Before you can lead, you have to learn how to follow. Before you can speak, you have to learn how to listen.
I'm a leader now and a captain of this team. But I had to learn how to become one first.
The Denver Broncos picked me up as an undrafted free agent in 2008, and I was able to grow up in the league with older guys like Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins. They were great role models for me, just seeing the way they carried themselves on and off the field.
And then when Peyton Manning came in, he had this pure business mindset. No matter what it takes, do your job and get it done. He changed the whole culture of that team. For one guy to be able to do that to a locker room, it speaks a lot about the kind of leader he is.
Those guys were the perfect example that actions speak louder than words. In football, the most important thing as a leader is having strong play on the field, and it's a guarantee that guys will just learn to gravitate to you. Champ, Brian and PM – they proved that. But when you are a leader, especially as a captain, your teammates will be looking at you, whether you're winning or losing, to see how you're reacting in bad situations and good situations. They're looking to see if you're the same person through it all. I learned a lot about leadership from those guys in Denver, and now I try to emulate that as a leader on this team.
Outside of football, I learned from some different leaders. Their names will never end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but undoubtedly, they have had the greatest impact on my life.
My mom, Edna Rutledge: She would work day and night to provide for my brother and me, always making a way out of nothing. I can remember her sacrificing her Christmases just so that I could have one. She has always sacrificed for me. She taught me about the importance of community, fully believing in the truth that "it takes a village to raise a child."
My older brother, Jazmon Griggs: He's the reason why I started playing the game of football. He showed me how to take a leap of faith when it comes to what I want to do in life. If I want to grow, if I want my dreams and goals to get big, then I've just got to believe and take the leap of faith. He taught me that.
My cousin, Derrick Kelley: He's one of the main reasons why I went to college. He took me on all of my college visits. He saw something in me that a lot of people may not have seen. He was a guy that made a lot of sacrifices and missed work just so I could have a chance to go to college. He never asked for a penny. All he wanted me to do was be a positive role model and a positive citizen in return.
I think we all need our community to make it. I'm proof of that, both in life and in football. What my mom, brother and cousin taught me—how to sacrifice, how to go after big dreams and how to be a role model—shaped me into the man I am today. That's why I started the 16 Ways Foundation several years ago to help at-risk youth across the country. Because I've always had the support of a community, it's always touched my heart to make sure I give back and do my part in keeping the community strong.
When it comes to football, this may be year nine for me, but I feel younger than I felt at 25. And the thing about it is, I still love this game and I have so much more love to give for the game and to the players coming in. I try to share with these guys on the team the experiences I've been through. I try to stay on top of them, making sure that they don't let up on the practice field or in the classroom. And most importantly, I'm not afraid of hard work. Actions do speak louder than words.
I don't want to put a cap on how many years I have left, but when my playing days are over, I want to be remembered first as a Christian, as a guy who put his teammates before himself and a guy who laid it all on the field. I want to be remembered as a true competitor, a man of God and somebody who loved the team. I want to be remembered as a leader.