"Ocho Cinco": Chapter 1

Originally Published: October 29, 2009
By Chad Ochocinco | Special to Page 2

Editor's note: Reprinted from the book "Ocho Cinco" by Chad Ochocinco and Jason Cole. Copyright © 2009 by Chad Ochocinco and Jason Cole. Published by Crown, a division of Random House, Inc.

My life is good. It's sweet, so sweet. Roll up to my place in Plantation, Florida, and that's easy to see. Right there in the circular driveway that wraps around the fountain in my front yard you get the first taste.

Wait a second, I gotta let you in the front gate first. It's a gated community and all. But once you're in and riding by my huge-ass house on an acre of land, you can see what I'm saying. Parked in front are seven sweet-ass cars. One for every day of the week. I don't like to get bored, you know?

There's the Rolls-Royce for chillin'. There's the Hummer. The Dodge 4 x 4 Ram pickup. Nice dubs on that. Then there's the 1971 drop-top Caprice with the rims, the nice paint job, and an interior better than the day they brought it off the assembly line. Same goes for the 1973 Impala. That's a convertible, too. Hey, man, this is Florida.

Then there's the convertible Lamborghini. It's kind of a Cincinnati Bengals orange. Man, who says I don't believe in the team? Finally, there's the Mercedes SLR McLaren. Mercedes makes 500 of those a year and it goes for a cool $500,000. That baby goes 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds, which is only slightly quicker than me, and hits 208 mph, which is only a little faster than me.

Then again, most cornerbacks think I'm faster than that.

Come on in the crib. Don't get freaked out by the Plexiglas walkway over the koi pond with the little waterfall next to it, it'll hold you. The big room in the front with the marble tiles is cool and the upstairs room with the pool table is very cool. But the best room is the entertainment room just off the kitchen. In there are the three big-screen TVs. Yeah, three. That's not the best part, though. The best part is that the TVs are inset into a floor-to-ceiling aquarium that runs about 30 feet down one wall.

I got some beautiful fish in there, even a little baby shark. The TVs are built into the front of the aquarium, the wires coming down through some fake coral beneath each of the boxes. It's an awesome view.

I've got paintings of myself around the house. Back in my condo in Cincinnati, I've got like nine paintings of myself. Why? I love me some me, that's why.

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And man, I love my things, especially my car. I got a 2008 Dodge Charger back in Cincinnati, painted up a little like the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard. I don't have the orange. It's black and charcoal. But that car smokes, man. Just blazes. I got the '01 on the side, just like in the show. Only difference is that it says General Ocho Cinco on top, not General Lee. Hey, there's only so far you can take that whole idea. I'm not getting into that whole Confederate flag s--- and all. I am a black man, you know.

Now, I didn't like school at all. Hated it. Yeah, I'm smart and I could have done the work, but I didn't want people to know how smart I was and I couldn't sit there in all those stupid classes listening to all that boring stuff. No way. Football was my way out. I had to make it. Not that I did it the easy way. But I had to make it.

And if I hadn't made it in football, I would have done what I had to do. Whatever I had to do to get the things I like. At this point for me to have the nice things that I like, I wasn't good in school so that's down the drain. Therefore, I would have to resort to means of illegal activity to get the things that I like.

Yeah, if that means sell drugs, I would have done that. I'm not into drugs. Don't even drink. I go to the bar at J. Alexander's in Cincinnati and order drinks for everybody there. But I drink cranberry juice. That's it. But in my 'hood, to get the things that I wanted, that meant selling drugs, and back then I would have done that.

It's like what Pittsburgh wide receiver Santonio Holmes was talking about before the Super Bowl. By the way, sweet catch on the gamewinner. Damn, how I wish I could get that chance to make that play. How sweet would that be?

Anyway, back to my point. Sometimes there aren't a lot of choices to get what you want. You have two ways out in life. You can make it as an athlete or you have to hustle. I give Santonio a lot of credit for being honest about what he was facing. We both grew up in South Florida, although I'm from Miami and he's from Belle Glade, which is more the country, sugarcane fields and all that. He talked to the Miami Herald about it one day and then shared even more in another interview the next day. Here's what Holmes said:

"I feel it's time to share things. I'm on the biggest stage. Everybody's going to be watching. I'm pretty sure some kids can get a feel for changing their lives and not doing those type of things, and can get an opportunity to get out of the ghetto, the 'hood, to be successful. My friends were always doing it and I felt comfortable doing it at the time. As the years grew older, I just felt like that wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted to play football. I don't want to end up like a lot of my friends, in jail, standing on the corner, not going to school."

Some people thought Santonio shouldn't have said that stuff before the Super Bowl. But he was being honest, being real, talking about his life and what drives him to be great. I'm telling you the same things about me, what makes me want to be the best. What drives me and, really, what I would have been.

