Some players might be at a loss for what to do during the NFL lockout, but Dhani Jones isn’t one of them.
The 11-year veteran linebacker has kept busy with entrepreneurial endeavors BMG Creative and 2013 Productions, philanthropy effort bowtiecause.org, and hosting duties on new shows for VH1 and the Big Ten Network.
Somewhere in that blur, Jones found time to write a book with Jonathan Grotenstein, “The Sportsman,” which he describes as part travelogue, part memoir, part workout guide.
Jones stopped by NFL Network studios on Tuesday, where he spoke about his NFL future, his love of the bow tie, and the importance of first impressions.
After two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, you’re scheduled to be a free agent. Is there a sense of limbo for you personally as we roll through June and you’re not attached to a team?
DJ: I’ve been in the league 11 years, I’ve been through every subsequent offseason knowing what’s going to happen and this is sort of the offseason where you don’t know. So it’s an exciting time and it’s also a very trying time. It’s one that challenges you both mentally and also physically because you have to prepare yourself for the upcoming season that’s a possibility but no one’s sure of. … How does that affect you mentally? How does that affect you financially? How does that affect you as a person, your family, the ones you’re surrounded by?
Your teammate, Chad Ochocinco, has turned making our front-page headline stack into an art form this offseason. Bull riding, soccer tryouts, snake charming, it never ends. Have you ever pulled him aside and given him the “There’s only room for one Renaissance Man in Cincinnati!” routine?
DJ: No, it’s Chad. I can appreciate Chad and what he likes to do and he’s one of the most influential people on Twitter. He’s all over the place, people know him, people recognize him, people follow him, and regardless of what you think of him, he is a marketing genius.
When it comes to outside endeavors for a professional athlete, is there a fine line between having a well-rounded life and losing sight of where your focus should be?
DJ: I think everybody is different. I think that social media with athletes is a little bit of the wild, wild west right now. Because, all of a sudden, we’re able to talk about things that we are passionate about outside the game of football. And people want to know that. People have always wanted to know, “Who is the guy wearing the helmet? Who is that player on the field that just scored that touchdown? What does he look like, what does he think about, what does he like to do?” And Chad has probably been one of the most prolific people to put himself out there. … There’s a fine line of doing a little bit too much, or doing nothing at all, but ultimately it’s Chad and he’s set the pace if you will.
Let’s talk bow ties.
DJ: I can talk bow ties all day.
Between the rise of Pee-wee Herman and the fashion choices of nerds in every single 80s movie, the bow tie was set back there for awhile …
DJ: Yeah, but those nerds in every 80s movie are now guys like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. So you can say anything you want about those nerds in the 80s but those guys have definitely become somebody. My friend Kunta Littlejohn said if you want to be anybody you have to rock the bow tie. A lot of people, myself included, missed the boat in the 80s in terms of the guys rocking the bow tie, they went from bow ties to billionaires.
My fiance wants me to go with a tux with a long tie for our wedding next year. Why should I tell her bow tie is the move?
DJ: This is what you tell your fiance. You say, “Honey, why don’t we design a bow tie that illustrates the story of our love, when we both knew that we’d be together forever.” And then you would design that bow tie, then pass it out to your groomsmen, and you pass it out to all the subsequent men that are attending the wedding and then that’s the conversation piece, because ultimately it’s all about conversation.
Can you vouch for the cummerbund?
DJ: I’m out on the cummerbund, I’m out on the vests, I’m out on the long ties because they really don’t tell a story. Ultimately, you want everything to be able to relate back to some sort of story.
I heard a story about you from your time with the New York Giants …
DJ: I played in the subway? I absolutely did.
No, not that one …
DJ: I rode my bike to work?
No … but interesting. You were a rookie in 2000 and you were called into the general manager’s office to sign your first contract. Instead, you excused yourself, went to locker room, changed into a suit, and returned. You didn’t want to sign your first contract in sweatpants.
DJ: It’s like any other big contract, it’s kind of like the one that’s going on right now between the National Football League and the players’ association. It’s preparedness for the future. If you present yourself in a positive manner, one that’s well put together that will resonate from then until forever.
Is there a lesson there that you can pass down to players entering the league today?
DJ: I’d say your first impression is your lasting impression, period. … When you come into the league you have to treat it like any other business and prepare like it’s a business and approach everyone as the business. Dress well, communicate effectively, and be a positive person and you’ll be successful.
— Dan Hanzus