It's a chilly, gray Tuesday afternoon in New York and Donavan McNabb is talking smack about Ryan Lochte. “He’s a swimmer, but we’re athletes," he says. "Swimmers aren’t athletes. They don’t understand what we go through being in weather like this. No sleeves, even though I have sleeves on. Out here we can see our breath and underwater you can’t."
It's probably good to note that McNabb's jawing is in jest. The 11-time Olympic medalist and McNabb were meeting in Times Square to participate in Wild Turkey American Honey's charity celebrity kickball game. "My team’s fired up. They’re competitive, I’m competitive. I don’t want to lose and we will not lose.” The former NFL quarterback is also excited to spark a bromance with another Olympic medalist. "You know, it’s fun. I know Michael Phelps pretty well, so now I get to meet another Olympic champion and compete with him. We’re going to have a great time."
The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback's keys for kickball success are simple: “Kick it waaaaay down there. Try to eliminate the fast running, because on this turf, you can go down. You don’t want to go down.”
Even though McNabb is two years out of the NFL, he's still slightly weary about a kickball injury. “It’s not new. We grew up doing it. I don’t think it’s that hard. You just have to make sure you protect yourself and don’t roll your ankle or stub a toe."
The subject changes to the NFL Draft. What's the biggest difference between when he was drafted out of Syracuse in 1999 and now?
"Well, now you have social media playing a major part. But back when I was coming around, there weren’t cameraphones and all that other stuff. So it was what you heard on TV and just kind of reports. But now you have everyone doing mock drafts and social media, tweeting this and tweeting that. I think for these guys, there’s so much pressure on them because of all the social media on that. They don’t know who to believe."
The Draft fashion choices these days, too, leave much to be desired: "It’s getting out of hand now. I’m all into the corporate business suits: The blues, the blacks, the grays. These kids are wearing seersucker and mixing all these colors together. I’m like, 'that’s enough.' It’s too much!"
Often celebrated as a mentor for younger players during his years in the NFL, McNabb offer words of wisdom for this year's rookie class: "All I can tell them is to focus on the task at hand: To just get drafted and enjoy a life change."
His studs for this year's Draft include West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin and Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan. He's especially excited for his Draft darkhorse, BYU defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah. "For not being able to play that long and being so effective, I think he’s going to open up a lot of eyes.”
McNabb is bearish, though, on pinpointing a young NFL quarterback for long-term success: "'I think too many times when we see a guy young have a decent first year or kind of surprise you with something, we kind of want to make him a star already. But when things go wrong with injuries or the team doesn’t play well, then we kind of want to label him a bust too quickly. These kids, you kind of got to give them a chance to develop, understand more about the game, better prepare, and be able to evolve in a way that everyone expects."
Any words of wisdom for his friend Andy Reid in Kansas City?
"Stay away from the barbecue. Put the fork down."
He laughs, "No, that’s my guy. He loves barbecue in KC. I think the thing for him is probably to not go into this thing like we did in ‘99. It’s a new chapter, with new players and a new generation. Just do what you do and what you know and just kind of lead this team like you did with us."
Press time is over and it's McNabb to take the field. As for defeating Ryan Lochte for kickball bragging-rights glory? It was business as usual:
Winners over Ryan Lochtes team. twitter.com/donovanjmcnabb…— Donovan McNabb (@donovanjmcnabb) April 23, 2013