People think drug dealers are stupid, but they're not. Now, the ones who get caught, yeah, they're stupid. I wouldn't get caught.

How else would I get these things? Become some entertainer, a dancer? Yeah, I love music. I even play some instruments. Sax, guitar, piano a little. But that's not what I am. If you're going to be an entertainer, it starts when you are young, when you are four years old. You don't start when "Oh damn, football didn't work out for me, let me try this." It doesn't work that way. All actors start when they are young.

I hang out with musicians. During the bye week last year, I hung out with Lil' Wayne in his studio in Miami. That dude works hard. It was Saturday, like 1 a.m., when I showed up at his place and he's totally focused, totally into what he's doing. No breaks, not much conversation, he's just going and going, doing his thing. It was amazing to watch, but to think I could just cross over at a late age and really do that and be great at it, come on now.

That's why I tell you it was football or it was the street for me. Now, I'm not into the street life. NFL Security doesn't need to be bothering me. I know some guys who do that stuff from the old neighborhood where I grew up, Liberty City in Miami. I talk to those guys, but I don't live the street life and I don't want to. My grandma brought me up not to deal with that. I was either playing football or I was home. I didn't get in serious trouble. She was a teacher. She wouldn't have it.

Still, what I'm saying is that if football hadn't worked, I would have done illegal activities. I would have been Frank Lucas, the dude from American Gangster. That dude was real. As crazy as that s--- sounded, he was real and he made it, big-time. This is what I'm saying about guys who survive in that business and really make it: They're smart. You know how Lucas burned the mink coat in the movie? Don't be flashy, don't show off what you have. Don't attract attention. That would have been me. You have to be smart to survive in that business. You're not trying to be some street guy who gets arrested all the time. That's stupid.

The ones who do the illegal stuff are bright. Some of them might be some of the smartest people in the world to get away and do some of the things they do. Not only do you have to be smart at what you do, you have to be able to outthink the system, outsmart the system. You have to watch over your shoulder 24/7. A lot goes into that. You don't know who's who.

Now, I'm sure the NFL doesn't like to hear that, but let's be real. Let's put it out there. This is what happened to me.

This is what this book is about. It's not just my story, it's me. It's about what I think, what I feel, why I do this. It's about what the NFL is, the side of the game you don't understand all the time. This is about what you don't hear or see about me because you really only see it through the perspective of the media, the people who wrap up my story in a few words or in some video and think, "Hey, this is what Chad Ochocinco is." That's just part of me.

It's like in 2008 at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, when one reporter said that I "shoved" some guy [Michael Lipman] from the NFL who was trying to talk to me. I didn't shove him. The dude is like 5-foot-8. If I'd have shoved him, he'd have sued my ass. I pushed his hands away. Was I in a bad mood? Yeah, I was. I didn't want to talk to anybody, reporters, TV people, NFL PR guys, nobody. That's when I was on my big kick to try to get out of Cincinnati, which didn't work out so hot (more on that later).

Anyway, the dude from the NFL touched me and I pushed his hand away. That was it and then I left. But now everybody thinks I'm shoving guys to the ground, I'm fighting, committing assault and all sorts of crap that never happened. It was just typical BS that comes with being me. We got guys in other places doing crazy s---, like punching their quarterback in the face in the weight room, and it barely gets in the news.

You see, the funniest part is that people think I'm so bad, but do you see one arrest on me since I got to the NFL? Do you see me getting suspended for using drugs or steroids? Do you see anything about me beating up my girlfriend or some other guys? No, none of that. Still, people think I'm this bad guy because I do some celebrations and talk trash and I'm flamboyant. Look, I'm working hard, I'm having fun, and nobody is going to stop me from having fun.

Well, maybe the Bengals will, but that's another story for later. I'm not hurting anybody, but I push a guy's hand away and it's an international crisis. "Chad is flipping out in the Islands, what's going to happen? He might fly to Japan and start some s--- there." They're making me out to be like Godzilla or something, stepping on buildings and knocking s--- over. Yeah, that would be me, Chadzilla. Man, I ain't going to Japan. I don't even like sushi. Unless you got a sushi company you want me to endorse. I can see it now, try the Ochocinco sushi roll. It would be like a spicy tuna roll with tempura flakes. Damn, I'm getting hungry already.

Like I said, the NFL probably isn't going to want to hear some of what I have to say. The commish, Roger Goodell, is probably going to give me that look like, "Ocho, what did you do now?" But it's like I said before in that sign, you guys remember the one, "NFL, please don't fine me."

