Former Steelers star Rashard Mendenhall finds his voice as a screenwriter on HBO & # 039; s & # 039; Ballers & # 039;

(From left to right) Peter Berg, Rashard Mendenhall and Dwayne Johnson have several roles in & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;. In addition to acting on the program, Johnson and Berg are executive producers. Mendenhall, who made a brief cameo in one episode, had a major impact on the writers room, where he worked for four seasons in the series. He is now a producer

One does not have to be a football fan to appreciate the HBO & # 39; Ballers & # 39;

The show, which will begin its fourth season on Sunday night, focuses on former financial adviser turned NFL player Spencer Strasmore, played by the actor, former wrestler and former defensive tackle of the University of Miami Dwayne & # 39 ; The Rock & # 39; Johnson. But because the story covers much more than the grill, casual fans and not soccer can still follow it.

For those who are versed in the language of sport, the producers of the show have taken the necessary steps to maintain authenticity.

In season two, for example, NFL draft hopeful Travis Mack will be roasted on live television by real-life media personality Jay Glazer on the finer points of playing middle linebacker at the level professional. After some initial difficulties, the character, played by Adam Aalderks, approaches the white board and convincingly offers a highly technical explanation of how he would defend the New England Patriots and tight end star Rob Gronkowski on a particular play.

"Kings staff, tight pistol," Mack begins, as he charts his strategy with a marker. & # 39; I will run a zone coverage of the sponsors pressed. Gronk makes a gesture, I'm going to call a "ringo", drop my corner to send my WILL [weakside linebacker] in the back and [quarterback Tom] Brady better pray to God that he takes the ball away in the fifth step or else the lights go out. "

Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall enjoyed the dialogue: "It was great to see everything that comes to life."

Of course, Mendenhall is partial. He wrote it.

"The play that is drawn on the board, and a lot of that language that comes and goes, I had a lot to see on the set that day," Mendenhall told the Daily Mail.

(From left to right) Peter Berg, Rashard Mendenhall and Dwayne Johnson have several roles in & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;. In addition to acting on the program, Johnson and Berg are executive producers. Mendenhall, who made a brief cameo in one episode, had a major impact on the writers room, where he worked for four seasons in the series. He is now a producer

(From left to right) Peter Berg, Rashard Mendenhall and Dwayne Johnson have several roles in & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;. In addition to acting on the program, Johnson and Berg are executive producers. Mendenhall, who made a brief cameo in one episode, had a major impact on the writers room, where he worked for four seasons in the series. He is now a producer

The Steelers won a Super Bowl in Mendenhall's injury-plagued rookie season, but went on to publish consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh in 2009 and 2010.

The Steelers won a Super Bowl in Mendenhall's injury-plagued rookie season, but went on to publish consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh in 2009 and 2010.

He finished his Arizona career after only one season with the Cardinals in 2013

He finished his Arizona career after only one season with the Cardinals in 2013

The Steelers won a Super Bowl in Mendenhall's injury-plagued rookie season, but went on to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh in 2009 and 2010. He finished his Arizona career after only one season with the Cardinals in 2013

The 31-year-old actor has been writing for the show since production began in 2014. But while it's easy to assume that Mendenhall has the task of adjusting the terminology and adding a bit of realism, the old first-round pick really is using his vision of the complexities of professional football and his ability to tell stories.

"They were not entirely sure what it could bring," said Mendenhall, who recently won a "producer" title. "And as he grew up, they felt he could offer more and be a bigger part of the show."

The executive producers of the series apparently agreed.

"It was pretty clear from the start that he was a guy with a strong outlook," said executive producer Rob Weiss, who previously worked with show creator Stephen Levinson on & # 39; Entourage & # 39; and & # 39; How to do it in the United States & # 39;

"Having been in the NFL and knowing from the position of the player, with the management, what the different agendas are, he had a lot of information."

