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Episode 1 - I Am, I Can, I Will - Ryan Harris

In our first episode of Let's Engage, Jake Olson interviews Super Bowl Champion Ryan Harris about the state of the Denver Broncos, Ryan's playing career and some of his favorite highlights from playing in college and the NFL, and some of the great life lessons you learn playing a professional team sport.  Ryan's motto, I Am, I Can, I Will is how he lives his life everyday and as a professional speaker he encourages others to live their life the same way.

Listen along with Ryan and for more information or to book Ryan for a speaking engagement or experience, visit his profile on Engage.



Jake Olson: Welcome to the first edition of Let's Engage. I'm your host Jake Olson alongside with my co-host Brendan Egan. Today we are very excited to bring on a NFL veteran of 10 years. He is also a Super Bowl champion. He graduated from the Notre Dame University, as well as played on four different NFL teams during his career. Ryan Harris.  Ryan thanks for joining us today.


Ryan Harris: Good. Thanks for having me Jake. Thanks for having me.


J: Of course man. We're happy to have you. So Ryan you're in the Denver area obviously. The Broncos didn't have the best of year, Vance Joseph. What was your take on kind of the the meat of the program right now.


Ryan Harris: Yeah well the meat of it is the shelf is empty. They had 13 injuries and 11 of those were to starters.  And unfortunately for Vance Joseph that came in a year in which he only won six games after winning five. And after you know 10 years in the NFL I can tell you the only thing that matters is winning and he wasn't able to do that. And you know some other players had subpar years. Case Keenum, the quarterback they brought it in for 18 million dollars a year, had a career high in interceptions. Kind of didn't follow up the performance that allowed him to be successful with the Minnesota Vikings, my hometown team. But you know they have a lot of talent a lot of young talent. Phillip Lindsey was the first undrafted running back to be selected to the Pro Bowl. They had Bradley Chubb who registered twelve sacks as a rookie so they've got a lot of young talent. Courtland Sutton he was a wide receiver who was top five in yards per catch. So they have a lot of young talent but they're just looking for a new head coach and some stability.


J: Yeah it doesn't help that they play in the same division as the Chiefs and the Chargers right now either.


R: Especially right now with Patrick Mahomes


J: Right. Well you obviously played in the NFL for 10 years but before that you went to Notre Dame. Which obviously as a USC Trojan you know we share a little bit of difference there. But I remember when I met you last time you know you told me the years you played there. And it so happened to be during the Bush Push years and I asked you know were you there. You were like “I was on the field” you know. So tell us about just your Notre Dame experience as well as, you know, you obviously had some great wins there as an Irish. But just for me as a Trojan fan, what what was that Bush Push game like? Cause for us it was crazy. I'm sure it was crazy for you guys too.


R: Well one, it was brutal for me because before USC had the ball and at the time we were both undefeated. And we were going to, the winner was going to the national championship. It was just known; to play Texas. And with two minutes. and I think I was two minutes and forty six seconds left. We called the play, and Brady Quinn was the quarterback at the time, and I pulled as the left tackle all the way around the right tackle. And into the end zone and I scored. And they always tell linemen: if you score, your guy scored. So I scored and I knew Brady was going to score. So he did, and then I remember looking up at the clock there at the north end zone where Touchdown Jesus is at Notre Dame Stadium and I saw two forty six. I thought man, we might have left Matt Leinart a little too much time you know. And sure enough, they had a fourth and nine, and for some reason our defensive coordinator called a zero blitz that put defensive players man to man on the back end. And it was the fourth and nine and I was sitting on that first first down marker thinking “if they don't make it here I’m going to have the best night of my life.” And we’re going to the National Championship. And he caught the ball and got the conversion. Later they didn't call the flag on the timeout that was called even though they had no timeouts. And Bush pushed Matt Leinart after he had got stopped at the goal line. And it was about as quick a reversal of feelings that I had had in my life. But you know Notre Dame was such an incredible experience. And even though we hate each other's schools, you know I have so much respect for my USC teammates.  They are often the first ones in the NFL to come over and say hello. And I think it's because it's just that shared tradition.


