Name: Calvin Pace
Team: New York Jets
Time in Pro-Football: 7 years
Pro-Football players Darrelle Revis, Shaun Ellis, Calvin Pace and Marques Douglas have teamed up with After-School All-Stars to support their “Touchdown Shutdown” initiative, which raises funds for programs that serve underprivileged youth.
Under the initiative, Douglas, Revis and Pace will donate $100 each to ASAS for every tackle, and Ellis will donate $1,000 per sack during the upcoming season. The funds will directly impact ASAS children in New York, although a portion of Pace’s donation will go to programs for kids in Atlanta. Each of the pro-footballers has pledged to make a minimum donation of $5,000 to the program this year.
Pace recently spoke to The Network Journal about the foundation, life in the National Football League and his passion for cooking.
TNJ: Why did you want to be involved in Touchdown Shutdown?
Pace: I really wanted to give kids a chance to see a professional athlete and know that we have been through some of the same struggles. I hope they’ll see that I’ve been where they are and they’ll ultimately be motivated to believe in themselves and strive for greatness.
TNJ: How important is academic education in a child’s development?
Pace: Education is everything. At this point in time in society, without a strong education it’s very tough to get doors to open. It’s almost impossible to just survive, let alone thrive. So I think kids need to be reminded every day that education needs to be a main focus in their lives.
TNJ: What role does athletic participation play?
Pace: Athletics plays a big role for kids that are interested in sports just because its gives them a different opportunity to escape some of the bad influences and to create relationships that will last a lifetime. Also, it can open up an opportunity to go to school for free, or provide some sort of assistance that could help them go to school. Plus there’s the chance to learn about overcoming losses, bouncing back, continuing through difficulties and really fighting for what you want. All of that helps as much outside of sports as it does when playing.
TNJ: What key influences and mentors helped you reach the National Football League?
Pace: My parents, my defensive coordinator in high school (Robert Dorsch), and numerous coaches in college all motivated me and showed me how to work to achieve my goals.
TNJ: In what other charities are you involved?
Pace: I’m really just getting started working with different charities and it’s something that I wish I had started earlier.
TNJ: What were the biggest challenges in adjusting to life in the NFL?
Pace: The biggest challenge is learning how to work at the highest level of football. What I mean by that is, everyone that I play against has the same attributes that I have, i.e. size, speed and strength. The challenge is learning how to play with proper technique and learning how to study an opponent so that when I step on the field I can make plays.
TNJ: NFL careers are the shortest in professional sports. How are you preparing for life after the NFL?
Pace: To be honest, I haven’t found my calling for post-football. I basically try to save as much money as possible and make wise investments so that my family can be comfortable. I think that football has been my number one love for so long that it will take time for me to find another passion to put the same amount of energy that I have put in football. I’m really into food and dining out, though, so that might be something to pursue.
TNJ: As a seven-year veteran, how do you handle the news of big contracts and signing bonuses given to unproven rookies?
Pace: I don’t have a problem with it because football is a violent sport and at any given play a player’s career could be over. I welcome a player making as much money as early as they can.
TNJ: What are you hoping that the new NFL Players Association President DeMaurice Smith brings to the players?
Pace: I hope that he brings a voice that will get players the rights that they deserve.
TNJ: What is your impression of him so far?
Pace: I think he is a man who has done his due diligence on the things that need to be changed on our behalf as players. What has impressed me most about him is his confidence in his ability to get the job done.
TNJ: Are you confident that there will be a new collective bargaining agreement?
Pace: I’m confident. But when it comes to money, things take time.
TNJ: In an economic downturn, how have your marketing and branding plans changed?
Pace: I don’t think that they’ve changed a lot. Obviously companies are a little more hesitant to give endorsement deals, but with football being such a big sport there still are great opportunities for football players out there.
TNJ: With high-profile court cases involving players like Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress, how have you avoided the same fate?
Pace: I’m not a person that has to have the big spotlight upon me so I don’t mind staying low key. I’ve noticed that the more low-key a player, the less likely it is that trouble finds him.
TNJ: After playing in Arizona and now in New York, is the AFC a harder division than the NFC? How so?
Pace: The AFC is harder just because it is a more physical, “smash-mouth” brand of football.
TNJ: In what ways do you think the NFL and the NFLPA need to take care of retired players?
Pace: Since football is such a violent sport and a lot of guys leave with pretty serious injuries, the NFL should cover the medical costs for the care they need for the rest of their lives. The players’ putting that wear-and-tear on their bodies and risking or suffering those injuries are what make the NFL the giant that it is in professional sports.
TNJ: What would you be doing now if you didn’t play for the NFL?
Pace: Most likely something in the medical field.
TNJ: What would you change about the league?
Pace: We should have a third-party arbitrator when there are discipline issues because the same people who make the rules shouldn’t be allowed to be the judge and the jury in decisions regarding discipline.
TNJ: What is the biggest misconception about professional athletes?
Pace: That we are troublemakers who think that they are above the law. In most cases, that’s not true at all.
TNJ: How did your passion for cooking come about?
Pace: When I was a kid, I was home alone a lot while my parents were at work. I got tired of eating the instant stuff and things that were really easy to fix. I saw cooking shows, and I started following along. And my mom would also show me how to make different things.
TNJ: How tough is it to play in the New York market?
Pace: I wouldn’t call playing in New York “tough.” I think that the people of New York just want a winner on the field, and they will support you when that happens. They will also let you know when things are not up to their standards. Overall they’re passionate about their teams and I love playing here.
Last book you read: The Master Key System by Charles Haanel
Favorite author: Charles Haanel
Favorite vacation spot: Turks and Caicos
How many countries have you visited: 8
What artist or group would you go on tour with: Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Outkast and Rick Ross
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite NYC restaurant: Nobu
Favorite movie: Coming to America
Chances that the NY Jets make it to the Super Bowl? 100%. “Book our tickets to Miami now.”