Super Bowl Champion and NFL Pro Bowl player David Diehl talks about mental strength

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There has been much talk about Super Bowl XLIX – the plays, the playmakers and the intensity.  Watching the game caused me to think about the time I spent talking with David Diehl, the left offensive tackle from the 2012 Super Bowl ChampionNew York Giants.

Intensity sometimes carries a negative connotation, but that is certainly not the case with David Diehl. It is what allows him to stand out as a true champion.

David shared with me his story of growing up in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Chicago. His parents were of Croatian descent on his mother’s side and German descent on his father’s, and he gives them all the credit for his success. So it was one of his biggest losses when his father passed away of a heart attack in 2003, just as David’s pro career was getting underway:

“My father passed away just two weeks before my first regular-season game with the Giants. He was only fifty-nine. I was devastated.”

“My parents did not push me in any single direction, but they taught me that if you start something you need to finish it. They told me to do what I love and give it all I have.”

“I was a fifth-round NFL draft choice in 2003 and was the 160th overall selection. There are many more-gifted athletes than me playing in the NFL, but few have my mental strength. If you want to build anything, you need a strong foundation.

At 6′ 5″ and over 300 pounds, David certainly has a strong physical foundation, but it’s his incredible mental strength known around the league that has enabled him to become one of the NFL’s elite competitors.

“Before the season I train very hard, watch film, and lift weights so I am totally prepared for getting out there on the field with nothing to worry about. If you’re thinking too much you can’t be at your fullest potential.”

“In my opinion, people don’t reach their potential because they hold themselves back. Whether it is fear or self-doubt, the mind can be your biggest weapon and your greatest threat. You have to learn to work outside your comfort zone and override your mind. Preparation will give you that edge.”

David’s philosophy for success has to do with mental toughness:

“I have never accepted the word no, and I don’t understand the word can’t. Adversity happens every day, but we have the opportunity to bounce back by being mentally tough and working hard.”

“What makes me tick is my passion to work and accomplish a goal. Everything I have gotten in my life has been through hard work—nothing was ever given to me.”

“I think most people, when asked, would choose to be good or great at something over not being good or great. A person may want to be a great NFL player, a great teacher, a great doctor, a great coach, or whatever. Yes, they want to be great, but they don’t want to become great! What does that mean? It means they won’t pay the price to become great. They won’t put in the work and they won’t overcome the mindset holding them back.”

David ended the interview with this:

“Winning the Super Bowl didn’t define who I am, but it defined who I can become.”

“The birth of my daughter Addison gave me a different purpose in life. She helps me see better; she gives me a vision of what life is really all about.”

If you can be intense in the positive and healthy areas of your life and career, you will benefit. Just like being your best, and giving it all you’ve got, being intense means you are committed to working for your success.

My challenge to you today is to stay intense. Intensity is a gift. It gives you focus, keeps you grounded, and allows you to overcome the enormous adversity life can often serve up.   In what areas of your life do you need to become more intense?