NFL, I think I would have been a successful businessman. I had good grades and graduated with a communications de- gree, so maybe I would have tried for TV or radio. I didn’t think I had a shot at the pros until my junior year in college, but I already knew how to work and understood nothing would be easy. In fact, today, with my foundations, real estate, marketing company (Baylo Entertainment), radio show, and a TV segment on Comcast, I might be the busiest guy in the NFL. All of it takes a lot of my time, but when I retire I will have plenty of opportunities and companies to keep me going for years.
Muhsin loves the game, but this is a man who did not need the game. He knows he has God-given talent, but he outworked many with more talent to become a feared, physical, elite wideout. Muhsin never stopped studying in school and never stopped thinking about business even after becoming a multimillion-dollar player.