The life of an offensive lineman in the NFL is a rough one. Obviously, there is the physical toll of violently clashing with enormous and strong defenders for 60+ snaps per game. Beyond that is the mental toll that comes from performing such a thankless task. Specifically, casual fans never notice when you do your job well; a lineman only catches their attention when a defender runs straight over them to get to the quarterback. It’s easy to imagine the combination of physical pain and pressure getting to even a seasoned professional.
Jon Feliciano, the starting left guard for the Buffalo Bills, works his ass off in the gym all year round to ensure his body can handle the slog of a 17-game season. Preparing for the physicality is a straightforward process; finding a way to manage the mental hardship takes a little more nuance. Feliciano harkens back to a piece of advice given to him early in his life to get his mindset right before lining up against the best athletes in the world every Sunday.
“The way I grew up, one of my mom’s boyfriends taught me at a young age that you can’t give an F what anyone else thinks,” Feliciano says. “I couldn’t care about what others think, I was going to do what was right. And I took that into football. As long as I know I’m giving my all for my team and I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing, if something bad happens, it happens. That’s football. They get paid too.”
It was in 2001 when Feliciano attended his first football game—Washington vs. Miami at the Orange Bowl—and from that moment nothing would deter him from his dream to become a Miami Hurricane. This wasn’t just any game, mind you: Washington and Miami hate each other despite only facing off three times. The Huskies were making their first visit to the Orange Bowl since breaking the Hurricanes’ 58game home winning streak back in 1994, and it was time for revenge.
The 2001 Hurricanes were stacked and what Feliciano witnessed that day was nothing less than an epic ass kicking as they cruised to a 65-7 victory. The nine-year-old future NFL guard learned his destiny that day.
“That was my first-ever football experience,” he recalls. “The atmosphere of being there in the Orange Bowl, everything is rocking, and then [the Hurricanes] come running out of the smoke… Coming out of the smoke was literally one of the biggest things that drove me to work so hard. I just wanted to be a Miami Hurricane from that moment on.”
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