The journey to success isn’t always an easy road. In fact, very rarely do those at the top of their game say they haven’t struggled or failed along the way. It’s how life lessons are learned. Shaquil Barrett, linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, knows this truth all too well.
Now in his eighth season in the NFL and third with the Bucs as the defending Super Bowl Champs aim for back-to-back titles, Barrett got here through a life filled with hard work, perseverance and most importantly, teamwork—on the field and at home.
We recently sat down with Barrett and his wife Jordanna Barrett via Zoom for a conversation about family, football and the grit we have in all of us to succeed if we just try.
Shaquil Barrett on Family
Let’s start with the BIG family news! You recently added to your family with the birth of your daughter Arrayah. What is life like as a family of 6?
Jordanna Barrett: It’s been really fun. Our kids are a lot older. They say you are a pro by the time you have your fourth child, but we are not. It’s so new. She is amazing though. She has definitely closed the chapter of children for us.
You and Jordanna have been together since you were 17—what is the secret to making a relationship work after all of the years?
Shaquil Barrett: My secret is—first of all, you have to put in all of the work, like it’s equal, it’s 50/50. I Initially I wouldn’t help out and then that stuff would build up over time and take a toll on the relationship, so I just figured out that I have to put in a lot more work. I didn’t know how to be a husband and I had to learn how to be a husband. I am the person she fell in love with, but I have to learn to keep making her fall in love with me on a day in and day out basis and not get complacent.
Jordanna Barrett: For me, it’s just him coming home and being completely a part of the family. When he is at work, he’s at work and he does his things he needs to do, but he is completely present all of the time with the kids, with me. He comes home and does homework with the kids. He bathes our daughter. He knows I do a lot of work and I know he does a lot of work and we kind of meet each other halfway.
Shaq—you truly embody the meaning of perseverance. You have accomplished so much even when times got tough. What can we and your own kids learn from your story?
Shaquil Barrett: My story is always trying to make the right decision by being a good person no matter the circumstances. I always try to do right, no matter how tough the situation.
For the Denver Broncos for instance, I was mad for the last couple of years, I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to play, but I didn’t let them know that. I always persevered and did my part to earn a role on the team. I always went with the flow and tried to make the most out of any situation.
As a pro football player, you are the type of person parents hope their kids look up to as a positive role model in their lives. What would you tell kids about working toward their goals?
Shaquil Barrett: Once you finally figure out what you want, you just gotta keep going, keep grinding. You never know how close you are to breaking through to success. Keep going, don’t let nobody deter you from your goals. If your heart is set on it, chase it; you will find a way to get it done.
Your former coach at Boys Town is quoted as saying you are someone who competes with character. Why is this so important to you?
Shaquil Barrett: My dad always said when we win, it should be the same as when we lose. Always have respect for whatever sport you are playing. You don’t want to brag to somebody when you win, you don’t want to be too hard or too down on yourself when you lose. Try to be even keel. I always took that mindset from my childhood all the way on up.
A lot of us have big dreams, especially kids, but not everyone follows through on those dreams. What is your advice to someone who is dreaming big right now?
Shaquil Barrett: Know what you want to do later in life, so you know what you have to do right now to get to that goal. Know that you have to have good grades to be able to get to college, you have to have good grades to be able to play sports, you have to have good grades to get a good career, you have to be at the top of your game to be able to excel in whatever field you want to excel in.
I’m all school oriented now. I just want my kids to be A students. You have to do the work anyway. You might as well give it your best effort and not procrastinate and wait until the last minute like I did.
Shaq Barrett on Teamwork
What lessons have you learned on the football field that translate into life at home with the family?
Shaquil Barrett: You have to work hard. I didn’t succeed my first year. My second year I played more, and we won a Super Bowl. But my third year, I wasn’t succeeding in the way I wanted to succeed. You always got to just keep going and keep going and keep persevering until you are able to break the wall down, but then you still have to keep going still because you want to stay at the top of your game.
