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Do You Catch the Opportunities That are Thrown Your Way?

Guest Blog by JJ Birden, Former NFL Player, and Motivational Speaker

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Do you Catch the Opportunities That are Thrown Your Way?

I heard the call from Joe, “X Hook.” We clapped and broke the huddle. I got in my 80-twenty stance— 80% over my front foot and twenty percent on my back foot with arms forward, ready to run the play.

My eyes looked forward, ready to turn on the speed to get open to receive the ball from Joe Montana. I thought for a split second, almost with kid delight, “I’m gonna catch my first play from Joe Montana.”

I looked down the field and assessed the leverage of who I was facing.

I heard the play set. The ball snapped. I took off running! I ran to the hole, and as I went to turn, Bam! The football thudded me in the back of the head. Embarrassed and feeling like I missed something, in the very next huddle, Joe looked right at me and said, “Look, I’ve already read the defense. I know where the hole is, and I expect you to be there—ready to catch the ball.”

Even though it was a practice session, I seized the opportunity that Joe Montana had handed me. I had to make a decision. I needed to really step up my game, so I shut my mouth and prepared for the next play. I had a choice that day to keep playing the way I had or to step up my game. I seized the opportunity and went for it. How’s that for one of the best lessons from one of the greatest Quarterbacks ever—Joe Montana?


Some of you might think I was born dreaming about playing in the NFL. That’s not exactly true. Let me share how it all went down. You might be thinking, physically, I look like an NFL player. Let me dispel that notion in one sentence. The average NFL Football play is 6’2’’ and 245 lbs, and I was 5’10’’ and 157 lbs.

Well, I’m not going to get that tall, and I don’t want to get that big. So size wise, I was 42% smaller than the average player. What were my options? I had one clear path and seized the opportunities by figuring out how to play in a big man’s game.

I played 42% smarter and learned all four positions as the Wide Receiver. Learning how to play all four positions opened me up to get more playing time on the field—another seized opportunity.

In the last 40-plus years in the NFL, there has not been a player who had a longer NFL career of nine years that weighed under 160 lbs than myself.

I didn’t allow the circumstances of the game or of life to control how I played the game; instead, I took control of what I could, looked at what everyone else did, found the gap, and took action through sheer grit to close it. To be clear, it was a ton of work to do that, but again, I took advantage of the opportunity.


This leads me to a question: Do you have a burning desire that resonates in your heart and body daily? What is it? Have you written it down? What are the steps you are taking to do something about it? If in reading those few sentences, you felt me challenge you about your dream. You’d be right.

You see, in life, every day is new and has given us an opportunity to live better than we did the day before—case in point. Become a student of opportunities by keeping your eyes open to them. I share all of this and more in my book When Opportunity Knocks; Eight Sure-Fire Ways to Take Advantage.

There was a time in my life when another opportunity came.




“Hey, Uncle….hum….I need help, well more like we all do,” I heard my nephew say.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“There’s too much to share here, but it’s going down, and we need you,” he said. And with that, I hopped on a plane the next day to Oklahoma to see my five nieces and nephews.

In the whirlwind over the next 24 hours, I suddenly found myself standing before a judge.

“Mr. Birden,” said the judge.

“Yes, your honor,” I said.

“Within the proceedings of this court, your five nieces and nephews will be placed in five separate foster homes. You’re the next of kin, so what would you like to do?” asked the judge.

My heart jumped, and my brain raced. This is going to impact so many lives. I could feel myself weighing out everything within a split second. “Judge, can I call my wife, Raina, first before I share my decision?” I asked. I was granted that phone call. Within five minutes of talking to Raina, we took all five and immediately emerged into our family.

When people asked us why we did that, we shared that “it was an opportunity to impact five more lives.” Do you see? That was an opportunity, not a burden. We seized upon it and did our best with it.


As an international speaker, former NFL player, entrepreneur, and best-selling author, I will keep challenging myself every day. I’m going to raise the bar on my performance. I’m living in this same crazy world as you all, and we can’t let the excuses in our heads stop us.

Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. When the why is strong enough, you will do whatever it takes because of the motivation.

“Treat every day like it is game day, not just Sunday or Monday. Give your best, and never give them a reason to think that they don't need you on the team.”

My whole life, I’ve always asked three simple questions when I dealt with any of those things.

  1. Why did this happen?

  2. What can I learn from it? And—

  3. How can I turn this into an opportunity?”

Finally, remember this: “Failing is I tried something new, and it didn’t work, and I had an opportunity to learn. Failure is a state of being; it is an active choice to stay stuck.

“Failing is the only way you learn. You don’t learn by doing it right, and you learn by doing it wrong.” Seize your opportunities this year, and put in the work; your failures are your learns, so get up and try again.

More about JJ Birden

Now a motivational speaker and performance coach, JJ shares lessons from his life that help audiences of all ages, backgrounds and professions realize the most important thing about success—it is never given but consistently earned.

JJ’s inspiring keynote presentations outline the principles and strategies that helped an undersized wide receiver overcome spectacular odds, the same principles, and strategies that can help anyone perform at the highest levels in all walks of life.

JJ is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, husband, and father. He has been married to his college sweetheart, Raina, for 30 years and has eight children (3 biological and 5 adopted nieces and nephews). He and his family reside in the Phoenix area.

JJ Birden is an engaging communicator, passionate presenter, and a leading authority helping individuals seize their opportunities in life. Request more information to speak with JJ and learn how he can tailor his motivational keynote presentations to empower your group to achieve greatness.

JOIN US JANUARY 24, 2023, at 6:30 pm MST for the Beacon of Light Podcast Interview with JJ BIRDEN!

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1 comentario

JJ Birden Speaks
JJ Birden Speaks
23 ene 2023

What a well written blog April. Excellent work! I'm looking forward to being on your podcast.

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