David Vobora played for the Rams from 2008-2010. Vobora earned himself the title of "Mr. Irrelevant" by being drafted the 252nd and final overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Vobora went on to become a starting linebacker for the Rams and has accomplished continued success off the field in his NFL retirement.
Q: What is your current occupation and/or what is your favorite thing to do in free/spare time?
VOBORA: I am the founder and CEO of the Adaptive Training Foundation, which is a 501 c3 non-profit organization that shared space in Dallas with my for-profit entity the Performance Vault, Inc., which I am also owner and CEO of as well. I retired from football and started a gym in Dallas training athletes, mostly college guys getting ready for the NFL, some Olympians and some development athletes, so I started getting these combat injured veterans. It all started with Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee, and I watched him have breakthrough after breakthrough and my football athletes no longer were complaining about their pinky toe being sore after seeing him. They championed each other.
Founder/CEO of the Adaptive Training Foundation, owner of the performance vault and I have a book coming out in 2018, "The Hope Dealer", which will also create a digital stream of content in the form of podcasts and some other TV-based digital streaming. So author, speaker, I travel around nationally doing a lot in corporate settings and to other groups and organizations, speaking in a variety of different lenses. Two weeks ago, I was at the University of Virginia speaking to the MBA entrepreneurs program. Basically, I speak on sociology-entrepreneurship in a business setting, philanthropy management, and also talk in a professional sense on leadership development and company culture and how you can get the best of thrive out of your commerce.
My favorite thing to do in my spare time is surfing. Surfing is still my number one thing to do in my spare time but in Texas, I don't have the ocean here in Dallas so I get on a long board and I carve up the streets of Texas because I have a 130 pound bloodhound. He pulls me when he runs and we shred it up and down the concrete jungle here in Dallas. I also have two little girls, one's four and one's two, so spending time with them.
Q: What inspired you to open a non-profit training facility?
VOBORA: After I retired, I spiraled out of control after football, had a drug addiction—I literally hit rock bottom and that was really the genesis of all the good that started to happen when I began to look at myself without football. My identity was completely tied into football, just like these wounded warriors—these guys that were fighters that were hit over there. They were working to become the lead in their craft; they're giving orders and taking orders and that structure, but they are able to thrive and do such a violent and, at times, malicious job. The reason I got back on the right path was essentially I began replacing bad habits with good habits. I used the gym as my sanctuary and now, I've been able to use that as a conduit or a catalyst for others like me.
Q: What is your favorite memory while playing for the Rams organization?
VOBORA: Obviously, being drafted that last pick is a great memory, but from a playing perspective, my first sack came against the Seattle Seahawks in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. I hit Matt Hasselbeck and we ended up beating the Seahawks at home that game and that was the first time we had beat them in a while and that was in 2009. That's a great memory and I remember it so well because it was the first week of October, the breast cancer awareness game. We had our pink uniforms on and I remember the sack. I celebrated by screaming up to the sky and there was a picture of that that was snapped and that was on the front page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. I was pretty fired up with my pink gloves and war paint on, beating the Seahawks.
Q: If you could go back and replay one game during your career, which game would that be and why?
VOBORA: In 2009, we played at Seattle to see who went to the playoffs and they ended up beating us. It was on Sunday night football and we lost, so I would definitely go back to that game and replay it and get us to the playoffs because I never got the chance to play in a playoff game, so that was a bummer.
Q: What, if any was your "pre-game" ritual back in the day?
VOBORA: I have been known to caffeinate at a certain and significant rate. The guys would always yell at me for chugging redline or taking caffeine shots but I like to get really, really jacked up before games. Also, I would get there super early. I am kind of an OCD person and I like things being in their place and in line with my pattern, so that I feel like all the preparation I did leading up to it is good. I've checked my boxes, done my system of checks before I launch the rocket and then go out there and just compete. So, getting there early and caffeinating heavily.
Q: If you could go back and give the rookie David Vobora a piece of advice, what would it be?