For school work, you’ve got to learn—it’s going to be hard because you don’t know what you’re doing when you first start learning something new, so you’ve got to stay on and get homework done day in and day out. Every day and every night we do it, so we just have to stay on them for that and as they learn, it becomes easier, and they enjoy reading. they have fun doing it now. They enjoy reading books now and they enjoy doing math now because they understand it a lot better and when it becomes easy, they have fun doing it.
Let’s talk about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Why is this team so special to you?
Shaquil Barrett: This team is special from the top on down. Everybody in the organization, literally everybody I talk to, great people from GM down to kitchen staff to Kyle (photographer) and Allan (Senior Manager of Community Public Relations ). I wouldn’t leave for nothing. I love the guys we have in the locker room. We’ve formed a great bond. I think we have the potential to be very good for years to come and I want to be a part of that.
What are some of your favorite things to do as a family in Tampa Bay?
Shaquil Barrett: We go to the beach and get on the boat and just have a nice evening on the boat, dock at a couple of the beaches and let the kids swim. She (Jordanna) definitely loves being on the water and not in the water.
Jordanna Barrett: Yes (laughs) We usually go on nightly walks around the neighborhood. He’s been teaching them how to longboard. And our kids are fish. They would live in the water if they could, so being able to just go outside and go in the pool is definitely different than what they’re used to in Colorado.
When you look back, do you think your younger self ever envisioned where you are today?
Shaquil Barrett: I saw another Instagram that said your 5-years-ago self would be so proud of who you are today and I’m thinking, man, five years ago I would not have pictured me in the situation I’m in right now… two Super Bowl rings and leading the league in sacks one year and having another baby, then still having a successful marriage and having more love than when we went in…I feel like we’re doing a majority of everything the right way now and we’ve just got to keep it up.
Do you want your kids to follow in your footsteps when it comes to sports?
Shaquil Barrett: I let them pretty much pick. We had them in some sports before COVID changed the world for us, for everyone, so I really don’t be too hard on them for sports right now, the mindset I tell them is I want them to have fun with whatever they are doing.
I don’t want them to feel obligated to do anything they don’t want to do. They have different opportunities than I was afforded when I was growing up, so I want them to be smart as kids. I want them to focus heavily on school and get degrees in whatever they want to be in life.
What has pandemic parenting been like for you all?
Jordanna Barrett: If anything, it’s brought us a lot closer. We were already a close-knit family pre-pandemic. We never really spent time away from the kids ever, but it’s like now, when I got to an appointment or even after his break, they were like where are you going-they were so used to us being home and constantly around each other.
Shaq Barrett: When we first came down here, before the pandemic, we were in a small, small apartment and we were always on top of each other. We had a one-year deal and didn’t know how long were going to be here. It’s easy to get frustrated with each other when you’re seeing each other 24-7 and you can’t be anywhere but in your room or living room, so that was probably the hardest part of being in that small apartment.
Life seems to be getting closer to normal again. What has the transition been like for you all?
Jordanna Barrett: It’s kind of weird because whenever we do go out and are with people socially, it’s like oh crap, we forgot how to do this! The baby process was way different than all of the other kids. We’re homebodies and we love being home and around each other, so it honestly hasn’t been a lot being in the pandemic because we’re kind of like that always.
What do your kids think about their dad being a Tampa Bay Buccaneer?
Jordanna Barrett: When we were first here, our first year before the pandemic, my oldest son Shaq Jr. was signing things for kids and would sign “Shaq Barrett 58” because they would ask for his signature.
It was different because in Denver we didn’t really have the lifestyle. He wasn’t really known and when we went places people didn’t really stop and say can I take a picture or recognize us, but here the kids are known. It’s a lot different for them. They like it.
The fans are pretty special here, right?
Shaq Barrett: I love our fans here. I’ve felt welcome from day one….almost. I remember one Twitter post where one fan was like who is Shaq Barrett anyway’, so I remember that (laughs) so everybody besides that person welcomed me. I love the support in the stadium. It’s an amazing feeling, I wouldn’t trade it for anything right now.
What has a it been like to play in a full stadium again?
Third downs are the best…I love all the noise, messing with the offense—just having the fans back—I love the environment. Now that everybody is in the building, they are rocking all the time. It’s an amazing feeling to be in a sold-out stadium
Originally published in the November 2021 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.
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