“Many people look at sports figures as heroes. Anyone who has seen someone battle cancer and survive knows there is no comparison.”
Tim Green

I’m so excited to be featuring New York Times bestselling author and former NFL defensive end Tim Green on my blog today. I loved Tim Green as a player, and my older son, Benj, now 13, is a huge fan of his books for young readers. When I found out that a friend of mine was handling publicity for Tim’s new book, UNSTOPPABLE, I wrote to ask whether he’d be willing to do a Q &A with me. He said yes! and he gave me wonderfully thoughtful, insightful, and above all else helpful answers, filled with empathy and wisdom that I will use in parenting my children and in navigating challenging circumstances in my own life. Plus, he answered Benj and James’ questions about life in the NFL!

In UNSTOPPABLE (for ages 9 – 12), his most dramatic and hard-hitting story yet, Tim writes about what it takes to be a winner, even when it seems like fate has dealt an impossible hand. At its heart, UNSTOPPABLE comes from an incredibly personal place for Tim Green. Five years ago, Tim’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. The entire experience – tests, surgeries, treatments, chemotherapy (Tim shaved his head to show support for his wife) – shook the Green family to their foundation. Although everything has gone well, the Green’s outlook on life will never be the same. In a letter to his readers, Tim writes: “While UNSTOPPABLE is certainly a sports story, it is a story of survival first and foremost, a story I have lived through with the person dearest to me in this life.”

Tim played Little League baseball for many years before specializing in football in order to become an NFL player. After graduating as co-valedictorian from Syracuse University, being a first-round NFL draft pick, and playing as a star linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, Tim also earned his law degree with honors and has worked as an NFL analyst for FOX Sports and an NFL commentator for National Public Radio. Tim also coaches youth football, and his first book for young readers, FOOTBALL GENIUS, inspired in part by his players and kids he’s met while reading in classrooms, became a New York Times best-seller. It garnered praise from such football greats as Bill Parcells, the NFL championship coach who said, “As close as you can come to NFL action without putting on the pads. Filled with excitement, suspense-and great football!” In addition to FOOTBALL GENIUS, FOOTBALL HERO, FOOTBALL CHAMP, and DEEP ZONE. Tim is the author of the New York Times best-seller BASEBALL GREAT, to which RIVALS and New York Times bestseller BEST OF THE BEST are companions. PINCH HIT, a baseball take on The Prince and the Pauper, is, like UNSTOPPABLE, a stand-alone novel.

Here is my Q &A with Tim!

1) How did you decide to become an author of books for kids?

When I was a kid, I had two passions, football and books. So, I dreamed one day of becoming an NFL player and a writer. After sixteen books for adults, I had the chance to write for young readers. My editor approached me with the idea of writing page-turning stories and setting them in the world of sports. I loved the idea and used two of my own kids as the characters in the Football Genius series. It’s been fun!

2) How did your former NFL teammates, coaches, and colleagues react to your football books? I know Bill Parcells gave the first one a great blurb, and that would have sent me soaring- I’m a huge NY Giants fan and the Parcells-Simms-Harry Carson era was my heavenly period.

I love Bill Parcells. He’s old school and I almost played for him. He told me he was going to pick me in the 1986 NFL draft in the first round. Only problem was that the Giants had the 19th pick and the Falcons picked 17th and took me! My teammates and other NFL connections all have embraced my stories, especially the ones for their kids. I think they respected my dream to become a writer and admire the success I’ve had.

3) How did you and your wife cope with her cancer diagnosis and how is her health today? What would you say to someone newly diagnosed with cancer? What advice would you give to the family members or friends of someone who’s been diagnosed with cancer about how best to support their loved one?

Thank God, my wife is fine. At the beginning, we didn’t know how it would turn out. It was devastating to us all when we got the diagnosis. She stayed strong and I and the kids did our best to support and encourage her. Ultimately, it was her own toughness, mentally and physically, that saw her through. The great news for cancer victims is that the treatments get better and better and so more and more people are able to survive. I’d say make sure you surround yourself with people who will stay upbeat and help you fight through it, and stay positive. Also, don’t despair if you feel depressed and anxious, of course you do. It’s okay. Get help from others. Seek out their support. For friends and family, be there for them, stay positive. Let them know you’re hurting, but don’t show any despair. They need your strength, even though it will be tough on you too.

4) As someone who combined academic excellence and excellent sports performance, you are an inspiration and a great role model. Who inspired you? Who were your role models?

My role models are everyday men and women who fight for our country to keep us safe and who dedicate themselves to educating our kids. That’s it. I love our soldiers and I love our teachers and coaches who teach the next generation. My role models were my teachers and coaches.

5) Asked by my boys, Benj (13) and James (10): What was the best part of being an NFL player?

The money… hahaha, not really. The best part was smashing a QB into the dirt, standing up with your arms raised, and having 70,000 people screaming your name. It’s the thrill of being there, in the NFL, playing on TV for people to see, and it lives up to the dream.

6) Again, Benj and James asked this one: What was the hardest thing about being an NFL player?

Dealing with the injuries, the exhaustion, and the stress is absolutely brutal.

7) What advice would you give to children who have aspirations of being professional athletes? What would you advise parents whose children wish to pursue sports as a career?

My advice -and this is what I tell my own kids- is to work hard in school. Your education will always pay you back. You don’t need luck to be a doctor,lawyer, accountant, teacher, or engineer. All you have to do is work hard in school and it can happen. To be a pro athlete, you need more than just talent and hard work. You need luck, so make sure you take care of your education. Parents, find good coaches and let them do their thing. The rest is up to your child. He or she has to be possessed with a sport to reach the pros or the olympics. You can’t instill that passion in them. They either have it or they don’t. Make sure you let them know that character and education are much more important, even if they have the talent to go to the big leagues.

8) Who are some of your favorite NFL players, past and present?

I liked Jack Lambert and John Riggens and Earl Campbell, Deion Sanders, Jackie Slater, Eddie George, Brett Favre and Steve Young. But honestly? Besides a few rotten apples, I find NFL players to be some of the best people in the world. They know what it’s like to get knocked down and get back up, and they know how important it is to be a team player.

9) Tell us about your five children: ages, personalities, strengths, challenges, interests, and hobbies.

Wow, all five? Thane is a silent leader, compassionate, strong, and insightful. He’s going to be a school psychologist and football coach. Tessa is creative and energetic and loves animals. She’s going to be a vet. Troy is a ferocious competitor. As nice as he is is also as vicious as he can be when he’s trying to win. He’ll be an NFL QB and a lawyer. Tate is a superstar in every way: smart, kind, and a division 1 athlete. She’ll do whatever she wants to. Ty is six and will probably be an NFL linebacker or the world heavyweight cage fighting champion.

10) What is the best piece of parenting advice you ever received?

Show your kids love all the time, and don’t sweat the small stuff. At the same time, make sure you establish boundaries for them early on. Later, they either make their own boundaries, or they break yours.

11) What are your favorite things to do with your family?

I love to hike, go on a boat ride, and just have dinner together. I love being with them when we have the chance to talk and laugh together.

12) What have been your biggest challenges and your biggest joys as a parent?

Biggest challenge is discipline. It’s hard to say no. Yes is so easy, but it’s better for them to cry now than you to cry later. The greatest joy is seeing my kids be kind to other people. When I see that, I know I’ve done my job.

Watch the book trailer for UNSTOPPABLE here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_0lON88WgU&feature=youtu.be

Find out more about Tim’s book tour here: http://www.classactsbooks.com/