And this is why football was so important, why it was everything I did as a kid. It's why I love the NFL and I want to be the best part of the NFL. I'm that great player. When I wore the Hall of Fame jacket as a celebration, I didn't mean that disrespectfully. That's where I want to be. That's where I expect to be.

Even today, it's everything I am. Ask my boys from home. We'll be out at a club on Friday night before a game and I'll sometimes just be sitting there, daydreaming. I'm thinking about the game. I'm thinking about what I'm going to do. I'm zoned out on football, that's all. People can come up to me and say, "What up?" They look at me and think, that dude is in space. But that's where my head is at. It's all about football.

Ask my coaches, they'll tell you the same thing. Marvin Lewis, my head coach with the Bengals, he'll tell you. I call him at three or four in the morning sometimes, telling him, "I was thinking, we should run this play" or "We should do this." My head is always in the game. No matter what you think you see, no matter what you think the antics are about, I want to win. I know that football is first.

Most people out there will say, sarcastically, "Yeah right, Ocho, all you think about is football." They think I'm just about the celebrations, the dances, the marketing, that it's just about me. Look, the marketing is important. I want to be Ochocinco, the brand. Yeah, that's what I want. This is a business and I want the things.

But you know what I know? It's about winning. Nothing else matters unless you win. The year we made the playoffs was the best year of my career. That's what I play for. The day of that playoff game against Pittsburgh, the only playoff game we've had since I've been in Cincinnati, I was walking through the parking lot before the game, high-fiving people. I was geeked up. I was ready. People are offering me barbecue, chips, everything. It was so great. They're hyped, we're finally going to do something.

The atmosphere is awesome. It's what I wanted to do when I got to Cincinnati. Everybody said when I got there, "Oh, you don't want to be here, this team sucks." I told them, I want to be the guy who changes it for Cincinnati. I want to make the Bengals a champion. That's what I want. Because I know the winning has to come first. People don't give a s--- about you unless you're winning. That's where you make a difference. That's how you get the things you really want.

Do you know what it would be like to be the player who brings championships to the Bengals? That would be amazing. It would be, "Man, do you see what these guys did to win a title?" That's why I wanted so bad to do that with the Bengals. You hear people in other sports say, "Oh, you have to be in a big market and win there to make it big." That's bulls---. This is the NFL. If you win championships, especially if you win them with a team that hasn't done anything before, that just makes you even bigger.

You saw what happened when St. Louis won a title in 1999? What did everybody call them? The Greatest Show on Turf. Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce were big-time. Kurt Warner went from some guy who was a bag boy to MVP. Marshall Faulk went from a nice running back to the best all-purpose runner in the league. Look at Baltimore, where they didn't even have a team for years, just like St. Louis. The Ravens win it and Ray Lewis is huge.

And the most obvious of all is Peyton Manning. He wins a title in Indianapolis. Indianapolis? That's not some big-ass market, you know what I'm saying? But if you turn on your TV, you can't go five minutes without seeing his face on some commercial. It's unreal and Peyton's pretty funny. That fake mustache commercial or the one where he holds back the chicken. That's funny.

I want to play for championships. Everything you get flows from winning. In this book, my coaches will tell you that. They know I want to win. I want the f-----' ball because I believe I can help us win. That incident in the playoff game against Pittsburgh -- and I'm going to say it again, that wasn't a fight. I'll explain it more later, but I didn't swing at anybody. Not my head coach [Marvin Lewis]. Not my receivers coach [Hue Jackson]. Nobody. That incident was about the fact that I got one pass in the first half of that game. One f-----' catch in the first half and you're telling me we're trying to win this game.

Winning starts everything. Yeah, they'll come out and watch the games even if the team sucks (trust me, I know that). But the place is dead, people are leaving early, nobody is buying s---. I get it. That's why I want to win so bad. People think I just want to play because I'm into myself and that's it. They don't understand, I see the big picture.

I see what it takes to get the life I want. I see what it takes to escape the streets, to not have to sell drugs like so many of the people I grew up with in Miami. Like I said, I would have been right there with them, living that life. Thank God I don't have to worry about that stuff, because I am where I am. I have these things -- these cars, this house, my kids, and my life -- because of football. Because I work hard at football. Yeah, some people are jealous. They think I was just lucky to be born able to run, jump high, and catch. Whatever. There's lots of guys who can do all that. Just go back to the 'hood where I grew up, where lots of guys grew up. There's lots of guys who were great athletes back where I was from. It's just like when I say that there are a lot of guys from the 'hood who could do what Michael Phelps has done. I'm not saying what he did is easy. I'm saying there are a ton of guys who just don't have the focus or the surroundings to do that, but they have the physical ability.