Mendenhall, who once made a cameo in 'Ballers', did not necessarily want to be a screenwriter when he unexpectedly retired in 2014 at age 26, an age in which most runners are enjoying their best moment .

What I did know was that I had finished with football.

(From left to right) Mendenhall, the creator of & # 39; Ballers & # 39; Stephen Levinson, and former New York Giants star Victor Cruz speak offstage during the production of the HBO series

(From left to right) Mendenhall, the creator of & # 39; Ballers & # 39; Stephen Levinson, and former New York Giants star Victor Cruz speak offstage during the production of the HBO series

(From left to right) Mendenhall, the creator of & # 39; Ballers & # 39; Stephen Levinson, and former New York Giants star Victor Cruz speak offstage during the production of the HBO series

Actor Donovan Carter (center) and Mendenhall (left) talk about the set of & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;, which is the first show in which the former Steelers runner has worked as a screenwriter

Actor Donovan Carter (center) and Mendenhall (left) talk about the set of & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;, which is the first show in which the former Steelers runner has worked as a screenwriter

Actor Donovan Carter (center) and Mendenhall (left) talk about the set of & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;, which is the first show in which the former Steelers runner has worked as a screenwriter

It's not that I hated the game. Football has just finished its course with Mendenhall, who already had a Super Bowl ring and $ 13.8 million in career earnings when he announced his retirement on his Huffington Post blog after his only season with the Arizona Cardinals.

Mendenhall and director Julian Farino (right) work on the fourth season of & # 39; Ballers & # 39;

Mendenhall and director Julian Farino (right) work on the fourth season of & # 39; Ballers & # 39;

Mendenhall and director Julian Farino (right) work on the fourth season of & # 39; Ballers & # 39;

"Even before he was ready or before he could understand it mentally, he had been feeling in the last year that this could be complete, and it may be time to take the next step," he said of his retirement. .

Mendenhall's long-term health certainly played a role in the decision (he wrote "I no longer want to put my body at risk for entertainment" in his retirement position) but that is not the complete picture.

Football was a passion for Mendenhall, it just did not define it. And as long as he earned his living on Sundays, the interests of the Skokie, Illinois native in art, dance, poetry, travel, and long-form writing would be seen as the passing whims of a scaly athlete with too much money and time. free.

With Mendenhall, however, that was not the case.

"You can be yourself, but you feel like you have to prove yourself because people see you in a box so tight that it is placed on you," Mendenhall said.

The publication of Mendenhall's retirement blog allowed him to get out of that box.

He also helped him get a job.

Mendenhall (in gray) along with Johnson (far left), actress Jazmyn Simon, actor Donovan Carter (with blue hat), producer Bret Slater and actor John David Washington

Mendenhall (in gray) along with Johnson (far left), actress Jazmyn Simon, actor Donovan Carter (with blue hat), producer Bret Slater and actor John David Washington

Mendenhall (in gray) along with Johnson (far left), actress Jazmyn Simon, actor Donovan Carter (with blue hat), producer Bret Slater and actor John David Washington

Mendenhall (left), his co-writer Zach Robbins (center) and actor Rob Corddry have been with & # 39; Ballers & # 39; of HBO since the show was launched in 2014. The fourth season starts on Sunday

Mendenhall (left), his co-writer Zach Robbins (center) and actor Rob Corddry have been with & # 39; Ballers & # 39; of HBO since the show was launched in 2014. The fourth season starts on Sunday

Mendenhall (left), his co-writer Zach Robbins (center) and actor Rob Corddry have been with & # 39; Ballers & # 39; of HBO since the show was launched in 2014. The fourth season starts on Sunday

As Mendenhall explained, the blog post "landed on the desk" of Levinson, who previously served as a producer on HBO's "Entourage" and "Boardwalk Empire." (Another soccer player, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has also been involved with & # 39; Ballers & # 39;)

"It was just when they were picked up by HBO, when they got their writing team to start writing the season [in 2014]"Mendenhall said," That's when they approached me, I talked to them a bit, and I got into shape. "

THE BEST MENDENHALL FOOTBALL MOVIES

High school: Varsity Blues (1999)

College: The program (1993)

Pro: Any given Sunday (1999)

Realism may be hard to find in football films, but Rashard Mendenhall appreciated the 1999 film "Any Given Sunday" for the small dose of reality that followed the last motivational speech by coach Tony D & # 39; Amato ( played by Al Pacino).

