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Terry Crews shares his past and how he grew into a real man

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Story and Images by DeWayne Rogers

Terry Crews is on fire — which for him, can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. For starters, the devoted husband and father of five is currently kicking serious butt across all television formats. Whether you caught him rocking out with the Muppets during a well-received Super Bowl commercial, or flexing his comedic chops on the Golden Globe Award-winning sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Crews has become one of Hollywood’s sure-fire pitchmen. His latest foray finds him returning to the big screen in the upcoming Kevin Costner-led flick, Draft Day.

The film brings the former NFLer full circle as he returns to subject matter that he’s intimately familiar with. Thankfully, the NFL was only the beginning of Crew’s story, as he turned the rejection of being cut from the league into the foundation of the resilient, positive man that he is today.

From the moment that Crews sat down for his exclusive interview with rolling out, he was open about his perspective on life, his much-needed growth as a person, and his desire to increase the level of accountability for men across the board. This was Terry Crews unscripted — and we enjoyed every minute of it.

There are some celebrities who seem to shy away from press, but you’ve always openly embraced it. Why is your perspective so different?

There are three games that you really have to master to be able to rock in this business. The first game is an audition. An audition is its own sport. I know brilliant actors who can’t audition, and they have the hardest time. You have to master that side of things. And once you do, then you move to mastering the craft. That’s when it’s your job to walk on set, and really do well. That’s the second side of things. The third aspect is selling. You have to sell the movie, the TV show, or the commercial that you worked so hard on. Why would you build a business and never advertise for it? The answer is, you wouldn’t. So I’ve always been aware of that side of things, and so I put my all into not only selling the project, but also selling the brand of Terry Crews.

So you’re a master salesman. Is there anything you can’t sell?

I can only sell the things that I believe in. That’s why I could never endorse anything that I view as pornographic — I could never endorse anything that dogs out women. And I could never endorse anything that I didn’t believe was a good product. That way, I can go 100 percent. Draft Day is an amazing movie, and that’s why I’m out here going all the way for it.

Speaking of Draft Day, tell us your thoughts on being a part of it, considering the fact that you’re a former NFL player.

This is my revenge on the NFL. The NFL, when they cut you, they think that they will never see you again and that you’re done. It is incredibly demoralizing, because you dedicate your life to playing football. The only way for you to be in the NFL is you have to dedicate your life to it. So what happens is when someone tells you that you’re not good enough anymore, you internalize that and it invalidates you. When you’re playing, you get your validation as a man from someone accepting you, and wanting you to play for the team. When you don’t get that, it’s almost like someone has stamped you as being no good. You take that into your soul — it’s a hard place to be. But one thing that I had to realize was that life goes on, and that whatever sports career that you have is a very, very short part of your life. Eventually you have to move on, because no one can play their sport forever.

So how did you move on from the NFL?

I came to the conclusion that if the best days of my life had already occurred, then I had a problem. So, I remember having to tell myself that my best days were still ahead of me — and I had to repeat that over and over again. Even when things weren’t working out the way that I wanted them to — I was sweeping floors, filing papers at the Veterans Administration — I still kept telling myself that my best days were ahead of me. I would vow to myself that the best thing that was going to happen in my life hadn’t occurred yet. I truly believe that you have to tell yourself that. And what happened was, I filled myself with those affirmations to the point where things started to change.

It seems like your positive attitude paid off.

Well, I think that what you focus on determines where you go. If are driving a car, and you look left — and you stay looking left — eventually your car is going to veer left. That’s just the way that we are wired. So if you focus on what’s right, instead of focusing on what’s wrong, you’re going to go right. But the times in my life when I was doing bad, I remember that I was focusing on what was wrong. So I had to change my mindset. And that’s when I became the corniest man in Hollywood. The only thing that I would ever talk about was positivity. Most people don’t know how to handle someone who is always positive. They would call me things like Tony Robbins, but I was OK with that, because it has worked out well for me.

Share an example of when that positivity worked out.

I remember being in the trailer when we were shooting Friday After Next and Katt Williams was homeless. He literally was living in the trailer, and would not go home. It was kept quiet at the time, because that was his home. And we would meet up in the morning, and I would always tell him that this was our opportunity to change the game. And we would pep talk each other. I would say, “look life can be better … things will get better for you … things will get better for me. But in order for that to happen, we’ve got to kill this movie.” And he would agree with me and tell me that he was all in.

So when you see that stuff on the screen, a lot of people look at that scene in the bathroom, and think it’s hilarious. But if you look at that scene, and turn the sound off, it’s real serious. We were not playing. We vowed that if we never got a chance to do anything again, that we were going to give everything that we had in that movie. He was crying real tears … and he was slapping me for real. And a lot of people would never go that far. But we did, and it changed our lives.

Now that your life has been changed, you’re looking to change the lives of others with your new book.

The book is called Manhood, and that’s what it’s all about. I’ve had moments in my life where I have made a lot of mistakes, and exhibited extreme amounts of immaturity. In a sense, I wasn’t a man, because I wasn’t owning up to my shortcomings. I was blaming my wife, my dad, my friends, and my circumstances, but I was never holding myself accountable. In time, I was able to grow up, and look in the mirror and be accountable for all the things in my life — both good and bad.

Hopefully, when people read this book, they’ll learn from all of my mistakes, and they’ll see themselves in it, and be able to change certain behaviors in their life. I hope that my life can be a tool to help someone else.

The book comes out May 20, and I’m really excited about the possible impact that it can have.