“I get plenty of protein just from the plants that I’m eating, and I think there is a huge misconception about how much protein we actually need.”
What do you get when you combine Underdog with the spinach-chomping Popeye The Sailor Man?
Currently serving up wide receiver and punt return duties for the Miami Dolphins, today’s guest is the only (to my knowledge) 100% plant-based athlete currently active in the National Football League.
But Griff’s unique nutritional protocol is only a part of a larger, more compelling narrative. An inspirational tale of determination, tenacity and self-belief.
The story begins with a scrappy kid from Ohio with an insane dream — to one day play professional football.
But at 5’11” and 190 pounds, Griff doesn’t strike the typical NFL pose. He’s quiet, studious and understated in a culture of brash egos. Undersized on a field of gargantuan colossuses. Merely fast on a field of lightning-footed Greek gods.
Griff, be serious. It’s just not going to happen.
Although a standout high school player, the phone wasn’t exactly ringing off the hook with scholarship offers to the big NCAA Division I programs. Undeterred, Griff enrolls at Stanford and joins the squad as a non-scholarship walk-on.
Expectations were low.
Nonetheless, Griff persists. Flouting his God-given limitations, he out-trains his teammates and competitors. He studies the game like his life depends upon it. And, most interestingly, he plies his erudite, scholarly nature to the white space — overlooked aspects of mental, emotional and physical self-development to gain that extra edge to enhance his performance both on and off the field.
It works. Defying the odds (a consistent theme with Griff), he makes the Stanford roster as one of only 8 true freshman to see action in 2008. Improving year by year, Griff closed out a very successful collegiate career as a starting wide receiver alongside storied quarterback Andrew Luck — his roommate and best friend to this day.
The 2012 NFL Draft comes and goes. Griff’s phone doesn’t ring.
But because luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, he nonetheless gets picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Indianapolis Colts.
The dream becomes reality.
But before he can even celebrate his most implausible life-long goal finally realized — just four months after being signed, Griff breaks his foot and gets placed on injured reserve. A crushing setback that would end the career of most, Griff doubles down, using the off-time to his advantage.
Understanding that his career depended upon him identifying every conceivable means to overcome his injury and talent deficit, he turns his attention to nutrition and begins to keenly study optimal methods to enhance his body’s ability to recover from exercise-induced stress. It’s an inquest that ultimately lead him to adopt a plant-based diet — a radical vegan experiment he now credits as central to bouncing back in 2013 — shredded, stronger and faster — to make the Colts’ starting lineup alongside long-time pal Andrew Luck, the NFL’s $140 million man.
Currently in his 4th year with the NFL, today Griff finds himself heading into the 2016-17 season in a brand new city playing with a brand new team – the Miami Dolphins.
Exploring the hows and whys of Griff’s plant-based protocol, a big part of today’s discussion centers on dispelling nutritional myths related to athletic performance. But at its core, this is a conversation about conviction and resilience. It’s about the importance of coaches and mentors. It’s about managing time and setting goals. It’s about refusing to give up. It’s about going the extra mile to find that that performance edge.
And above all, it’s about the critical significance of believing in yourself.
We cover a lot of ground in this conversation, including:
- Griff’s early years at Stanford University
- the Andrew Luck regime at Stanford
- taking a risk at making the roster in Indiana
- Griff’s time on the injured reserve list
- daily life of a professional athlete
- the evolution to becoming plant-based
- typical diet of the NFL
- athletic performance benefits
- Griff’s typical day in food
- Product design with Evan Spiegel
- the importance of coaches and coaching
- managing time and setting goals
- tools & techniques to activate the mind and body
I sincerely hope you enjoy this ball-toss with my favorite NFL athlete.
