IF NOT THIS, WHAT WOULD I BE?
My life is good. It’s sweet, so sweet. Roll up to my place in Plantation, Florida, and that’s easy to see. Right there in the circular driveway that wraps around the fountain in my front yard you get the first taste.
Wait a second, I gotta let you in the front gate first. It’s a gated community and all. But once you’re in and riding by my huge-ass house on an acre of land, you can see what I’m saying. Parked in front are seven sweet-ass cars. One for every day of the week. I don’t like to get bored, you know?
There’s the Rolls Royce for chillin’. There’s the Hummer. The Dodge 4 3 4 Ram pickup. Nice dubs on that. Then there’s the 1971 drop-top Caprice with the rims, the nice paint job, and an interior better than the day they brought it off the assembly line. Same goes for the 1973 Impala. That’s a convertible, too. Hey, man, this is Florida.
Then there’s the convertible Lamborghini. It’s kind of a Cincinnati Bengals orange. Man, who says I don’t believe in the team? Finally, there’s the Mercedes SLR McLaren. Mercedes makes 500 of those a year and it goes for a cool $500,000. That baby goes zero to 60 in 3.6 seconds, which is only slightly quicker than me, and hits 208 mph, which is only a little faster than me.
Then again, most cornerbacks think I’m faster than that.
Come on in the crib. Don’t get freaked out by the Plexiglas walk- way over the koi pond with the little waterfall next to it, it’ll hold you. The big room in the front with the marble tiles is cool and the upstairs room with the pool table is very cool. But the best room is the entertainment room just off the kitchen. In there are the three big-screen TVs. Yeah, three. That’s not the best part, though. The best part is that the TVs are inset into a floor-to-ceiling aquarium that runs about 30 feet down one wall.
I got some beautiful fish in there, even a little baby shark. The TVs are built into the front of the aquarium, the wires coming down through some fake coral beneath each of the boxes. It’s an awesome view.
I’ve got paintings of myself around the house. Back in my condo in Cincinnati, I’ve got like nine paintings of myself. Why? I love me some me, that’s why.
And man, I love my things, especially my car. I got a 2008 Dodge Charger back in Cincinnati, painted up a little like the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard. I don’t have the orange. It’s black and charcoal. But that car smokes, man. Just blazes. I got the ’01 on the side, just like in the show. Only difference is that it says General Ocho Cinco on top, not General Lee. Hey, there’s only so far you can take that whole idea. I’m not getting into that whole Confederate flag shit and all. I am a black man, you know.
Now, I didn’t like school at all. Hated it. Yeah, I’m smart and I could have done the work, but I didn’t want people to know how smart I was and I couldn’t sit there in all those stupid classes listening to all that boring stuff. No way. Football was my way out. I had to make it. Not that I did it the easy way. But I had to make it.
And if I hadn’t made it in football, I would have done what I had to do. Whatever I had to do to get the things I like. At this point for me to have the nice things that I like, I wasn’t good in school so that’s down the drain. Therefore, I would have to resort to means of illegal activity to get the things that I like.
Yeah, if that means sell drugs, I would have done that. I’m not into drugs. Don’t even drink. I go to the bar at J. Alexander’s in Cincinnati and order drinks for everybody there. But I drink cranberry juice. That’s it. But if I had to sell drugs to get the things I want, I’d do it.
It’s like what Pittsburgh wide receiver Santonio Holmes was talking about before the Super Bowl. By the way, sweet catch on the game- winner. Damn, how I wish I could get that chance to make that play. How sweet would that be?
Anyway, back to my point. Sometimes there aren’t a lot of choices to get what you want. You have two ways out in life. You can make it as an athlete or you have to hustle. I give Santonio a lot of credit for being honest about what he was facing. We both grew up in South Florida, although I’m from Miami and he’s from Belle Glade, which is more the country, sugarcane fields and all that. He talked to the Miami Herald about it one day and then shared even more in another interview the next day. Here’s what Holmes said:
“I feel it’s time to share things. I’m on the biggest stage. Everybody’s going to be watching. I’m pretty sure some kids can get a feel for changing their lives and not doing those type of things, and can get an opportunity to get out of the ghetto, the ’hood, to be successful. My friends were always doing it and I felt comfortable doing it at the time. As the years grew older, I just felt like that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to play football. I don’t want to end up like a lot of my friends, in jail, standing on the corner, not going to school.”
