Profiles in Football Player Profiles or I Read All These Preseason NFL Profiles So You Don’t Have To

Football players get profiled by newspapers and magazines a lot. A-lot. Do you have time to read them all? No — or at least you should have better things to do with your time but, hey, maybe that’s what those dudes in “man caves” or at library computers are doing for hours on end (well, not really, those dudes are definitely watching handjob stuff). But you know who does have time? Gretchen Gavett, and she doesn’t even go to the library. Periodically she’ll give us a rundown the football player profiles that pop up around this ever-changing world under the rubric “Profiles in Football Player Profiles.

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Russell Wilson, Quarterback

Seattle Seahawks

Profiled by Stephen Rodrick in Rolling Stone

Russell Wilson is that guy at work who emails you something and then immediately appears behind your desk to let you know he just emailed you. Ding! Here I am! But he cautions he’s there not because he doesn’t think you’re a responsible reader of email. OH NO. He just wants to help. Here, he’ll take a seat and explain but FIRST he wants to offer you some of his “magical miracle fraud water” that contains “nanobubbles.” Or Gatorade. He loves it! “Isn’t Gatorade the best? Just the best.”

This is his first time he’s quoted in the article.

But anyway, back to the email. It’s not the best news, but Russell Wilson wants you to know it’s going to be OK. Everything happens for a reason. Actually, come to think of it, why don’t you let Russell Wilson  guide you to success. All you have to do is follow the rules! Then he pats you on the back, walks away, and checks back on you to make sure you’re checking back on him. But really subtly.

A couple of other things: Russell Wilson may have some father issues. Perhaps the biggest insight (and not for Rodrick’s lack of trying) we get from this profile is that the quarterback “is trying to have the perfect life his father almost had. And that quest for perfection allows for no moments of weakness or doubt.”

Which makes decisions like this, just before hosting the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports awards, all the more concerning: “Back in his dressing room, Wilson flips through a rack of his wardrobe for the show and settles on an ugly blazer with a hundred safety pins.”

He is talked out of wearing this. That’s about it.

 

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Darrelle Revis, Cornerback

New York Jets

Profiled by Mina Kimes in ESPN The Magazine

One thing you should know — before I tell you all about how good Darrelle Revis is at the business side of football because, essentially, “he’s a fortress” in an industry where almost no one else is, because he ignores the media to the extent that he “might read a couple of sentences” of this profile before stopping, that he’s a gentle guy, a “walking billboard for fairness,” who likes to snuggle and drink sake and is just plain confident about himself and his defensive abilities and what he’s worth, and that talking to him is like “an exercise in the Socratic method” — is that the author of this article, Mina Kimes, posted a photo on Twitter of herself wearing a Seattle Seahawks helmet in her wedding dress. Let us now praise Mina Kimes, and her article, which I’ll have her sum up with this:

Before Revis gets up to leave, I feel compelled to ask: What’s more important, winning or getting paid?

He answers, of course, with a question: “Why not have both?”

 

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Chris Borland, Retired

Profiled by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada in ESPN The Magazine

Chris Borland doesn’t play football anymore.

It’s not that Chris Borland can’t play; the linebacker had a darned good rookie season for the 49ers. It’s that, you know, with all the evidence rolling in that repeated hits to the head aren’t exactly good for you, Chris Borland decided to retire. And that’s put him in an odd spot: He loves football and also dislikes a whole lot of things about it. The NFL isn’t sure what to make of him, though they’re suspicious (a mysterious drug test is involved, of course). And he often isn’t sure what to make of the very political world of head-injury awareness, whatever that means. Or what to say when people ask, “Should my son play?” Chris Borland is stuck between football and not football, “whipsawed by football’s various stakeholders,” as the article’s authors put it.

Chris Borland is 24.

That said, it’s pretty clear that Chris Borland will be fine. This sport, eh, we’ll see. But if you want a glimpse of the strange struggle taking place in big “F” Football right now, here you have it.

 

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Adrian Peterson, Running Back

Minnesota Vikings

Profile by Eli Saslow in ESPN The Magazine

Now that we’ve wrestled with our complex feelings about football: Adrian Peterson! I’m not going to tell you much — aside from a general “this is about what happens when you don’t think you did anything wrong, and you have enough people around you who will never tell you that you did anything wrong, and isn’t that enough, maybe, for redemption?” — because you should read the whole darned thing. But it’s important you know this:

Peterson entered by a path from the front door of his house toward the main tent. Another parade formed in front of him to lead the way: first the fire-breathers, then the sword swallowers, then the snake charmers and the belly dancers and then finally a camel, rented for the night from an Austin zoo. By the camel’s side were three men dressed as humble peasants, their eyes glued to the floor, and atop the camel was one man, Peterson, wearing a bejeweled Arabian headdress and a gold sequined jacket.