VOBORA: If I could go back and offer something to myself, I would say to think about the end game.—the exit. A lot people create expectations for themselves but don't think about how they want to exit in a certain way. So if I could go back and give David Vobora a piece of advice as a rookie or young player, I would say, "You have to be so focused on the day that you have and crushing it to just laugh." You feel like a shark in the water and if you stop swimming you're going to get eaten, so to me I would remove myself from that mindset for a moment. You have to stay in that mindset sometimes to grind it out and just not get overwhelmed by the scope of work and how hard it is, but I would remove myself just for a moment and say, "David, what does your exit from football look like?". I think a lot of guys just abstain from even looking at themselves as anything other than football players because, I think Mark Cuban said something like, "if you're not totally obsessed in this entrepreneur life, you'll never make it." So having that drive and total tunnel vision, yes but if I could tell myself anything, I would say to think about your exit from football. What do you want to accomplish? When guys enter the league they say. "I want to win a super bowl, I want to make a pro bowl," etc. Not to say I didn't set those goals, but I think if I had said, "I want to leave this game whether it's in five years, 10 years or one year, regardless of how long I play, I want to leave this game by accomplishing x, y, and z," I think then you have a higher sightline of goals that gives you this kind of cross reference as you look at, "Maybe it's time for me to walk away or maybe it's time for me to play one more year." I would say thinking about the exit, thinking about life after football, and not just sitting into the fear of, "I don't know who I am without the game."
Q: What does being Mr. Irrelevant mean to you and how do you think it impacted your career?
VOBORA: You can call me Mr. Irrelevant or anything you want; I got drafted in the NFL. Then I found out that there was this whole Mr. Irrelevant week and this charity give back. You're going to be labeled in your life a multitude of times over a myriad of things, so it's not what you do because of the title, but it's what you do consistently that either points to that title as, "Yeah, that guy really was irrelevant" or you use it tongue and cheek and say, "Man, I am going to use this as a platform". So even early in my playing career when I was with the Rams, I would go to schools and speak and I'd ask the kids, "How many of you have ever been picked last on the playground?" and hands would shoot up and I would say, "Yeah, I have been the last pick too but it didn't stop me and let me tell you why." For me, you can look at things and put a chip on your shoulder, which I already had being told I was just good enough and I was kind of an underdog so I was used to that role. So when they're calling me Mr. Irrelevant, it just gave me the platform from the media perspective to position my brand and what is it to be an underdog? What is it to be an overcomer and overachiever? I just began to work on what that message was and now I can export it in a different way. The real relevant thing that I am doing today is more relevant than anything I did with football because when you have the wrong "why", even winning will feel like losing. It was my lifelong dream to play in the NFL. I achieved that, became a starter and crafted out a respectable career, but the work that I am doing now is so much more meaningful, impactful and purpose-driven because of the impact I see daily and how it convinced me to stay on the right path with my own life.
Q: What was the name of your first pet, what kind of animal was it, and what happened to it?
VOBORA: My first pet was a golden retriever. Her name was Chrissy because we got her on Christmas, so we named her Christmas but called her Chrissy. It's funny, all of my closest friends they make fun of me with my long golden hair now and they say that my spirit animal is a golden retriever. They always say that David can just walk up to anybody, wag his tail, smile and get his head rubbed. So yeah, I would say a golden retriever is definitely my spirit animal and Chrissy was definitely that.
*Q: If you could see a concert of any performer, dead or alive, who would it be? *
VOBORA: It would be a trio of performers – I would want absolutely Bob Marley, absolutely Tupac, and absolutely Elvis Presley. Somehow a mash up of those three, I would need to see all of them at a show.
Q: Who do you admire most and why?
VOBORA: I admire every one of the disabled athletes training at my foundation because, at some point, each one of them has experienced other people putting limits on them, yet daily they redefine their lives by defying what once tried to define them. They believe that "impossible" is a mere opinion, and by pushing each other to advance toward our FEAR only then can we discover a potential in us that we never knew we had.
*Q: Favorite visiting city when you were playing and why? *
VOBORA: I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, growing up in Oregon, so Seattle. Being a visiting team, the energy, the noise, the city, it's a tremendous place to go and play. Seattle was my favorite because a lot of my family and friends in that area could come to the games and plus, playing in that environment was just top notch.
*Q: Which three former Rams teammates would you like to have dinner with tonight? *
VOBORA: Oh that's easy, I talk to these guys every week so Chris Long, Danny Amendola and James Laurinaitis.
*Q: Is there a motto in which you live your life by? *
VOBORA: I kind of developed this ethos and it's how we end every prayer as a family around the dinner table and my little girls have memorized it now, which is really cool, but we say, "May we always defend the weak, always do what's right, always learn from our mistakes and never quit." I think those four categories like "defend the weak" is service and "do what's right", you know in your heart and your gut what it is to not be greedy or selfish towards others. "Learn from your mistakes" is to remember life is about learning and failing is necessary. The only failure is quitting, so" never quit" is how we tie a bow on it.