Under Pressure; how an NFL player keeps his cool

Ryan Malleck is a 25-year-old tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Standing at 6’5″ and weighing 250lbs, it’s no surprise he holds his ground in the league.

He graduated from Virginia Tech University in the spring of 2016 with a degree in property management and a minor in business. During his time of play at VA Tech he held the position of captain for two years.

Besides having an unpredictable and rigorous schedule, being a football player isn’t as glamorous as it’s cracked out to be unless you’re 200 percent committed.

Ryan says one of the hardest obstacles to overcome is realizing that the NFL isn’t all about the sport anymore. It turns into a business.

I was able to ask him some questions before he went off to training camp. Just about how he juggles enormous responsibilities and continues to prevail.

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How much of your time do you dedicate to your career?

“Well, it depends, during the regular season and camp I’d say I expend 85% of my time towards it, but during the off season probably only 40%.”

Would you say you have a healthy work-life balance?

“Part of the year yes, during the off season I have a lot of off time. But during the season no, because I’m training all week and traveling, playing on weekends and basically have no time to even think really.”

When was it prevalent to you that you had a real shot getting into the NFL?

“I didn’t think in college, I didn’t even realize when I signed with the Giants, it wasn’t until I put the pads on and walked on the field when I realized I was good enough to play at such a high level. It’s a surreal feeling.”

What is your training schedule like? Do you practice every day?

“Training camp is every day from 7am to 10 pm. During the off season I train early in the morning for an hour and half, then I do field work for about an hour and at night I usually do flexibility and mobility training at a gym.”

What drives you to get up and go training six times a week?

“It’s been my dream since I was playing pop warner football when I was 10-years-old. I don’t even feel like I should be compensated, it’s just my love for the sport and the game.

My dream was to play in the NFL. Now my motivation is to stay here and push forward. I want be a starter, and I want to win a Super Bowl. I’ve made it this far why not push a little more.”

What separates you from other people you think? What’s your edge?

“My edge is being versatile. Most players in my position (tight ends) can either do one or the other but I can run routes and also block like a lineman.”

What do you do in your off time?

“I take some time and relax, I spend time with my family and this one girl, and try not to think about football even though I’m still training six days a week. In a way I can never really escape it but surrounding myself with people I’m close with is a great distraction.”

What do you do to prepare yourself for stressful days?

“I usually try to get my mind off football the night before so I can be ready and fresh for the next day, like either calling someone, watching TV or reading.”

Do you think the league takes a toll on your mental health, if so how?

“Yeah, I think the difference between college and the NFL is all mental because in college you only play 10 games, and the NFL you’re playing 20 including preseason, so it’s a lot more strenuous, week in and week out you have to perform at your highest level.”

Do you have a different idea of your personal image now? Are you more worried about what other people think of you? 

“No I try not to, I don’t really care what people think. I’m just chasing this dream as long as I can, and trying to make a living. A lot of people doubt me and think I can’t do it but I think the most important aspect is having confidence in yourself and your abilities and shutting negative energy out.

Being cut six times could take a toll on someone’s ego but I know I deserve to be here and show I can play.”

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Would you consider yourself your biggest critic?

“Yes by far, I’m hard on myself. If I don’t have a good practice, I just know that I’ll get another opportunity and I’ll make the next play the best play.”

What are some things you do to “treat yoself?”

“This year I took a vacation to St. Lucia with my girlfriend, I like to go places when I have time off.”

What are some ways you like to practice self-care or decompress?

“Watching TV, reading, getting a good night sleep, going golfing! I really like reading about football like my past coache’s book, Frank Beamer.

But I also really enjoy reading personal development books as well. That way I can stay on top of my education and learning. I mean I did go to college and get a degree ya know?”

What’s a famous quote that has always stuck with you?

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.

Vince Lombardi

Do you like to go out and party a lot?

“No, I used to in college but now that I’m in the NFL I don’t go out much.”

If not do you ever feel the peer pressure to partake?

“Yeah sometimes when I’m home I feel like I need to see people, but over time it faded. And that’s just because I see my close friends and the people that matter regardless if I go out or not.

Drinking is just so bad for your body I can’t afford to be reckless when my body is what’s propelling me forward in the league.”

You can follow or contact Ryan via:

Instagram: @ryan_malleck

Photos courtesy of Ryan



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