Peace + Plants,
A few spots are still available for our next retreat — for info visit ourplantpowerworld.com
Check out Julie’s new podcast divine throughline
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Background, Context & Reference:
- Griff’s Snapchat: gwhalen17
- ESPN: Dolphins WR Griff Whalen credits vegan diet for his success by James Walker
- NYTimes: Stanford’s Distinct Training Regimen Redefines Strength by Greg Bishop
- FootballScoop: Stanford takes you inside of “The Turley Method” (Video) by Doug Samuels
- MiamiDolphins: Five Questions With Griff Whalen
- MyPalmBeachPost: ‘Underdog’ Griff Whalen unlike anyone on Miami Dolphins’ roster by Hal Habib
- Colts: Harbaugh or Luck? Meat or Vegan? Whalen’s Tough Choices Are Paying Off
- IndyStar: Colts’ Griff Whalen in PETA ad: No Super Bowl chicken wings for me by Dana Hunsinger Benbow
- MiamiHerald: Miami Dolphins sign ex-Colts wide receiver Griff Whalen by Adam Beasley
- WashingtonPost: What we can learn from NFL players’ wellness routines (no pricey trainer required) by Des Bieler
- Thefan: “Don’t Forget The Griffer”
- IndyStar: Colts’ Griff Whalen: From forgotten man to go-to wideout by Zak Keefer
- IndyChannel: Colts wide receiver Griff Whalen headed for Miami Dolphins by Jordan Fischer
- SunSentinel: Dolphins sign former Colts WR Griff Whalen by Chris Perkins
- ThePhinsider: Dolphins add Griff Whalen in free agency by Kevin Nogle
- VegNews: ESPN Profiles Vegan NFL Player Griff Whalen by Anna Starostinetskaya
Plant-Based Resources Discussed in today’s podcast:
- Documentary: Cowspiracy
- Documentary: The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue*
- Documentary: Forks Over Knives*
- Documentary: Food Matters*
- Documentary: Food, Inc.*
- Book: Forks Over Knives* by T. Colin Campbell
- Book: The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds* by Rip Esselstyn
- Book: Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life* by Brendan Brazier
- Book: The Rise of Superman* by Steven Kotler
- MyVega: Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator*
- SproutLiving: Sprout Living Epic Protein Powder*
- ExploreAsia: Gluten Free Pasta Variety 8 Pack*
- Tolerant Foods: Organic Black Bean Pasta-Penne*
- Tolerant Foods: Organic Red Lentil Pasta-Penne*
- 22 Days Nutrition: Organic Plant Protein Powder*
Notable People Discussed:
- Andrew Luck: QB for the Indianapolis Colts
- Jarvis Landry: WR and punt returner for the Miami Dolphins
- DeVante Parker: WR for the Miami Dolphins
- Kenny Stills: WR for the Miami Dolphins
- Ryan Whalen: free agent WR
- Doug Baldwin: WR for the Seattle Seahawks
- Evan Spiegel: co-founder and CEO of Snapchat
- Jim Harbaugh: head football coach at University of Michigan
- Chuck Pagano: head coach of the Indianapolis Colts
- Adam Gase: head coach of the Miami Dolphins
- Dr. Rick Perea: performance psychologist for the Miami Dolphins
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP #079: T. Colin Campbell on How Plant-Based Nutrition Can Prevent & Reverse Disease
- RRP #091: “Cowspiracy”: The Devastating Global Impact Of Industrialized Animal Agriculture On The Health Of Our Planet With Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn
- RRP #101: Brendan Brazier, From Professional Athlete To Bestselling Author And Beyond – The Story Of A Most Unlikely Entrepreneurial Success
- RRP #120: High Performance Psychologist Michael Gervais On Mastering Mindfulness
- RRP #142: From Monk To Entrepreneur: How Andy Puddicombe Became The Modern Voice Of Meditation & Mindfulness
- RRP #160: The NFL’s David Carter On How A Plant-Based Diet Made Him A Better Player & A Better Human
- RRP #176: Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, Cowspiracy: How Animal Agriculture Is Destroying The Planet & What You Can Do About It
*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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