 

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J.J. Watt, Defensive End

Houston Texans

Profile by Skip Hollandsworth in Texas Monthly

Texas Monthly’s Skip Hollandsworth wrote “Still Life” in 2009, about a paralyzed high school football player. It is one of the best sports stories of all-time. You cannot argue with me on this. Skip Hollandsworth has also written a string of A+ crime features over the past three decades. I adore Skip Hollandsworth. Hell, I’d consider paying to watch Skip Hollandsworth sleep, or sit in a corner with a paper bag over his head. But I would not hang out with Skip Hollandsworth if he happened to be tagging along with J.J. Watt.

You see, J.J. Watt is very, very boring. He works out a lot. He eats a lot. Women look at him a lot. They looooove J.J. Watt. And, really, that’s it. And this comes from someone who is REALLY boring herself. I’m the type of person who won’t go to a party if it lacks convenient parking. I prepare all of my lunches on Sunday and sometimes make my own mayonnaise. I go to bed at 9. And I wouldn’t hang out with J.J. Watt.

But I WOULD hang out with Skip Hollandsworth and Rob Gronkowski. See, sweet Gronk is an endearing sort of giant white football statue, per this excellent 2012 Chris Ballard profile. Gronk (at least at the time) lived alone in a sparse condo, keeping only condiments, energy drinks and eggs in his fridge. He jogged to practice. He drank beer under a variety of circumstances. A muscle doing all these things is DARLING.

You know what ISN’T darling, though? Living near J.J. Watt:

Consider this story: Watt loves to hand out candy for Halloween, but this past year, his neighbors in Pearland, a bedroom community south of Houston, asked him to turn off the lights of his home and not answer his door. They wanted to avoid the havoc created by the massive swarms of trick-or-treaters—many of them dressed as mini-Watts, in number 99 jerseys and Texans football helmets—who flock to his home. The neighbors told him they planned to block off the entrance to their neighborhood with garbage cans to keep Watt’s fans from clogging up the streets and tromping across the yards, knocking over Halloween decorations, potted plants, and anything else that stood in their way.

“And I was like, ‘All right, I’ll just leave to make it easier for everybody else,’ ” Watt told me. That Halloween night, he went to dinner, drove around for a while by himself, and returned at nine-thirty, figuring that all the trick-or-treating would be over. Not far from his neighborhood, he saw a string of cars on the side of the road. “I’m like, ‘Why are all these people parked there?’ And then I started to get closer and closer, and I realized everybody had parked outside of my little neighborhood and had walked in. Literally hundreds of people streaming into the neighborhood, a whole line of people going straight to my house. I got my [home security] cameras up on my phone and looked at my house, and there’s people taking pictures in front of it. I came back an hour later, and at the front door, it was almost like a shrine. There were gifts and notes, and they were piled up probably three or four feet high.”

One of the notes Watt read was written on the back of a MapQuest printout. “The map led to my house from a place just north of Dallas,” said Watt, shaking his head. “Somebody had driven five hours to come to my home on Halloween.”

 

bennettMartellus Bennett, Tight End

Chicago Bears

Profiled by Jeff Ruby in Chicago Magazine

If J.J. Watt is boring to anyone who isn’t a woman or small child living in Texas, Martellus Bennett is a goddamn rainbow eagle of sunshine. Within the first few paragraphs of this profile, the tight end challenges the author to a game of ping pong (the table of which is located near a giant ceramic Hello Kitty); after, the pair retire to Martellus Bennett’s “imagination room,” where he’s writing an animated feature film and discuss topics ranging from reading (“I only read the left-hand pages, so I finish books twice as fast”) to dinosaurs (“They’re awesome. I think we can all agree on that”). We can, Martellus! We can!

The profile then gets into football and social media and controversy, blah blah blah, and there’s a metaphorical vertical jump at the end, but, oh god, let’s focus on other things. Martellus Bennett, bless him. His house contains “no trophies. No jerseys. … Not even a football.” Oh, and his sporty peers? “So many of them are assholes. Whenever someone tells me, ‘Oh, so-and-so is my favorite player,’ I think, Man, your favorite player’s an asshole.”

So if you take anything from this clunky curation list that may or may not tell you anything important about any of these magazine features, let it be this, and never forget: Your favorite player’s probably an asshole.

Gretchen Gavett is an editor at Longform. She enjoys cats, lifting weights and dried fruits of all varieties.

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