While most football films prepare the protagonists for success with a lively boisterous chat, the fictional Miami Sharks give a touchdown on the kickoff after D & # 39; Amato's speech.

"That was fun because that also happens," Mendenhall said. "The" rah rah "is more for the younger levels, in the NFL and in most places, it's more solid and more sophisticated, it's about the work we have at hand and what will happen in the next half." .

Mendenhall had no formal training as a screenwriter and was eager to get it, but Levinson told him that the best way to learn was to do it in the writing room and not in classrooms or workshops.

For someone accustomed to collaborative efforts, Mendenhall did not take long to adapt to the writer's room.

"As we set the arc of the story, and we got into the different characters, everything we do in the room seemed very natural to me," he said. "I learned from them on the road."

For others, it was obvious that Mendenhall knew how to work within the confines of a team.

& # 39; It's patient [in the writers’ room]"Weiss said," He's not just throwing anything out there, he's definitely a thinker, he has a strong opinion and he's not afraid to show that. "

Soon, Mendenhall was consumed by the process.

As a writer, he explained, it was exciting to see how his work came to life, particularly the aspects that applied to his own trip from the NFL.

"I think that's pretty parallel, somehow, with Spencer Strasmore, our main character," said Weiss of Mendenhall.

Like Strasmore, Mendenhall has had problems with other people's preconceptions about what an athlete can and can not be. Now, in their new roles, both struggle to be respected.

It's something Mendenhall has been fighting for since his days as a player, and it's only through writing that he has been able to challenge the way the world perceives it.

A lot of time can be suffocating because your personality can extend beyond [your current career], & # 39; he said.

Many of Mendenhall's former co-workers face a similar problem.

The current Mendenhall office, the writers room & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;, is more comfortable than the previous one.

The current Mendenhall office, the writers room & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;, is more comfortable than the previous one.

The current Mendenhall office, the writers room & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;, is more comfortable than the previous one.

In 2008, Mendenhall went to his old high school in Skokie, Illinois to announce that he would resign his final year at the University of Illinois to enter the NFL Draft. Six years later, he would write a blog post, announcing that he had finished with the game he had played since childhood.

In 2008, Mendenhall went to his old high school in Skokie, Illinois to announce that he would resign his final year at the University of Illinois to enter the NFL Draft. Six years later, he would write a blog post, announcing that he had finished with the game he had played since childhood.

In 2008, Mendenhall went to his old high school in Skokie, Illinois to announce that he would resign his final year at the University of Illinois to enter the NFL Draft. Six years later, he would write a blog post, announcing that he had finished with the game he had played since childhood.

Starting in 2016, with then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, NFL players have been attacked for protesting inequality and police brutality against minorities by refusing to stand during the national anthem.

Former 49ers players like Colin Kaepernick (left) and Eric Reid (right) used the NFL platform to raise awareness about inequality and police brutality against minorities

Former 49ers players like Colin Kaepernick (left) and Eric Reid (right) used the NFL platform to raise awareness about inequality and police brutality against minorities

Former 49ers players like Colin Kaepernick (left) and Eric Reid (right) used the NFL platform to raise awareness about inequality and police brutality against minorities

And although Kaepernick has been out of the league for more than a year, the uproar over the protests has only increased since President Donald Trump has continued to hit the league and its staff in the controversial but peaceful demonstrations.

For many, including Trump, the message of the NFL players is not valid because it comes from millionaire athletes who have no right to political statements.

