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Interview: Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer talks inspiring veterans and ex-athletes

The Ultimate Salute

As a media personality, Jay Glazer has done it all when it comes to combat sports, football and beyond.

His rabid fanbase is drawn to his enthusiastic style of reporting that makes it clear that he’s a down-to-earth guy that loves the sports he covers.

That passion is never more evident than when you speak to him. He spoke with Salute to primarily to discuss his work outside of the game that unites former players and veterans.

His foundation MVP (Merging Veterans and Players) is literally saving lives by the day on so many levels

The Q&A will take it from here, but know as we get into it that Glazer is a master communicator that has a firm grip on what really matters in life.

Salute: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.

Jay Glazer: Hey brother no problem.  You know, if you’re not laughing you’re not living.

S: You have a unique history and perspective. There are a lot of people that see you on Fox and they don’t understand your connection to the military and MMA. Can you provide a full understanding of who you are and where you come from and how that led to MVP?

JG: Well you I’ve got quite a background. I wrestled since I was young. I boxed and I played sports a lot early on.

When I signed with Fox luckily they were the ones to say ‘you are not going on our TV airwaves all busted up.’  So they made me stop fighting.  This was really early. This was like 2003.

But I loved the camaraderie of fighting. I loved how different it made me feel. It was different in a good way.

So I couldn’t stop and I’m kind of institutionalized by it. So I learned how to do something else and I started coaching guys.

I started a mixed martial arts cross training program in mma athletics about 14 years ago or something along those lines.

I’ve trained over a thousand athletes with Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell and those guys.  In martial arts a lot of the people that you train with are in the military.

I’ve done that over here and I’ve had the chance to train some troops overseas. I’ve done it once in Afghanistan and another time in South Korea.

But the honest truth is, I got incredibly patriotic on 9/11 when I lost one of my best friends. His name was Jason Cayne.  I was down there all week looking for him. I was living in New York City very close to the U.N. and we didn’t know what was going on. [We just knew] we were getting attacked.

I didn’t know what was getting hit next. I was actually trying to get away from where I lived. I was running uptown to (former New York Giants running back) Tiki Barber’s place who lived away from any landmark.

For a period there during that day there was no cell service and it was horrifying. It wasn’t until these two fighter jets came flying over New York City, that I looked up and said ‘ok I’m safe and we’re ok now.’

It gave me such an appreciation for these people that don’t know me and don’t know my kid and don’t know my family, to leave their own families to make sure we’re safe.

It is so incredibly selfless. Look I’m in sports. I’m on Fox NFL Sunday and Ballers now and the UFC on Fox but…who cares? Sports is just escapism.

So over the years I’ve tried to give back a lot. So one of these foundations MVP (Merging Vets With Players) was started off by another foundation that I have called Touchdown Dreams. There I help out a lot of kids that are fighting for their lives. Its like Make-A-Wish on steroids.

One of the kids there is named Logan. He just beat Leukemia for the second time. He had to fight from like four years old to twelve years old. His grandmother works with a lot of vets and this place called Bouldercrest in Virginia.

She did it in a way that I loved with her therapy and her way of coaching. I reached out to her and said ‘what if we put ex-NFL players with some of your vets?’

They go through the same thing when the uniform comes off. They both go through a lot of the same emotional distress.

What if we put them together because they both look up to each other? Let them try to build a team again.

And it worked. The first guy we did it with was kind of like our test. His name is Oren Neal he used to play for the Oakland Raiders.

Man he was in a bad way and like a lot of these vets was contemplating…something where we are hoping that they don’t go. And putting him on a new team again saved his life.

So I’ve coached athletes and fighters. Who cares? Now I’ve been able to coach our veterans and those that are struggling on a different level.

You know getting to coach guys away from suicide or addition issues or getting to coach guys that are kind of with it but they feel alone. Now they get to have a team again.

S: I’ll be honest. I’m very familiar with you as the media personality. I watch the show on Sunday and follow your social media accounts. Getting to see the other amazing work that you do is inspiring. I’ve seen and worked with a lot of high school athletes that didn’t make it to the next level and college kids that didn’t make it to the NFL. Do you ever see yourself working with athletes at that level?

JG:  We’re just not there yet. Obviously, we’re still growing with what we are. Eventually, your job is to be of service to as many people as you can.

In the time being what we are trying to do is get across a certain message. The big thing is that pro athletes look up to combat vets. And combat vets look up to pro athletes.

If you give them this team again, you can empower them in their next steps.

We’re trying to tell our veterans that they have all of these wonderful traits and qualities from being over in combat.

Think about it. You would love to have an employee who is grace under fire, courage under pressure, they’re always on time, their loyal and if something isn’t working with literally bullets flying, they know how to fix it on the spot.

All of a sudden they come back here and they’re like ‘oh man we’re different. We don’t fit in.’ I’m trying to get them to understand ‘be proud that you’re different. Being different is what leads to success. Different is what makes you stand out from the pack. Be proud of it.  Don’t think that you need to fit into society. We need to fit in around you. You have the skill-set that we are looking for.’

They come back here and they feel like they are alone because they haven’t been though the same things as everybody else. My opinion is ‘you damn right you haven’t been through the same thing as everybody else!’

With our NFL players, they look at themselves like ‘oh man I used to play in the NFL. Now what am I?’ My thing is no dude, look at it like ‘you’re damn right I played in the NFL! I’m not like the rest of you.’ And you playing in the NFL is not who you are.

What’s behind your ribcage that got you to beat out a million people to play in the NFL, THAT is who you are.

What’s behind [the vets] ribcage to get [them] to come back from war and survive out there, that makes [them] different from everybody else.

