INDIANAPOLIS – Less than two weeks after the disappointment of losing in Super Bowl XLIV, Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney(notes) had to deal with another moderately troubling moment: He turned 30.
To be sure, it wasn't exactly a life-altering moment, but it gave him cause to consider the future and what life might have in store for him when he's no longer playing football.
And perhaps has a chance to get involved in a serious relationship.
Freeney talked about life after football, the complexities of dating, the injured right ankle that became such a big story leading up to the Super Bowl and much more during an interview with Yahoo! Sports earlier this month:
Jason Cole: You just turned 30. Does that change your perspective on football?
Dwight Freeney: I think it starts to sink in around this time, at 29, 30, 31. You start to think about life after football. At some point, you have to start building something so that when it's all said and done, what are you going to do after football is gone? Those thoughts start to come in. When you're younger and you first come into the league, you don't think like that. You're young, you're hungry, you go out and make some plays, then go party and that's it. Then you start the next year off and do it again. Now it's like, what am I going to do when I am 35, 36, 37? Who knows? Do I even want to play that long? I might still be able to play that long, but do I want my body to endure that much punishment for another five or six years? You start to think about those things. What do I want to do? Retire and go play golf every day? Do I want to start another business? Those are the kinds of thoughts that hit at 30.
Cole: You're a smart guy. You graduated, got your degree. Education was important in your family. You see a bigger world than a lot of other guys. So what are some of those thoughts?
Freeney: You put people around you with good business sense. You make sure everything is in order. For instance, if I have assistants, financial investments, I make sure everything is lined up so that if the worst thing were to happen, what can I do? I have a lot of interests in entertainment. I might find myself doing a Michael Strahan(notes) thing, try some acting. Things of that nature are what I think about. I try to think about what my strengths are outside of football.
Cole: Speaking of acting, are you still going out with Nia Long?
Freeney: Nah, she's just a friend.
Cole: OK, but you have some exposure to that lifestyle.
Freeney: Yes, yes, I've met a lot of people in that industry. You never know who you're going to meet, and you never know how they're going to start influencing your direction and where you go. I'm around a lot of that entertainment stuff, so you never know. It could be like something what [Strahan] is doing, or it could be something behind the scenes, producing, something of that nature. Finding something that sparks your interest, something to spark you when you're done. I'm not married, I don't have any kids, so it's a little different for me.
Cole: What's up with that?
Freeney: I just haven't found anybody, and trust me, I'm not in any rush. I've seen what that's all about for a lot of guys – it's a visual thing. I'll just leave it at that.
Cole: How hard is it for you to find a woman who you completely trust when you are who you are?
Freeney: It becomes tough. It becomes tough because you don't really know what people's intentions are. When you grow up, it's different. You're in high school and you have a high school sweetheart, whatever. The people you have known, nothing is too serious. She's isn't looking at you saying, "Oh, he's going to make this much money." But now, people are coming up to meet you like, "You need to meet this guy because he's paid. He's this, he's that, he's going to take care of you." You don't know, so things take a lot longer now to really get into that serious relationship part because I'm going to see if she's really genuine. Or is she not? Is she going to wait four or five months, then turn around and say, "This is taking too long, I'm out of here?" Or is she going to be here for the long run. I'm going to see how she acts in the long run. Is she consistent? That's how you have to be. I am not going to jump into anything fast. Whoever is going to be there is going to be there for a while. I'm going to figure out her patterns. Is she really personable or is she putting on an act?
Cole: Does that sort of suck?
Freeney: Yeah, it does. Honestly, it does. You can't just meet somebody and say, "Oh yeah, this is the one." You say, "This could be the one." And I wait and I wait and it's too much sometimes.
Cole: So you're never open to just letting yourself go?
Freeney: I always have the brakes on. I'm always pumping the brakes if it's moving too fast. If it's good, I may give this woman a little more time, but you just don't know. You just don't know what somebody's true intentions are. The stuff going on today is just horrible.
Cole: Was there one relationship where you thought it was going to work and then it just blew up?