"They're making $ 15 million a year," Trump told Fox News in June, adding, "They should not get involved in politics." (The average NFL player actually makes $ 2.1 million a year, according to Forbes)

Mendenhall sees players who protest as trapped: on the one hand, they have a platform that can lead to change, but it is the same platform that somehow nullifies their message.

"It's kind of like Colin Kaepernick, with the peaceful protests," Mendenhall said. "No matter how he says it or does it, he feels as if he could catch him for it, he can be blamed for it." It's hard to have to take it and endure a lot of that, but in reality there is not a balanced or fair and open platform so you can talk to him [as a player]. & # 39;

Mendenhall and his new wife Sandy Romah are in post production in a documentary titled "The Hustler", which also directed

Mendenhall and his new wife Sandy Romah are in post production in a documentary titled "The Hustler", which also directed

Mendenhall and his new wife Sandy Romah are in post production in a documentary titled "The Hustler", which also directed

Somehow, this kind of dilemma is what attracted Mendenhall to fiction writing in the first place.

Audiences are not always receptive to direct appeals, as the besieged Kaepernick may claim. But fiction, even at its most controversial point, can initiate a dialogue that otherwise would not have been possible.

"From the beginning of time, with regard to writers and narrators, they know what it is to try to express different things about society, which can not be expressed openly and openly, but can be expressed in a story or in a point of view, "said Mendenhall.

Mendenhall has always been interested in meditation and martial arts, two things that he takes much more seriously since he left the NFL at the end of the 2013 season.

Mendenhall has always been interested in meditation and martial arts, two things that he takes much more seriously since he left the NFL at the end of the 2013 season.

Mendenhall has always been interested in meditation and martial arts, two things that he takes much more seriously since he left the NFL at the end of the 2013 season.

Writing for a series of HBO may not be as subversive as Moliere's criticisms of Catholicism or French society, but "Ballers" It does address the problems facing professional football and the concept of masculinity in American society. (Weiss is quick to point out that the program does not do this retroactively, but actually tries to have some foresight with such issues)

Unlike the players that American fans watch on Sundays, the characters in & # 39; Ballers & # 39; They express genuine fears about future injuries and persistent head trauma. They also express insecurity, which is a taboo subject in the relentlessly macho NFL.

For those who know him, the theme is a natural complement to the humble and refreshing and practical Mendenhall.

"We were sitting there with Sizzle one day," Weiss said, referring to Suggs, a 265-pound former NFL defensive player of the year who holds the Ravens franchise record for lifetime serves. "We realized that Sizzle is about two and a half times the size of Rashard.

& # 39; Rashard was talking about having possession [on a particular play with Suggs in pursuit], & # 39; Weiss continued. Sizzle was talking about how he was going to look for Rashard and how the boundaries of Rashard were over.

"I looked at Rashard, and he said:" Man, I'm not stupid. "

Mendenhall had two 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh, but he also suffered significant injuries

Mendenhall had two 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh, but he also suffered significant injuries

Mendenhall had two 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh, but he also suffered significant injuries

These spontaneous moments with high profile athletes are usually not seen by fans, but they are an integral part of the show and one of the main reasons why Mendenhall fits so well in the writer's room.

"It's not really an opportunity for Rashard to write something purely autobiographical," Weiss said. "It's how it fuses with the other characters that already exist in the story lines we've all created, and I think it does it effectively."

Ballers is not the only Mendenhall project.

In addition to his deep interest in martial arts and meditation, two things he practices almost every day and that he often combines, Mendenhall and his new wife Sandy Romah are in post production in a documentary titled "The Hustler," which also directed . .