If we shift the narrative for these guys and get them to be proud of everything including if [they] have scars, then wear that.

I’ve had [injuries] from wrestling and training guys in MMA over the years and having guys like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell beat my ass.

I’ve had football players that I wrestled with like Kyle Long, Lane Johnson and Von Miller and it’s ridiculous. I’ve had seven back procedures, broke my ankle twice, broke my nose seven times and I’ve been knocked out more than I care to remember really.

Dislocated my elbow, tore a calf, tore a bicep and I’m damn proud of every one of them because it makes me realize ‘I’m not like everybody else.’

I tell these guys ‘if you have a wound or you have a scar let’s choose to wear that with pride.’ We have a girl over at MVP named Kirstie Ennis.

She was a sergeant in the Marines and she got shot down in Afghanistan and she lost her leg. Part of her face came through her neck and was transplanted. The right front lobe of her brain is damaged and she has no memories before the crash.

She is currently the fifth ranked snowboarder in the world and is on her third masters. And as we speak she has just climbed to Mt. Everest base camp.

So again… it’s about what’s behind the ribcage of these people.

So does her leg bother her? Yes. But she realizes now ‘I have to use this to inspire others.’ We all have things that we can use to inspire others.

To give you another idea of what our program is we’re in a few different places right now and we’re trying to open up in every city.

jay glazer We bring everybody together and we do something as a team building thing.  So in L.A., every week we come to our gym Unbreakable Performance up on Sunset Blvd.

We train these guys together for about a half hour just to get that burn again. Then we sit around and have what I like to call fireside chats.

We talk about anything and everything that you can possibly imagine. Why we don’t kill ourselves [for example].

If you willingly take a gun and say ‘I’m going to go leave my family and go to war,’ or you put a coat of armor on and go smash your head against 350-punders for 10 years or you willingly step into a cage and get kicked in the face by someone, chances are you were pretty off going in.

So just because the uniform is off, doesn’t mean that that is gone. I have a saying in there that is’ we’re good with our fucked-upedness.’ Another one is ‘mutherfucker we’re different.’

When we first started off a lot of our vets were homeless.  The world was against them and they were alone.

And now so many of them have gotten homes and they have gotten jobs.  Look at Ryan Leaf one of our football players.

Oh my goodness. He was one of the most hated guys in NFL history. Now, he has saved so many veterans’ lives with his work with recovery because he was an addict.

Now he is all the way back and being of service to other people. Now he’s back working in TV and a year and a half ago he wouldn’t have been able to do that because he didn’t have this team because he was alone. And as he said, “I didn’t know much I needed MVP until I was there.’

So we talk about a lot of things and the very first thing is ‘why you shouldn’t kill yourself. Good choices through your decisions. So, you don’t kill yourself because don’t put your pain on us. You’re gonna escape but you put your pain on us. Plus, you never know what lies around next Tuesday.’

We have a guy in there [named] Denver Morris who lost 64 of his brothers to suicide while in battle. And he lost more of his platoon now to suicide than he did in battle. So 64 combined… think about that.

He tried to kill himself a few times and he’s our head of outreach. He’s gotten a lot of vets there. I said one day ‘how many of you guys maybe wouldn’t be here right now if we didn’t have MVP?’

And I mean 35 hands go in the air of people that would have at least attempted suicide or done it.  And I said ‘Denver f you would have followed through and killed yourself that day, 35 people wouldn’t be here today. That’s why we don’t kill ourselves. You never know what lies around next Tuesday.’ And now he has a full-time job working with vets helping people out.

Anything from that to other guys in there saying ‘damn I don’t feel like I fit in because people keep asking me how many people did you kill? And I don’t feel like I fit in’

So the group gives him an answer ‘more than you’ and just move on. Or we do a lot of laughing in there which these guys don’t feel like they should do. A lot of them feel like it’s guilt.  And together we show them that you’re able to laugh again.

The bottom line man is that they have done such amazing things overseas; they have so much behind their ribcage to go after their dreams.

S: You answered every single question that I had about your program. Your enthusiasm is very inspiring.

JG: I’m passionate about it.  Our thing where you can help is that we’re trying to open up throughout the country.  So that these vets and players know that they have a place to go where they can meet so that is our big thing. We’re trying to get funding and open up to take that next step in the right places. It’s peer-on-peer counseling so we’re not therapists. We just life coach together.

S: So I do have one question that is a pure sports-related question. When you get information and you know it’s not time to release it, with your enthusiasm, is it hard to sit on it?

JG:  Nope. Because early on in my career I said I’m not going to work for the scoops I’m going to work for the relationships and I’ve stuck by that.

If you burn relationships, you may have a scoop but you will miss out on 20 others. My thing is you work relationships and you get this trust.

The biggest thing for me is that people know that if I say it, it’s right. As crazy as it sounds, people know if I say it, people know that they can take it to the bank. I don’t get anything wrong because I’m actually real conservative.

I need three sources on something. I am horrified about getting anything wrong. Nowadays, too many people want to get something out first and don’t care so much about it being right.

A lot of that is partly my fault.., well our fault from the early days when we were doing this. It was me, Chris Mortensen, Len Pasquarelli and then Adam Schefter came along.

We were battling it out and that is how we were judged. And now everybody tries to do it that way.

There have been some of the biggest scoops that I have ever had where I had to wait for three weeks because I couldn’t get that third confirmation. That guts you but no it’s not hard to hold information.

Plus, I’m just in sports. I’m not covering important stuff. It’s just escapism.

Please visit Merging Veterans and Players for more information and to donate.  Be sure to catch Jay Glazer on Fox NFL Sunday.

 

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