J: Yeah.


R: And not lot of programs, even Clemson. They just won their second national championship in four years. But what's their tradition of winning championships right. I mean so I think that the tradition really plays a role. And I learned about tradition. I learned about wealth at Notre Dame. You know wealth that doesn't look rich. And I really really came of age and double majored. I got one degree in Political Science and the other in Economics and Policy. So I could equip myself for the future.


J: Yeah, well both have had their very fair share of amazing players to come out of the programs and especially play in the NFL. Including yourself. I was interested just because you know Ryan you are a Muslim and your were highly touted out of high school as a recruit. What made you go to a private Catholic school?


R: Well that’s a great question Jake. You know Notre Dame was one of two schools in my whole recruiting visit who took me to a mosque.

J: Really?


R: And they introduced me to the Muslim Student Association at Notre Dame. And the thing that people don't know about Notre Dame is they have three hundred and thirty masses per week on campus. And so all of a sudden praying five times a day, you know, it doesn't seem that crazy right. And just the spirit of being able to be welcome at the predominant Catholic institution in the world while also being able to grow as a Muslim. I saw a great possibility. I know that if I had gone to Michigan or Miami, if guys had said “hey let's go to a movie” and I said “hey wait I got to pray real quick.” You know might be a different answer than if I'm at Notre Dame, and they say “hey we're going to movie” and I'm like “hey I got to pray real quick.” You know people understand that spirituality is a part of your life and religion is a part of your choice. And I just blossomed as a Muslim there. Able to read different texts, learn about other religions and Catholicism. And there I really learned how much we have in common and how much, when we choose to, we can celebrate each other's differences. Versus really creating walls there. So it was a great experience and it helped me out moving forward.


J: So you graduate from Notre Dame and then you go into to the NFL. Out of the Steelers, Chiefs, Broncos, what was your favorite? Obviously the Super Bowl year had to be your favorite, but you know just from an organization standpoint, you know what really kind of fit you the most during your playing time?


R: I swear when I was at the Kansas City Chiefs we stayed at a La Quinta one time.


J: Hahahaha


R: Which is nothing against La Quinta hotels, but you stay at some of the other finer establishments when you make it to the NFL. So you know I thought that the Broncos and the Steelers really had, they had the most championship quality facilities, and they treated people like men. And they really gave you an opportunity to be the best player you could be. And I enjoyed my my my six separate years with the Broncos and my final season with with the Steelers, because it was just so fun to have that championship expectation. And that's something that, you know there's over sixteen hundred football players in the NFL right now. Only fifty three are gonna be champions at the end of the day, at the end of the season.


J: Right.


R: And it's amazing how many times even in the NFL, guys do not want to win championships. They do not give the time. They do not distance themselves from distractions. They just want to show up, get their check as long as they can, and then move on. But for me I always wanted to win. And only when I was with the Broncos and the Steelers did we have the mentality to win, did we have the expectation to win. Not just a game, not just the playoffs, but a championship. And I loved being a part of that culture.


J: What was that night like?


R: Oh man, incredible. I was in total shock. I mean, you worked so hard for something and rarely in life do you get to work so hard and then actually physically get to touch it, when you touch that Lombardi trophy in the NFL. And I learned so much about leadership. I learned so much about teammates, and I learned so much about appreciating the journey you know. The first feeling I had after the clock struck zero was sadness. Because I knew it was over between free agency and everything else. This group of guys who cared about each other so much, who cared about their craft, who dedicated extra time, who followed our coach, who followed the different leaders in the rooms. We weren't going to be together again. And at that point we could beat anyone in the world. We were champions of the world. And no one else could take that from us. And we did it against all odds. They had us a 14 point underdog. And we knew we were going to do it. And it really crystallized my belief in the power of visualization and writing down your goals. It just, when you do that, you know the night before the Super Bowl one of my goals was to raise the trophy. And for whatever reason when I closed my eyes and visualized it, I could only see the Lombardi trophy from the bottom up. I thought “that's weird. I never touched one, I'd never seen one. That's a weird way to see it.” Fast forward 24 hours later, Peyton Manning is handing me down this Lombardi Trophy from the stage and I'm touching it from the bottom up. And it was just an unreal moment. And it continues to be one of the greatest nights of my life.


