In Texas, the football field is sacred, and for former wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, the Dallas Cowboys to him were larger than life as a child.
Armstrong’s first love was soccer, but football eventually took the lead and he started as a running back. Through the years, Armstrong’s peers got bigger and stronger while he stayed skinny and worked on his speed.
Though his size was a disadvantage, his heart and soul were fully poured into improving on the gridiron.
“My whole thing was, I enjoyed the game so much,” Armstrong said. “That was big for me, I played in high school and college at West Texas A&M, a Division II school.”
Armstrong’s high school football coach Gerald Roulette made it his mission to get any of his players on the roster into college.
“He made it a point and that was his goal to get as many kids into college as he could off of football,” Armstrong said. “Didn’t matter if you only played three snaps, he was going to actively get you recruited, so he did that for me.”
Colleges came by Armstrong’s alma mater, Newman Smith High School. The wide receiver most desired to be a Seminole or Longhorn. It was his physical stature and his less than flashy resume that ultimately struck down those aspirations
“I would have loved Florida State or the University of Texas,” Armstrong said. “But my size, my statistics, my school success, those [schools] weren’t in the plans just based off of those items.”
He ultimately settled with West Texas. There he earned All-Lone Star Conference honors for two straight years.
It earned Armstrong visits from over 10 teams that included the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers. But out of all those teams, just one showed up for him.
Armstrong didn’t get his hopes up to get drafted high but as the names were called, he got more discouraged.
“I was upset whenever I didn’t hear my name called,” Armstrong said. “I kind of thought something was gonna happen, I didn’t know about free agency or the undrafted rout to the NFL.”
Armstrong started his trek to an NFL roster with the now defunct Odessa Roughnecks indoor football team in his rookie season and the Dallas Desperados arena team the following year. Moving from league to league.
“I put a goal out there to ‘Graduate’ a league every single year,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t want to sit there and play three years in the Intense Football League, that wasn’t gonna fly for me.”
Everything he worked for culminated in his big break in 2010 with the Washington Redskins. Armstrong started 11 games catching 44 passes for 870 yards and three scores.
It was Armstrong’s mission to be quarterback Donovan McNabb’s go-to guy.
“All of those years working and training put me in the best position to take advantage of being in Washington,” Armstrong said. I told myself ‘I wanted to be [Donovan McNabb’s] DeSean Jackson’ The guy who can take the top off [the defense] and make big plays for him and we had a connection in the offseason that carried into the season.”
It wasn’t the big plays he made the year that stick out the most to him, but the opportunity to play against the best the league had to offer.
“That was just a dream come true just to go out a compete against Charles Woodson, DeAngelo Hall,” Armstrong said. “To play alongside Donovan [McNabb], Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, all these big names that you grew up watching, to share the field, to share the locker room with them, it was a dream to be able to do that.”
Today, Armstrong works as a realtor in his home state of Texas. It was far from a seamless transition for a man who played football for almost 30 years.
“Learning the business and growing it, it takes a lot of self-awareness,” Armstrong said. “To now go into a completely new arena where nobody knows you and your past accolades, that can get people to talk to you but can’t get you anymore business necessarily, it was tough,”
Armstrong at first left his NFL career in the past, but has now embraced that as part of his calling card in real estate as it is and always will be a part of him. But now being in business for more than half a decade, Armstrong hopes his business resume will speak for itself when looking for new clients.
In 2018, the former Redskin was a Five Star Real Estate Agent award winner and recognized among as best realtor in D Magazine.
“To actually get those awards, it helped me verify that I was doing the right thing,” Armstrong said. “You can do something and you don’t get any good or bad feedback so you don’t know if it’s right or wrong, and when you get something that says you’re doing it right, it was like ‘Ok I’m doing something right, now how do I make it better.'”
Armstrong compared the real estate business to work as an elite NFL receiver and that you need to be involved in as many deals as you can to keep your value high.
“It’s kind of like Antonio Brown, a high-volume receiver who needs to get a minimum of five receptions and the ball thrown to him at least 10 times to really maximize what he’s going to do for the team and real estate is the same,” Armstrong said. “If you do only one or two deals, it’s really hard to progress and become a better agent, it’s similar to football, you have to go through the repetition.”
Armstrong now a successful realtor, implores current football players to always have something to fallback on for life after football.
“One-hundred percent have a backup plan,” Armstrong said. “What happens to NFL players when we get in there, is we put all these eggs into a basket when a career span is only a couple of years and if you’re not planning along the way to put together different exit strategies, you end up finding yourself behind the eight ball when you get out of the game.”
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