EP 71 – Marshall McFadden: From the NFL Trenches to the NASCAR Pits
Hey, hey! Welcome back to The Bullpen Sessions!
If you’ve been here a little while, you know that my mission is to look at what it takes to succeed as a top athlete and translate that mindset into the boardroom. I want to give great advice to young athletes and current business people so that we can all achieve massive success. And when it comes to mental toughness and having a success mindset both on and off the field, there’s no one greater than Marshall McFadden.
We’re going into much more detail in a minute, but to sum it up: Marshall is an inspiration. Growing up in a single-parent home with four siblings and not a lot of money, Marshall didn’t often look forward to future opportunities. But he worked hard and showed up in the moments he needed to most, and as a result, he created massive opportunities for himself — ultimately landing in the NFL.
But when his NFL career ended, did Marshall decide to kick up his feet for the rest of his life? Of course not! Instead, he made a pivot, and probably not one you’re expecting — today, Marshall works as a member of the pit crew with the Chip Ganassi NASCAR team. That’s right! The football star has become a NASCAR gasman — and a fast one!
This conversation was so much fun, and I know you’re going to get a lot out of it. Marshall and I talked about his journey to success and the mindset he’s taken with him throughout his journey. Let’s dive in!
Who Is Marshall McFadden?
Marshall McFadden is a legend in more ways than one. Growing up in a small town in South Carolina, Marshall didn’t really have any big NFL dreams. He knew he liked playing football, and he played for his high school team, but that was about it. His school was particularly small — they only graduated 53 kids Marshall’s senior year — so they didn’t often see recruiting scouts come out to the games. But all that changed when Marshall was selected to play in an all-star game.
Marshall played in a much bigger arena at the all-star game, and suddenly he was getting attention from college scouts. However, Marshall’s family had never been to college, and he’d never had any expectations of going to school after high school. So when the scholarship letters came pouring in, he decided to simply follow his friends to South Carolina State. Who knows what might have happened if he’d played for the South Carolina Gamecocks or the Clemson Tigers?
Nevertheless, out of college, Marshall was recruited to play in the NFL. Over the course of his incredibly successful career, he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Oakland Raiders, and the St. Louis Rams. He played in the NFL from 2012 to 2015, but at that point, he decided to make a little career pivot.
Instead of retiring from football and making a change to a boring desk job, Marshall decided to do something a little bit different — he’s working on the pit crew for Chip Ganassi NASCAR team. I can tell you from experience that that’s extremely challenging work! I recently had the opportunity to participate in a simulated pit crew competition as part of a men’s retreat, and I can tell you that it is TOUGH! Marshall works as the gasman, and he has to get the tank filled up with gas in just 12 seconds!
Marshall is an incredibly inspiring dude. He has truly beat the odds to become a legendary football player AND an incredible pit crew member! You might not think that football and NASCAR typically go together, but this man has mastered both. I was so excited to sit down and have a conversation with him today!
The #1 Lesson Marshall McFadden Learned from His Mom
I would call my upbringing perfectly average. I was a fairly normal kid, and both of my parents were teachers. They were wonderful, and they cared for me. We didn’t have a ton of money, but we weren’t poor either. We were a pretty average family across the board. I didn’t have too many obstacles to overcome on my journey, in that sense.
But as I mentioned earlier, Marshall, on the other hand, didn’t have the easiest upbringing. He grew up as one of five children in a single-parent household. His mom worked hard to raise her children as best as she could. She worked long hours, made minimum wage, and always did everything she could to provide for her kids.
And her efforts didn’t go unnoticed. As a young athlete and even today, his mom’s ultimate tenacity and perseverance in difficult circumstances continue to motive Marshall and drive him to succeed even when he feels too exhausted to carry on:
“Football is a physical sport, and you gotta train. And most people … go through some situations where [they] think about giving up in football, you know, because [they’re] going to play against bigger stronger, faster [players.] … [There] are times out there where you just don’t have anything left, and you just want to talk away, or you feel like you can’t compete, … but I always go back to that moment where I did have a single-parent mom. She was making minimum wage, and she had to carry five kids. … I can take away from that … if she can do it, why not me?” – Marshall McFadden
From the moment he had that realization, Marshall knew he no longer had any excuses. He may feel tired during a workout, he might get a little winded out on the field, but he recognized that his mom had endured so much exhaustion to raise her kids. If she could work so hard for so long, he could handle being a little winded.