J: That's awesome. That was really really awesome. So where do you keep the ring?


R: Well that's T5 classified.


J: Hahahaha


R: We have a couple of secure locations, but you know I try and wear it as much as I can. And most of the time that’s so somebody doesn't hand me a plate or ask me where their tickets are when I'm at events.


J: Right.


R: A couple times people have been like “hey excuse me sir where are my seats.” I’m like “sorry I'm not an usher.” So it's just you know it's kind of fun to mess with people but I love putting it on because you know I'm getting ready to go to a speech right now. And immediately when I walk in a room people know I know how to win. People know I know how to be a teammate. People know I know how to handle nice things. And that really launches you into conversations that I don't think would happen anytime, you know if I were without the ring.


J: So let's talk about your speaking. So you finish your career, what brings you into speaking? What motivates you to go out there and share your story?


R: That moment we talked about with winning the Super Bowl, everything you believe about yourself comes true for other people. I mean think about that. Everything you believe. Before I came back to the Broncos, who had actually fired me three years earlier, I was with the Kansas City Chiefs and I started 15 games with them. At the end of the season they said “Ryan you have no football left.” I said “you're wrong. You're wrong.” And the teams that I had been on before who thought maybe I wasn't good enough to help them win a championship. They didn't resign me. I chose that they were wrong. I chose that even though I had three back surgeries, a toe surgery, and my knee was having some issues, that I was great enough to help win a championship. And I was right. And I knew that we had the right team, and I knew that the little things we did, and I knew that the 15 minutes before practice that I went out and I worked on my craft helped. And I know the yoga that I did the week before the Super Bowl helped. And I just knew that I was a champion. I knew that I had enough to give it. I knew I could win in that moment. And when it happened everybody else knew that about me. They knew that I could work hard. They knew that I was able to win. They knew that I had afforded to it, that that only 50 other teams at that time in the NFL had had to weather a storm. That’s week 24 in the NFL. When you touch that Lombardi trophy that is the completion of week 24 of bashing yourself against grown men who have trained for this moment every day of their life. So to be at that moment and experience that joy, and experience that when I walk into a room people know of my abilities. I want people to have that moment in their lives. I want businesses to have that moment of accomplishment with their goals. And speaking is one way to encourage people. And another thing about speaking is I like to talk about the failures. We talk about failure less than we talk about sex. And more than that we don't give each other opportunities and tools to build yourself out of failure. Yet every single success story has failure in it. So I love encouraging people to go for that moment to keep going for their dreams. And when they encounter failure inevitably, here are the tools that I use to keep going and I love being able to bring that to people.



J: That’s powerful Ryan. That’s powerful man. It fires me up.


R: Hey man. You're the the legend. You're the living legend man.


J: Hahaha. Well I just, you know, I love. I guess it’s my personality man. I love seeing other people attack life and have that mentality. And you know I try to teach as well as you do and manage this. It's like having a brother in the battle against life when you have kind of mentalities like that you know.


R: Well me meeting you, you know, and when we met, you know, you were laughing and joking. And we were talking about Notre Dame and USC and I thought “man here's Jake.” You have every reason to not go onto a football field. You have every reason to stop perfecting snapping the football and yet there you were. You know and the more we can encourage people to keep going after what they want. I think the happier we'll be as a world you know.


J: That's right. And that is right. So with the speaking, you wrote a book. Let's hear about the book real quick.


