Catching Passes From Joe Montana to President of Healthcare Company

Catching Passes From Joe Montana to President of Healthcare Company
February 22 17:57 2016 Print This Article

At 5’10” and just 157 lbs, JJ Birden was the smallest guy in the NFL. Despite that JJ played 9 successful years in the NFL, catching many passes from Joe Montana, one of the greatest QB’s ever. After retiring from football in 1997 JJ entered the business world, and is now the president of Team X 88 Inc, a company name that oversee’s the “JJ Birden” brand. The goal with his brand is to “help individuals live healthier lifestyles physically, mentally and financially.”  I had the honor of speaking with JJ about the journey from sports to business; here’s what I asked, and here’s what JJ told me.

Jay:  In life you’ve got to recognize your gifts and use them to the best of your ability. There is no place where that is more apparent than in sports. How has that mindset helped you as you left sports and went into business? 

JJ: In sports you’re competing at every stage. You need to compete to get on a team, then you need to compete to stay on the team, it never ends. It’s all up to you. If you want to stay relevant you need to keep working. For me I was the smallest guy in the NFL, and I was trying to prove I belonged. I knew I had the ability and I had to invest the time to learn and grow as a player.

Jay: You say you believed you had the ability and you were going to do everything to prove you belonged in the NFL. But how do you know if you really belong or if you’re fooling yourself and you need to look elsewhere? The same scenario happens in business all the time. Until what point do you stick with it until you succeed and at what point do you stop and say “This is not for me I’ll move on?” 

JJ: Great question Jay, and honestly it’s the toughest question for anyone to really answer. What I can tell you is two important points I personally worked with. #1 You absolutely must indentify your strengths and your weaknesses. For me it was clear, I was playing in the NFL as the shortest and smallest player in the entire league. I could exercise all I wanted but I wasn’t going to get any taller. In the end, it was because I was small that I was able to succeed. I qualified for the Olympic Trials Track & Field team in the long jump.  It was only after an unfortunate knee injury that my attention moved towards football. When I came into the league, I knew I was quick, so I spent all my efforts leveraging my quickness to get around the biggest players. It took me a while, but once I got it figured out I was unstoppable.

#2 Whether you’re in business or sports, always look to veteran players. People talk about it all the time, but don’t truly appreciate it. Everywhere I went and every team I was on I always went to the veteran players to get advice. So many young guys don’t want to do that and think they can figure things out on their own. It’s just not possible. If you want to succeed ask those people around you with the experience. I’ll share a quick story with you. A little while ago I attended a Chiefs reunion. Chris Penn who was a rookie WR during the ’94 season, approached me,  I hadn’t seen hime in over 15 years. He came running over to me and the first thing he said to me was “JJ you have no idea how much you helped me and my career. I never had the chance to thank you, but I always wanted to let you know how much it meant to me”. At that time I was the veteran and I felt it was my obligation to give back to the younger guys what I had learned. I didn’t teach him how to play football, he was a great player on his own, but advice from someone who’s been around is always valuable. Wherever you are, always ask others for advice.

Jay: Let me try to understand this JJ. You started out on a track team headed towards the Olympics. You tore your ACL in your knee at the Cleveland Browns mini-camp after the draft, and had to give all that up. When you change direction and get into the NFL you realize, you’re the smallest guy around in a league that wants to eat you for lunch. You find a way to succeed and catch passes from Joe Montana, one of the greatest QB’s of all time. Now you’ve retired, written an Amazon best seller and are the president of your company. How do you work through so many setbacks and continue to succeed on such a high level?

JJ:  There’s no question its tough, but for me it was always about setting a goal. What I found as the difference between those who succeeded and those who didn’t, was a clear goal. Life is always going to be tough, whether it’s in sports or in business. In sports I had to study, work hard, and perfect my craft, but I always had a goal. That mentality and mental toughness helped me succeed in sports, and prepared me for the challenges I faced when I got into business. When I decided I wanted to write a book, I had no idea what the process was, and there were many times where I thought I just couldn’t do it. But the fact that I had a clear vision about what my goal was helped me stay focused.  If you have the goal that’s truly important to you and you want it badly, then the process to get there is not an obstacle, rather the process becomes the foundation of your success.

JJ BirdenJJ was born in Portland, Oregon and attended the University of Oregon where he was a standout track star. He then became the first proto-type track star to successfully “walk on” and excel at football for the Oregon Ducks. In 1988, he was drafted as a NFL Wide Receiver for the Cleveland Browns. After enjoying nine productive seasons in the NFL, JJ retired in 1997. Since leaving the NFL, JJ has owned and operated several profitable businesses in the health and wellness industry. JJ is a qualified coach, entrepreneur, fitness consultant, motivational speaker, and enjoys being a father to his 8 children. JJ is now a best-seling author as he just released his first book When Opportunity Knocks 8 Surefire Ways to Take Advantage. He wrote this book to encourage people from all walks of life to seize their opportunities in life. You can order it at