Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile

  • Author: Nate Jackson

  • Published: September, 2013

Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson is the inside look into the NFL that I’ve always wanted to read. A book that pulls no punches, dispenses with political correctness and sharply exposes the NFL for what we all know it really is: A merciless meat grinder.

Nate Jackson spent six years as a receiver/tight-end for the Denver Broncos, which is three years longer than the average career most NFL players enjoy. With blunt honesty and a wicked sense of humor, he gives the reader an unflinching account of what it takes to play a sport built on trench warfare and violent acrobatics. 

The injuries, the jersey chasers, the mind numbing film sessions and meetings - it’s all here. As are memorable chapters on playing for NFL Europe in Germany and what it’s like to visit Vegas as a Sports God. 

Despite the fun there is an inescapable fear and uncertainty that colors the pages of Slow Getting Up, and after reading the book, I have to wonder, even if I had the talent and size, would I want to play in the NFL?

First, there is no job security for a football player. You’re healthy, or you’re out. You perform, or you’re out. You win, or you’re out. Think of the game’s superstars - how many are there really? Three or four per team at the most? Now think of all those nameless, faceless athletes who line the sidelines every Sunday. The end could come for them at anytime, and the constant uncertainty continually gnaws at their brains during their daily pummelings.

The result is a constant knot of dread that lives in the stomach. How many cracks of the helmet does it take before you can’t put humpty back together again? My ACL is torn? My season’s over? I’ve been traded? They’ve drafted my replacement? The fans have turned on me? The worrying can eat you alive, if the field doesn’t first. At times, this struggle gives the book a sense of desperate loneliness. Jackson even fantasizes about Playboy playmates cuddling with him in bed as he faces the prospect of another early curfew and lonely night at another nameless hotel. 

Although, Slow Getting Up engages in its fair share of dark thoughts, Jackson never lets these get the better of his prose. His intellect has obviously helped him cope with the mental and physical drubbing a life on the grid-iron gives you, and he’s better for it. You can’t help but feel for all those players who don’t have the mental maturity to deal with the fallout from football. They’ve been praised and nurtured like thoroughbreds their entire lives, until suddenly, they aren’t. They've been conditioned to think Football is all that matters. Until it doesn't matter at all. The drop off can be a killer.

Kudos to Mr. Jackson for taking a stand against the NFL’s draconian policy against marijuana, but also for never feeling too sorry for himself. After all it’s the violence football players and fans love. And it’s that violence that arguably makes the NFL the richest league in the country. Rather than deny it, Jackson embraces it. It makes one wish the NFL would too, rather than bouncing from crisis to crisis and pretending their game isn’t a blood sport. Call it what it is and deal with the consequences. Only an honest assessment of the dangers of the game will ever truly improve player safety.

After setting the book down I suddenly realized why no NFL team would ever call themselves “The Gladiators”. Far too honest.