What is a professional football player doing on a snowboard? That was the question we had after stumbling upon a recent photo of Houston Texans linebacker Kevin Bentley decked out in full on-snow regalia in ESPN The Magazine (Aug. 9 issue 13.16). The article in reference details the "side hustles" of mainstream pro athletes, from wine making to cattle breeding. Bentley's hustle? Teaching snowboarding.
Turns out, Bentley is a Cert II-level instructor who has been teaching snowboarding during the NFL offseason in Vail, Colo. -- for $14 an hour! -- since 2004. How is it that a guy who needs every muscle, ligament and joint in his body to be in peak condition every day of the football season is even allowed to look at a snowboard, much less step foot on one? We had to find out.
ESPN.com: So Kevin, for the snowboarders reading who may not follow the NFL closely, could you run down your list of stats?
Bentley: My football history? I was drafted to Cleveland in the fourth round, played three years there. Then I went to Seattle, played three years -- went to the Super Bowl [in 2006]. This is my third year in Houston. So this is my ninth year playing pro football.
What's the average career length in the NFL?
Oh, about three years. [Laughs.]
On to snowboarding ... how do they let you do it? Isn't it in your contract that you can't? What if you hurt yourself?
I don't know. It's not in my contract.
They don't give you a hard time?
How did you get into snowboarding?
I skateboarded in high school, so I decided to try snowboarding. The National Brotherhood of Skiers have a big summit every year. I went to that and I loved it. The first year I went [it] was in Vail. I met a lot of cool people while I was up there and I just continued to go back.
Wait, you used to skateboard? Where are you from anyway?
I was born and raised in L.A. I used to skateboard to school every day. Obviously, I was a lot smaller then. [Laughs.] I still skateboard now.
They let you skateboard, too? That's crazy!
I only do it in the offseason. But I'm not doing tricks or anything. Basically, I just use it to get around and to stay used to the feeling of being on my snowboard. It feels the same.
So Vail is your spot, now?
I go there every year. I end up going other places, but I'm always at Vail for the most part.
Why instructing? Wouldn't you rather have the freedom to just ride around?
Oh, I do. But I enjoy teaching. It's such a fun sport and a lot of people don't try it because they're afraid of getting hurt. But there are ways to teach without getting people hurt. A lot of my friends teach as well.
What do your football buddies think?
A couple of guys have come up with me and had a great time. Kevin Walter and David Anderson went to the X Games [with me] last year. It's good because a lot of my friends are getting into it now because they see how much fun I have and they know I'm certified to teach. I don't get banged up, so they assume they'll be fine as well.
Are you going for your Level III?
Not yet, because that takes a lot of skill. Level II is not as bad as Level III. Level III you have to be able to ride the pipe switch and regular, you have to be able to spin both ways, you have to be able to ride moguls switch.
Switch moguls? Really?
No, I know people who have been riding their whole lives and still can't pass the test. I can ride moguls switch, but I can't ride them to the level that they're looking for. It's a very strenuous test.
What else can you do? Pipe? Park?
I ride the pipe. I can get in switch and come out normal, but I can't go in normal and come out switch. It still freaks me out. I spent a lot of time in the park last winter working on spinning, boardslides, 50-50s, doing a lot of rail riding, buttering rails and boxes. I've been working a lot on riding switch.
What about powder?
Love it. It's the best ever. I don't miss a pow day, not at all. I don't care how tired I am. If it's a pow day, I'm out there.
That's a good answer.
Yeah. That's the best time to work on stuff because it's low consequence. You know, you drop a cliff and even if you don't land it you'll probably be OK.
What's your scene there? Do you have a "MTV Winter Cribs" going on or do you live with roommates?
I live just like everybody else [does] their lives. We rent a three-bedroom place, I have two roommates, our rent is, like, $600 each. I live exactly how they live.
Does everybody know that you're a pro ball player?
Most of my friends know that I play, and they keep me safe. They don't let me go too overboard with what I'm trying.
Have you seen the movie "Blue Crush"?
Is that the surf movie?
Yeah, about the football star who goes to Hawaii and falls into the scene there? Any correlations with your snowboard life?
You know, I love it, I'm not going to lie. When I'm done playing [football] I'll probably buy a house in the mountains and split my time between Atlanta and the mountains.
Last year I took my little girl, she's only 2 and she already learned how to ski. She absolutely loved it. She wants to snowboard, that's all she keeps saying. What I may do this winter is get a longer board and drill extra holes between my legs so she can put bindings on and boots and just strap her in and let her hold onto my legs, so at least she gets used to the movement.
And you also do yoga? Did someone in Colorado turn you on to that?
No. [Laughs.] It was a strength coach up in Seattle. He offered it to us as a way to get more flexible. I like to eat organic and stuff so I thought I'd try it, and I loved it, and have been doing it ever since.
So your teammates don't think you're just the crazy guy on the team, into yoga and snowboarding?
Nah. I mean, they know I'm anal about my regimen. But you know, as long as I get the job done I could really care less what people think. And then offseason I'm gonna live my life and have fun, that's the way I look at it.
So you're going to instruct again this year?
Oh yeah. I'll do it for years to come. I don't know how many, until I can't do it any more.