Freeney: Absolutely, absolutely. It blew up. All of a sudden it was, "Pay for this, pay for that." I was like, "Huh? OK, I'll talk to you later." Then the relationship started to fade away. It's just how it goes a lot of times. It's unfortunate and sometimes they talk a great game and then all of a sudden it's bad. Sometimes it's not like that, it's good, but then it's like normal folks and you find out you're not compatible. I've already got this first set of issues and then we have to throw on the other normal things that go on with anybody. I have a giant one, which is money and fame, so are you attracted to me the player because of the money I make, the lifestyle?
Cole: How's the ankle?
Freeney: It's fine, just a little scar tissue in there.
Cole: So how do you deal with that?
Freeney: Just some stretching and some therapy to loosen it up. It's going to be fine.
Cole: Who's the toughest quarterback for you to play against?
Freeney: I think one of the toughest quarterbacks I've played against was Steve McNair(notes). Steve had the ability to run, then you'd hit him to bring him down, but he'd shrug it off. You felt like you were hitting a wall. He could scramble to run, scramble to throw. He had presence, and he wasn't scared to sit in there and take a hit. You couldn't rattle him. You try to take his head off, and he'd get up like nothing happened and I'm dizzy. That was one of the toughest guys I have ever played against.
Outside of him, Tom Brady(notes) has great pocket presence, also. It's not always about how fast you can get out of the pocket. It's about knowing where to step up in the pocket and knowing where your strengths are on your offensive line, knowing where your protection is, and being able to go to those different spots. I think Tom does a great job at that and his poise is unmatched. It's like he's in practice just throwing. If you hit him, he crumbles, but it's like he just gets right back up. He's not a hard person to tackle, but it's like his poise makes it seem like you're not even bothering him. He's not flinching. He's just sitting there calm and collected.
Cole: How about offensive tackles?
Freeney: Jonathan Ogden(notes) would be No. 1, but I think I had the benefit here of going up against Tarik Glenn. Tarik was one of the toughest tackles I have gone against. I just happened to go up against him in practice after practice after practice. I would bang with him and he would just get me ready for those games. He got me ready to become what I was going to become. Going against Tarik every day, trying to beat him, he would go against you every play, and he was a big man. He would punish you.
Cole: I saw some quote from your mom. She said she never wanted you to play football. Is that true?
Freeney: My brother kind of paved the way. My brother kind of slipped through the cracks. He started playing first, which then gave me the opportunity to jump right in there. He's three years older than me. He played his senior year. I was a freshman (at Bloomfield High in Connecticut), but I didn't play football that year. I played soccer. I was the goalie. Once he played, she couldn't stop me, so I played my sophomore year and then from then on.
Cole: How did he finagle that?
Freeney: She wasn't adamant about it. It wasn't like, "You can't play football." She was like, "I don't want you to play football." If you asked her for permission like, "Can I please?" She'd be like, "I don't know. I don't want you to get hurt."
Cole: So she wasn't like the Berlin Wall?
Freeney: No, she was just concerned about our safety. You know how mothers are.
Cole: Yeah but there are some others who are like, "Get your butt out on the field."
Freeney: Oh yeah, I'm sure. But my mother is Caribbean, and they don't know anything about football. They know soccer. They're Jamaican, that's football over there. Now, it's totally different. [My parents] know the game, she comes to every game. She's there every Sunday.
Cole: Is she like Ray Allen's mom?
Freeney: Oh yeah, definitely. She's shouting, "That's what I'm talking about." She's got the jersey going. The whole deal.
Cole: OK, we have the World Cup on right now. Do you ever think, "If I had just stuck with the soccer …?"
Freeney (Laughing) Oh no, I'm not like that. Soccer didn't get big in this country until the last couple years. I know they're still doing the MLS, whatever it is. But it still hasn't blown up yet. When I was growing up, we didn't have any leagues like that. I didn't even know what I was thinking then, I was just enjoying the game. I wasn't thinking, "I want to go to college for soccer and be a professional soccer player." No, it was football, basketball and baseball. I was a football fanatic, I was a basketball fanatic and I was a baseball fanatic. Soccer was just something I did because I was good at it, and it was my roots. I grew up around a lot Caribbean people. They played. My dad didn't play, my mom didn't play, but some of my friends who were from Trinidad and those countries, they played.