MILWAUKEE — The NFL off-season is in full swing, with free agency is set to begin Wednesday, March 14. A former Badgers’ player knows about cashing in during free agency, but he also knows a lot about giving back.
Take a look at Kevin Zeitler, and it is obvious that he is staying in tip-top shape during the NFL off-season, but he’s also finding time to influence those who look up to him. For instance, on a Sunday night in February, he was at his former high school, Wisconsin Lutheran.
“We’re talking to a lot of younger kids today, middle school. Back when I was in middle school, no one would have said that I would be in the NFL right now, so getting a message across of working hard and following your dreams right?” said Zeitler.
FOX6’s Tim Van Vooren: “Are you a good public speaker?”
“Not the best, but I have been improving. I was very quiet back in high school and I think anyone you ask, I’ve become a lot more vocal. As you know, I’ve been out and I am learning the more I talk, the more impact I can have,” said Zeitler.
Zeitler has been an impact player on the field since his prep days. He won a lot of games and developed into an NFL first round draft choice at the University of Wisconsin. After five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, he became the highest paid player at his position in the NFL — signing a five-year, $60 million contract with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent. That’s meant a lot of money and a lot of losing.
“There’s actually so many times that I quit playing football, like back when I was in eighth grade,” Zeitler said. “I just had an awful year and I just hated…I didn’t think I’d play in high school. Going back to my freshman year at Wisconsin, it was just such a tough transition for me. I just wanted to leave. There were so many opportunities where I could have just left, but I kept pushing and pushing. You keep going and it’s like wow, look where I am at.”
Zeitler said he hopes that his perspective on all things life, including going 0-16 this past season, allows him to connect with his audience. His life is good, but it is not without its stress. Zeitler is motivated to make a difference.
“I think in the end, my message would just be figure out what you want to do — the type of person you want to be and just do whatever it takes to be that person,” Zeitler said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re ready, or if you feel like you’re ready, just start that next day doing the things that you need to start filling that vision. Day after day, it will keep building and then one day before you know it, you might be a lot further along than you think.”
Zeitler has come a long way in a lot of ways, but he is back where it started and he will feel best if he can inspire others to reach their loftiest heights in any field.