Zeke Pike had it all. He had the size and the pedigree to become football's next big thing. His father Mark Pike was a member of the Buffalo Bills for 12 seasons and went to four Super Bowls. It was all there for the taking. Unfortunately, the highly recruited Army All-American was battling addiction that would alter his life forever.
Gone are the days of dropping back in the pocket and picking apart defences. Instead Pike welcomes the days of building the leaders of tomorrow and helping those that can't help themselves.
The GM’s Perspective: You have faced many tough and public battles with drug and alcohol abuse, the loss of a loved one, and your dream of playing football was taken away. How can you even comprehend where you are now to where you were only a short time ago?
Zeke Pike: God takes us all on different journeys in life. I was stuck for a while. My identity had been in football and had so many great opportunities and so many things I could capitalize on that I fell short on. I’ve truly found my purpose in life. I get more joy out of travelling and speaking in seeing lives being changed and seeing young people being impacted by my story and my struggles than I ever did playing in front of 100,000 people.
GMs: It’s no secret that you’re very honest when you’re holding conferences or telling your story to collegiate athletes, high schoolers, and middle schoolers. What’s the response after you give them the no holds barred version of your mistakes?
ZP: With athletes in particular, I think it helps them feel like they’re not alone. As athletes, for some reason, we try to act like we have it all together or we don’t have any struggles in our life. Part of that is how we’re groomed as athletes to be tough and strong (physically and mentally). To be able to break that wall down and get into their personal lives and help them to understand it’s OK to struggle. Let's get this thing right now instead of when the opportunity is no longer there.
For middle schoolers, high schoolers, and people in the community, it’s goes beyond athletics. It’s about being able to break down that wall and help people know that they’re not alone and it’s OK to struggle. It’s OK fail, but we have to get up, and keep fighting, and not repeat the same mistakes.
GMs: You started Number8Ministries while you were serving time in prison. What was the turning point for you when you said I need to change my life and I will help others who are going down a dark path?
ZP: My turning point was identifying that I was the issue. I needed to look myself in the mirror and say I’m the problem. People ask me what’s changed in my life and I tell them nothing’s changed, but I’m the one’s who changed. I’ve changed the people, the places, and things that I surround myself with.
I started to challenge myself in prison. Football may not be the plan that God has for me in my life. I tried for so long to keep it a secret. I would just happen to get arrested, but still act like I don’t have any issues. I would act like I’m completely fine, but from the outside looking in, I was dealing with some demons.
When I started to express myself and come to grips with this is who I am as a person was when I realized that I was doing the right thing. I saw so many people around me that were affected by my story because they were going through a very similar journey.
GMs: You were highly recruited, an Army All-American and were attending Auburn University where you were touted as the next Cam Newton. Was this rock and roll lifestyle avoidable?
ZP: This was all developing long before Auburn. I’ve had signs of addiction for a long time. I was rebellious growing up, I was fearful, angry, and mad. All the signs were there.
The recruiting process is crazy. These 4 or 5 star recruits are treated like rock stars, but it’s all about how you handle it. You can handle it with humility or with an egotistical attitude that can destroy you. I took the later.
We could all say if I went to another school it would’ve been different and it could’ve. That’s not how it played out. I went to Auburn for a reason and still have a lot of love for them, but this was a part of God’s plan. I would do it again to have what I have right now.
GMs: Why do you think there’s so much pressure placed on every upcoming generation of kids to be good at sports? Not just good, but spectacular?
ZP: Our society is run by social media. Everything you see is high profile cars and clothes and it all comes back to money money money. When you’re a young kid and have people telling you that if you go to school X and that after three years you’ll be in the NFL, it’s the reward of fame and fortune that you’re fixated on. The work you must put forth, the mindset you have to go in with, and the dedication and discipline you have to have in order to be successful is far more important than just going and playing football.
GMs: For the people unaware, what is Number8Ministries and what are you trying do with your organization and the people you speak with?
ZP: People ask if I was number eight when I played. I wasn’t. If you flip 8 sideways it represents infinity. Biblically, number 8 represents a new beginning. The earth was created in seven days. On the Seventh day was rest and on the Eighth day was new a beginning.
I travel and share my story with young kids and let them know about the new beginning that can start right now. You don’t have to wait until you're 23 years old sitting in a prison cell to start over.
GMs: If there’s someone reading this that is hurting, what are some words of advice or encouragement that you could give them?
ZP: This too shall pass, but you must be willing to fight. At some point in our lives we're going to face some adversity and tough situations. You have to have faith in something more than just yourself.
I found that rock and strength in God. If you’ve been doing something one way for so long and it hasn’t worked, it's probably time to try something else.
Keep fighting and never ever quit. Don’t ever give up, you’ll eventually see the daylight.