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Too Legit to Quit: A Case for Josh Gordon

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When the New England Patriots announced they were bringing a new wide receiver to their team, most fans were shocked at their acquisition.

Instead of another small, shifty wide receiver whose name was not widely known, they snagged Josh Gordon. His talent was off the charts and, when healthy, he was a No. 1 wide receiver.

Unfortunately, Gordon brought with him a substantial amount of baggage. A young man with the knowledge and aptitude to bring an offense to the playoffs was welcomed. However, it was his off-the-field antics that kept him in question by many across the league.

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Josh Gordon was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. His production during the first two seasons was unmatched. However, during his second season in the league, he was suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. This would soon be a recurring sight for the receiver. The next few seasons showed that football was not the number one priority for Gordon. Instead of continuing to succeed on the gridiron, he was stripped of the ability to play the game.

When a player in the NFL has trouble with substance abuse, he is required to enter a rehabilitation program for assistance. Although he made it through the program, he was prohibited from returning to the league due to failing the drug tests again. At this point, a decision needed to be made on whether he would continue to play football or attempt to rehabilitate his life. In the end, Josh Gordon made the decision to take care of himself. However, his return to the league was not one that anyone saw coming.

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Josh Gordon to the… New England Patriots?!

During the 2018 season, a shocking announcement stated that the Cleveland Browns were making a trade with the New England Patriots. To everyone’s surprise, Gordon, who was recently reinstated to the league, was becoming a Patriot. Instead of being widely accepted, many doubted that Gordon was playing for the right reasons.

Someone who had barely played a few snaps since the 2013 season was again stepping onto the gridiron. This time, he was under the watchful eye of coach Bill Belichick and catching passes from Tom Brady. How could it be that this organization would be willing to take him under their wing? Especially since his past caused a lot of commotion and the Patriots were known for “ignoring the noise.” Time would soon show, however, that “Flash” Gordon, was ready to play.

Throughout his time with the New England Patriots, it seemed that this was the perfect landing spot for Gordon. He thrived with the team and connected so well with Tom Brady. In fact, it was only fitting that Brady’s 500th career touchdown pass was caught by none other than Gordon. Over the 11-game span he had with the team, he hauled in 40 receptions for 720 yards and three touchdowns.

His production on the field was stellar considering the trouble he had in the past. Many throughout the Patriots organization and even the NFL credited his success to the mentoring by Brady and the hard-working environment that the Patriots created. It was almost too perfect of a domain for the wide receiver to roam.

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Suddenly, the success seemed too great a burden to bear. In December of 2018, news swept the NFL that Josh Gordon was stepping away from football, this time to take care of his mental health. Shortly after that breaking news, the NFL announced that they would be suspending the wide receiver for violating his reinstatement terms. This was now his fifth suspension in the NFL and the probable end of his career.

Through trials and troubles, life must go on. 

After the news circulated the league and Josh Gordon was removed from the Patriots facility, many began to wonder. What state was the receiver in and how would the team move forward from this? In true New England fashion, the Patriots released statements in support of Gordon, wishing him well and praying for a speedy recovery. They stood behind him as a person first and a football player second. This showed that through all of the trials, they still believed that he could be healthy.

Josh Gordon entered a rehabilitation program and sought assistance with his off-field recreational habits. Instead of being a part of the football team that seemed to succeed with him, he had to watch from afar. Daily, he needed to make a choice regarding his future.

Did he want to continue to play a sport where he excelled in or would his habits take over his lifestyle?

His future ahead was bright, but the weight of his personal choices loomed larger than his dreams. To some, this was surely the end and Gordon’s career would halt faster than it began.

Fortunately, this season did not end bitterly for the wide receiver. Although he was suspended, he did play 11 games with the Patriots. Because of these accomplishments, he will be receiving a Super Bowl ring with the team. This gave fans of the team hope, that maybe success could be a factor in his changed ways.

However, the real factor in his changed ways needs to be a willingness and heart to change. Mental health, while not necessarily spoken about widely in the NFL, seems to capture the attention of many. Small decisions in life lead to addictions which form habits that are hard to break. On-the-field performance can only be measured under the watchful eyes of coaches and teammates. When practices and games have finished, one can no longer expect to be accountable to anyone but themselves.

Too legit to quit.

In the case of Josh “Flash” Gordon, it is imperative to note the following: the only one who will be willing to break his habits must be he, himself. No environment, Super Bowl ring, or celebrity status will change that. Every decision that comes across his plate will be met with opportunities.

On one hand, he can choose to move forward to a place where he can thrive, as a human being.

On the other hand, he can continue to pursue his dreams of playing in the NFL.

Has he accomplished everything he wanted in life now as a football player?

From the outside looking in, Gordon has had a trying time in the NFL. His adversity was not discovered while playing professional football. In fact, he brought these tribulations with him from a young age. He has played with two professional teams over the course of seven years. The end of this season, although cut short, also brought him a championship ring, the kind everyone dreams of playing for. So what will this offseason bring?

Gordon is still young and has his entire life ahead of him. The goals that he set have been accomplished, although not entirely in the way he envisioned. His physical and mental state means more to his family and friends than his ability to play a sport. Unfortunately, football does not last forever. Instead of putting his body through strenuous activity, he should renew his mind and spirit. Any human being would be grateful for the opportunity to walk away on their own and spend time with the people who mean the most to them.

If failure means admitting that you cannot handle life by yourself, then bring it on.

If failure requires you to ask for help, then ask away.

It would be a win in many people’s eyes if Josh Gordon can destroy the mental demons surrounding his mind.

When this happens, he can finally say that he has happily succeeded in life.

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