"I think the only value of Rashard Mendenhall is writing about football?" Weiss asked rhetorically. & # 39; The answer is no. & # 39;

Mendenhall played for a 10-6 team in Arizona in 2013 that did not make it to the playoffs

Mendenhall played for a 10-6 team in Arizona in 2013 that did not make it to the playoffs

Mendenhall played for a 10-6 team in Arizona in 2013 that did not make it to the playoffs

The future of Mendenhall is no more true now than when he walked away from football in 2014. Even for someone with HBO credits in his name, future screenwriting jobs are nothing guaranteed. ('Friend, I do not even know what future I have for screen writing', laughed Weiss, who has been in show business since he wrote and directed the 1993 film & # 39; Among Friends & # 39;).

But for Mendenhall, the decision to retire from football was, without a doubt, the right decision: the moment coincided with the beginning of & # 39; Ballers & # 39 ;, which became the next chapter of his life, and his departure gave Mendenhall the opportunity to learn about himself away from the grill.

His life has always been about football. Now, without the game, he is free to become who he wants to be.

"The physical aspect is over," he said. & # 39; The warrior withdrew … It's finding your next me, what it looks like and who you are other than that warrior. Life does not work like it does in the countryside. You take those skills and apply them to a new world in new ways. "

"Everything I learned, what I feel about my career, what I entered now, I feel everything has been perfect."

MENDENHALL REWORKS HER BODY

By Alex Raskin, Sports News Editor for DailyMail.com

Rashard Mendenhall left football, in part, to preserve his body.

However, what he learned in his retirement was that simply getting away from the game was not enough.

"For me, from the beginning, when I stopped for the first time, it was as if I wanted to take a break and stop moving," Mendenhall told the Daily Mail. "At first I was not exercising and moving so much, so at first I was probably It was like 235 [pounds] – something like that. I did not like how I felt and I could feel my energy being bottled because I was not exercising.

"I was activated mentally and creatively," he said. "And I thought that would be enough, but then I realized," Naw, I'm still an athlete, I have to keep moving. "

The problem was that Mendenhall's body had spent six years in the NFL.

As a rookie in 2008, Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis fractured Mendenhall's shoulder, which proved to be an injury that ended the season.

After consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh, Mendenhall broke his anterior cruciate ligament in 2011 and subsequently only played 21 more games.

After consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh, Mendenhall broke his anterior cruciate ligament in 2011 and subsequently only played 21 more games.

After consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Pittsburgh, Mendenhall broke his anterior cruciate ligament in 2011 and subsequently only played 21 more games.

Then, in the last week of the 2011 campaign, Mendenhall suffered an injury that cut him off the season when he broke the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The ligament was repaired, and he finally played a year in Arizona in 2013 before hanging his studs.

The experience, he felt, pushed his body back several years.

"There were things I did not even know was there," he said. "After my ACL, I felt that I never regained the strength in my right leg in the same way, so while making the transition, I was taking many of these injuries and strengthening my right leg, I worked with many injuries."

As Mendenhall explained, he shot at 235 pounds after retiring, which was a lot for someone who measured 6 feet 1 and 210 pounds before the 2008 NFL Draft, typical for an NFL running back.

Not that it had to be in the form of a game, but Mendenhall wanted to find a place, physically, where he felt comfortable again.

Fortunately for Mendenhall, who had already been interested in martial arts and meditation, he was able to develop a low-impact exercise routine that combined those two passions.

"To help with my transition, I created a meditation practice," he explained. & # 39; I've been moving a lot. It has elements of martial arts, but through that and moving more now, I am now lighter. "

Now, Mendenhall estimates that his weight is closer to 212 or 215, and says he feels as good as ever.

Rashard Mendenhall, seen here with volleyball legend Gabrielle Reece (near the right) and his wife Sandy (far right), has worked his body through martial arts and meditation

Rashard Mendenhall, seen here with volleyball legend Gabrielle Reece (near the right) and his wife Sandy (far right), has worked his body through martial arts and meditation

Rashard Mendenhall, seen here with volleyball legend Gabrielle Reece (near the right) and his wife Sandy (far right), has worked his body through martial arts and meditation

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