R: Yeah. Mindset For Mastery. Check it out on Amazon. It was a number one bestseller. You know I put a lot of the different aspects of things I talk about in that speech. Building your mindset. You know one of the things I always said to myself was: I am, I can, I will. I use those moments in deep deep moments of doubt. You know after the Chiefs told me I had no football left, I said “I am good enough. I am an NFL football player. I can help a player, I can help a team win a championship.” I will. I will start working. I will start lifting. I will maintain my workout regimen so that when the next team calls I'll be able to go and perform. Well the next team was the Denver Broncos. I drove down the highway and started 19 games and won a Super Bowl. But so I always talk about mindset and how to build your mindset even in moments of doubt. I talk about the perseverance it's going to take. And I talk about my favorite chapter in the book talks about leadership. Because once you choose your mindset, once you fail to succumb to your failures, you become a leader around people. And that either scares the shit out of them or you. You build incredible bonds that are so productive that you reach heights you never thought you could reach.


J: That’s true.


R: So I really like to encourage people, you know, because for so long I felt bad for being different. I worked a little harder than other people. I saw things differently. I didn't care about going out to a club versus winning a football game on a Sunday. And then I got to the team when the Broncos won the Super Bowl. These guys, all of them, get into the huddle with Peyton Manning, it's different. It sounds different. It looks different. His preparation is different. And for the first time in my career I had permission to be different because that's what it takes. It takes you to be different to be great. And so I love encouraging people to do that. And lastly as you know Jake. You've got to celebrate every win. And I talk about that in the book. You know one of the reasons why we won Super Bowl 50 is because we had bus three. And on bus three there was only one rule: no rookies. They ask too many questions you know. And when I say there's only one rule, there's only one rule. And one of your favorite NFL football players of all time is one of absolute worst singers I have ever heard. And I know that because he would sing the same country songs, you know, night after night after we won games on the bus. You know drinking some beers. So it was you know you got to have fun. You got to have fun. You got to celebrate what it took to get you to this podcast. What it took to get you anywhere any day in life. And I really encourage people to have fun. I think that's something that we all forget. Got to have fun man. You guys are alive today. You got to talk to someone.


J: Oh yeah.


R: You got to do something today. Have fun. Have fun every day.


J: That's a great great life lessons Ryan. That's awesome. I have one more question. One more question, then we can let you go. When I was in Denver and I did that radio show with you, you asked me if I think if I could feel tattoos or whatever.


R: I'd always wanted to know. I've always wondered. And I had the opportunity. I said “do blind people get tattoos?” I just didn’t know. You know I wanted to know.


J: Yeah. Well OK. So that stuck with me. That stuck with me. So I'm not saying I will. I'm just saying if I gave you the option to tell me one tattoo I should get on my body and where, what would you say?


R: Oh man gosh that is a great question. Man, definitely no face tattoos.


J: OK. All right.


R: You're a professional Jake. You did go to USC, and I know that your guys’s propensity to get face tattoos. And you know pump gas for the rest of your life. But you know, I would really encourage you to get something you know in Braille because you can feel your tattoos. I have a couple of tattoos. You can feel them. So maybe something for you, that you could touch and remember and build some fortitude in moments of doubt or just to remind you to have fun man. That's what I would do.


J: Maybe I can put F*** The Irish.


R: You're going to have to answer to God on that one.


J: Hahahaha


R: You get up there and he says “Jake you've done all this great work for people and inspired millions but you got this permanent tattoo on you. I don't know. I don't know Satan come take a look at this one. You want this one?” You are just running the risk. But no man keep living your life. You're an inspiration to myself and many others. Thanks for having me brother.


J: As are you Ryan, as are you. Well you can find Ryan, give us your handles for your social media.


R: Yeah I'm @RyanHarris68 on Instagram. Check me out on LinkedIn RyanHarris68. And check me out on my website, You'll get all the latest info and up to date photos from the recent events and in different things I'm doing.


J: And check out his book. And obviously you can tell just by what he talks about and his attitude towards life that he can also be a great motivational speaker to you in your life and your sales team or whatever. And you can book him on Let's Engage at You can book him as well as many other speakers and many other experiences on our site. So please visit And thank you for listening to another edition of the Let’s Engage podcast. Have a nice day.