Some people thought Santonio shouldn’t have said that stuff before the Super Bowl. But he was being honest, being real, talking about his life and what drives him to be great. I’m telling you the same things about me, what makes me want to be the best. What drives me and, really, what I would have been.
People think drug dealers are stupid, but they’re not. Now, the ones who get caught, yeah, they’re stupid. I wouldn’t get caught.
How else would I get these things? Become some entertainer, a dancer? Yeah, I love music. I even play some instruments. Sax, guitar, piano a little. But that’s not what I am. If you’re going to be an entertainer, it starts when you are young, when you are four years old. You don’t start when “Oh damn, football didn’t work out for me, let me try this.” It doesn’t work that way. All actors start when they are young.
I hang out with musicians. During the bye week last year, I hung out with Lil’ Wayne in his studio in Miami. That dude works hard. It was Saturday, like 1 a.m., when I showed up at his place and he’s totally focused, totally into what he’s doing. No breaks, not much conversation, he’s just going and going, doing his thing. It was amazing to watch, but to think I could just cross over at a late age and really do that and be great at it, come on now.
That’s why I tell you it was football or it was the street for me. Now, I’m not into the street life. NFL Security doesn’t need to be bothering me. I know some guys who do that stuff from the old neighborhood where I grew up, Liberty City in Miami. I talk to those guys, but I don’t live the street life and I don’t want to. My grandma brought me up not to deal with that. I was either playing football or I was home. I didn’t get in serious trouble. She was a teacher. She wouldn’t have it.
Still, what I’m saying is that if football hadn’t worked, I would have done illegal activities. I would have been Frank Lucas, the dude from American Gangster. That dude was real. As crazy as that shit sounded, he was real and he made it, big-time. This is what I’m saying about guys who survive in that business and really make it: They’re smart. You know how Lucas burned the mink coat in the movie? Don’t be flashy, don’t show off what you have. Don’t attract attention. That would have been me. You have to be smart to survive in that business. You’re not trying to be some street guy who gets arrested all the time. That’s stupid.
The ones who do the illegal stuff are bright. Some of them might be some of the smartest people in the world to get away and do some of the things they do. Not only do you have to be smart at what you do, you have to be able to outthink the system, outsmart the system. You have to watch over your shoulder 24/7. A lot goes into that. You don’t know who’s who.
Now, I’m sure the NFL doesn’t like to hear that, but let’s be real. Let’s put it out there. This is what happened to me.
This is what this book is about. It’s not just my story, it’s me. It’s about what I think, what I feel, why I do this. It’s about what the NFL is, the side of the game you don’t understand all the time. This is about what you don’t hear or see about me because you really only see it through the perspective of the media, the people who wrap up my story in a few words or in some video and think, “Hey, this is what Chad Ocho Cinco is.” That’s just part of me.
It’s like in 2008 at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, when one reporter said that I “shoved” some guy [Michael Lipman] from the NFL who was trying to talk to me. I didn’t shove him. The dude is like 5-foot-8. If I’d have shoved him, he’d have sued my ass. I pushed his hands away. Was I in a bad mood? Yeah, I was. I didn’t want to talk to anybody, reporters, TV people, NFL PR guys, nobody. That’s when I was on my big kick to try to get out of Cincinnati, which didn’t work out so hot (more on that later).
Anyway, the dude from the NFL touched me and I pushed his hand away. That was it and then I left. But now everybody thinks I’m shoving guys to the ground, I’m fighting, committing assault and all sorts of crap that never happened. It was just typical BS that comes with being me. We got guys in other places doing crazy shit, like punching their quarterback in the face in the weight room, and it barely gets in the news.
You see, the funniest part is that people think I’m so bad, but do you see one arrest on me since I got to the NFL? Do you see me getting suspended for using drugs or steroids? Do you see anything about me beating up my girlfriend or some other guys? No, none of that. Still, people think I’m this bad guy because I do some celebrations and talk trash and I’m flamboyant. Look, I’m working hard, I’m having fun, and nobody is going to stop me from having fun.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Ocho Cinco by Chad Ochocinco with Jason Cole. Copyright © 2009 by Chad Ochocinco. Excerpted by permission of Crown Archetype, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.