Marshall McFadden’s Advice for Young Athletes
One of the things I was most excited to ask Marshall about was his advice for young athletes. I sincerely hope that this podcast can serve young athletes and help them develop the mindset they need to succeed in their chosen sports. I loved what Marshall had to say in response to this question.
You see, growing up, Marshall never really considered college as a serious opportunity. He didn’t have plans to go to college at all, but that changed when he was selected to play in the all-star game. Suddenly, recruiters from all over wanted him to be on their teams. They told him everything a young football star might want to hear — things like, “You’ll be the star of our team!” But when Marshall got to college at South Carolina State — a small, historically black school — suddenly he was the low man on the totem pole. He quickly figured out the importance of being humble and continuing to work hard.
“Don’t believe the hype. … Sometimes parents and relatives can hype it up so much and spoil [young athletes] to a certain extent to make them out to be something they’re not. … When I go to these schools, … I tell people, especially kids — you work hard, and you’re pretty good in the little division you play in, but do you understand [that there are] a million more people across the world doing the exact same thing?” – Marshall McFadden
Confidence is essential, but overconfidence is detrimental. Each time you step up into the next league, you have to be prepared to be the lowest man on the totem pole and work hard to deserve a place at the top. That doesn’t mean you’re not talented, it just means that you can’t show up on day one of the next level of your sport and expect to be treated like the most important person on the team. You have to work hard, be a team player, and earn the respect of your teammates and coaches. Once you do that, you’ll have achieved the success you desire!
From Football to NASCAR — Taking Your Skills into the Real World
One thing that happens to athletes too often is that they find their whole identity in their sport. Their whole lives revolve around their athletic career, and for a while, they may not really notice. But when they retire, it can be challenging to transition into a new career.
But the good news is that you can take the skills and mindset you’ve learned as an athlete and apply them to your new post-sports life! That’s what Marshall did. He started working as a FedEx manager for a while, but then one day, a friend encouraged him to check out the pit crew practices happening right up the road at NASCAR.
Marshall noticed the camaraderie among the pit crew most of all, at first. Those guys have to be perfectly in sync to change all four tires and refill the tank with gas in under 12 seconds, so they have to build really strong relationships among themselves as teammates. Team build is something Marshall’s familiar with as a former football player, and the idea of working in such a close-knit group like that appealed to him.
But then he noticed something else: Recruiters and managers who hire for pit crew positions don’t just look for people who know how to work with cars. Today, the want athletes on their teams:
“Now you talk about changing four tires, a full tank of gas, and make adjustments [in] under 12 seconds — that’s impressive. And you got no room for error, you know? And so how you make those times faster, you go and get faster people.” – Marshall McFadden
When Marshall retired from the NFL, he had no idea he was going to end up on a NASCAR pit crew. He had no experience working with race cars! But he was fast and good at cultivating relationships within a team, and that made him the perfect fit for a job he never would have expected. When you retire from the professional sports world, keep an eye out for opportunities to use the skills you’ve learned — you may be surprised by the opportunities you find!
Why You Should Listen to This Marshall McFadden Podcast Episode Right Now…
I was so inspired by Marshall’s story! Throughout his career in football, he kept going, remembering the incredible hard work his mom put in when he was young. Then, after retiring from football, he found a new way to use his skills, and today, he’s in a career that makes him truly happy. I’d say he’s been pretty successful, wouldn’t you?
I think this quote from our conversation sums up all of Marshall’s best advice:
“Sports in general don’t last forever. … Eventually, one day, as an athlete, you gotta walk away from the game. And it may be in high school, it may be in college, it may be in pro, but at the end of the day, it is what it is, and you gotta move on with life. So I like to tell people … — find something else that you enjoy, and in your free time, when you’re not playing football or [during] an offseason, figure it out. Prepare yourself for the future.” – Marshall McFadden
Stay humble, work hard, and develop skills that you can translate into a future career. That’s fantastic advice for any athlete.
Thank you guys so much for joining me today! I truly hope you got a lot of value out of this episode. If you did, please share it with your friends on Instagram! Post a screenshot of the episode, and make sure to tag Marshall, @mmcfadden5, and me, @andy_neary, and share with us your greatest takeaways from the episode!
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I’ll talk to you guys again on Friday! As always — go make it happen today!
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