That's why I say, "I'm Michael Phelps." I know that pissed a lot of people off that I would say that, thinking I was disrespecting what he did. I'm just saying that there are people who could do what he did. A lot of people. There's guys back in the 'hood who could do it if they put their mind to it. If they work at it.

That's why I say that I could beat anybody in any sport. I have the ability. I can do it. Lots of guys can do it. But you have to work hard. You have to want to do it and, for me, sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you have to do. If I knew then what I know now about school and how it held me back from getting what I wanted, I wouldn't have wasted my time the way I did. That was stupid. I cost myself at least a year in the pros because it took me three years to get through junior college. Three years! I'm serious. You're supposed to be done in two and I took three. Nobody wanted to touch me back then. No college. That's when I realized, I gotta get serious about this s---.

The only school that would touch me for one year was Oregon State and Coach Dennis Erickson. He didn't care, he just said come play up here, do your thing. So I did. I spent four months up there in Corvallis, Oregon. Nothing to do up there. I mean, nothing. I just played football and that was it. I think I went to class the first week and then I was done. Made sure I was there for attendance, whatever. I did enough to get myself to the Senior Bowl that year and that helped me get drafted. I should have been a first-round pick. That was ridiculous that I wasn't a first-rounder. But the reason was that teams couldn't trust me. You know what I'm saying? It was my fault that I didn't get drafted higher, because the teams couldn't trust me.

Even so, I've spent my entire career proving to them how wrong they were for not taking me. I can't be stopped in this game. Nobody can stop me. No cornerback can touch me. S---, I don't even see cornerbacks. It's like they don't even exist when I'm out there. I talk to them just so I can keep them sharp, keep them on top of their game, because that keeps me going. That's why I talk so much trash. Never stop. Never let up. Even before the game, I'm talking to the guys on the other team.

You see, everybody works hard to get to the NFL, to get those things they want. You have to. I don't talk about how hard I work out or how much I run or how much I lift or how much film I watch. I don't want to hear about it and I don't want to talk about it, because that's what everybody does. You can't survive in this business if you don't work, you know what I'm saying? Yeah, maybe you're some freak of an athlete, like Lawrence Taylor or something, and you can make it for a while. But even when LT played, it was different. Guys didn't train year-round like they do now. We got all these minicamps and workouts and everything. We're basically training 11 months a year.

If you don't work, you're going to be gone. First, you're not going to survive the punishment. Can't do it, especially if you're one of them big dudes playing inside. You gotta be ready. Second, the coach ain't going to have it if you're not working out, if you're not ready. They're going to cut your ass in a heartbeat if you don't want to do it their way. No question about that.

That's why I say, don't tell me about working hard. I see all these players talking about how they run up and down hills, lift weights all day, do cardio 52 hours a day. Come on, you don't have a choice in this game. The choice you make is way back when, when you're growing up. That's where all those guys make the choice about whether they want to make it in sports or if they want to do something else.

Of course, there's been a lot of dudes to go through Cincinnati that have a ton of talent, but they have a hard time making it on the team, being successful. I'm not talking about Chris Henry. He's going to figure it out, man. He's good, he's super talented, no question. And he's learned. I really believe that. He saw that they ain't playin'. Commissioner Goodell, he's not playing anymore. All that s--- that guys used to get away with, you can't do it. Most of the guys in the league, they're smart enough to figure it out. You don't have to be some genius to know that you have to follow the rules. Chris can figure that out. He's not going to mess it up again.

There are some guys who just can't do it. It's sad, really sad. Really talented guys, but their lives are so messed up, they can't handle it. I'll get into my own story later, but it's like Odell Thurman. He's a linebacker we had on the team. His whole family life was messed up. He was drinking, using drugs, and he was angry. He was fighting. He couldn't get it under control.

The worst part is he could play. He was a second-round pick in 2005. The dude had five interceptions his rookie year. I don't know anything about playing linebacker. All I can tell you is that if it's Ray Lewis at linebacker, he's good. But you know if a guy is a good athlete, and Odell Thurman was serious. A great athlete. Tough, he could run, come up and hit you in the mouth, chase you down. I heard he returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown in college. I know it's college, but that's serious for a linebacker. He could be great. But he was the kind of dude who couldn't stay out of trouble. I know Marvin Lewis tried to get through to Odell. They tried again and again, but he couldn't do it.

By his second year, he got suspended by the league for four games. Then he got arrested and he was suspended for the whole season. He got suspended again in 2007 and again in 2008. The dude is a wreck, it's just really sad. That's a guy who doesn't have the skills to see the big picture. I'm not ripping him, I'm explaining what happens to so many guys, like the guys I grew up with who could have been great athletes. They could have been Michael Phelps. But they didn't have the skills to understand what they have to do.

For me, I have those skills. I'm one of those guys. That's why I have a sweet life.