Professional athletes don’t always make the best interviews. That’s less to do with their personalities and more the result of tight-lipped media training. But as futile as it can be to nab a good quote from sports stars, we accept their blank responses and one-word replies because it all adds to their mystique. Then, in the rare instances when athletes do open up and divulge their secrets, we pay extra attention to what they have to say.
Men’s Health had the good fortune this year of interviewing dozens of the biggest names in the world of sports, from clutch NFL quarterbacks to UFC champs to grizzled NHL vets. As part of our continuing year-end coverage, we chose the best quotes from these athletes—the words that, because they come from the mouths of our battle-tested heroes, provide an extra dose of inspiration in the times we need it most.
10. “Personally, adversity makes me hungrier. I thrive on being able to make a way out of no way, and I just feed it all to my teammates to get them to believe the same thing. Adverse situations really bring out the best players.”
—NFL All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, who knew a thing or two about adversity this year: His Minnesota Vikings team will finish the 2011 season with one of the worst records in the NFL.
9. ”Why focus on the negative when I can use this situation to go out there and help the world? I’m going to be able to raise a lot of awareness and a lot of money for charity, and it keeps me going, knowing I’m running for something much bigger than myself.”
—Former professional soccer player (and Survivor winner) Ethan Zohn, who ran the New York City Marathon earlier this fall shortly after receiving news of a cancer relapse. Zohn is donating the money he raised from the marathon to Grassroot Soccer, which trains soccer stars to educate African youth about how to avoid HIV.
8. “I have to get the most out of my days, so how do I do that? Maybe that means not staying up as late at night, and knowing that you have to work hard during the day. As long as you can be really efficient, you’ll also make time for fun.”
—NBA star Kris Humphries, on the struggle of balancing work (the free agent spent 2011 with the New Jersey Nets, in addition to owning and operating several Five Guys franchises) with play (his marriage to starlet Kim Kardashian lasted a brisk 72 days).
7. “If you feel good with what you’re wearing, it’s going to make you feel good about yourself. And when you know you look good, you’re always going to walk around with your head higher.”
—Rickie Fowler, the flashy pro golfer who sports blindingly bright neon shirts, fitted flat-brimmed caps turned backwards, and zigzagged shoes to exude confidence on the green.
6. “When you’re doing something for a higher purpose, you can always do more than you think. A lot of it is mental. You can’t let the mind tell the body what it can’t do.”
—Former NHL star Pat LaFontaine, who scored more than 1,000 points in a hall-of-fame career with the Islanders, Sabres, and Rangers. In September, LaFontaine and fellow vet Steve Webb completed a 500-mile charity bike ride from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto to the NHL store in New York City in just 48 hours.
5. “That’s basically what you need to do—whether it’s a small or big mistake like this, you need to learn from it, put it in the past as fast as you can, and move forward in a better fashion.”
—Oakland Athletics slugger Coco Crisp, who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in March during spring training. Crisp came back strong after the incident, playing in his most games since 2007 and swiping a career-high 49 stolen bases.
4. “A lot of people, once they feel uncomfortable, will simply stop whatever they’re doing. But I believe in order to succeed at anything, you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
—UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones, who had an electrifying 2011 in the Octagon. Jones defeated his opponents in four title matches this year thanks to intense physical and mental preparation.
3. “A lot gets thrown at athletes these days, and everyone is trying to pull you one way or the other. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that the most important thing is to take care of—and to be true to—yourself.”
—America’s biggest soccer star, Landon Donovan, who capped 2011 by winning his second MLS cup with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Donovan admitted that the money he’s made from soccer is secondary to the joy he gets from playing the game.
2. “But I realize that this is a different world. Everything I did in the past and things I’ve been involved in, I realize that they don’t exist if I don’t allow them to exist. So we have to try new things in this world, and we have to go forward and leave that old stuff in the past.”
– Boxing legend (and budding movie star) Mike Tyson, who doesn’t dwell on his troubled past, especially incidents like biting off his rival Evander Holyfield’s ear in the ring and spending three years in prison on rape charges.
1. “The danger is not to set your goal too high and fail to reach it. It’s to set your goal too low and reach it.”
—UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, whose Zen-like mantras, intense training strategies, and methodical fighting style earned him widespread acclaim (and the MH March cover) in 2011.
For tons of interviews, fitness tips and success secrets from today’s biggest athletes, check out Men’s Health Celebrity Fitness.
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