We encountered the NFL linebacker and an athlete in the truest sense, star of the Travel Channel's show and citizen of the world Dhani Jones strolling the streets of Dubrovnik. Approachable and personable, he immediately agreed to an interview.
CP: Dhani, you've been a pro linebacker for about nine seasons now. Is that right?
DJ: Yes, this season coming up will be my tenth.
CP: How long have you been in the sport?
DJ: My mother didn't let me play in the beginning so I played all different types of sports. When I got older and went to high school, she allowed me to play so I've been in the sport since then.
CP: What brought you to football? Did you just love the game or were there certain aspects of football that were particularly attractive to you?
DJ: Well, I had a bit of an anger problem, so to express myself and to find my way out of certain situations, to just sort of better myself I started playing football. I enjoyed it so much that I remained motivated to keep at it and to get good enough at the game to be able to play in college.
"Every day, every week, I practiced hard and got a bit better, learned more"
"Every day, every week, I practiced hard and got a bit better, learned more"
CP: When did you first realize you were good enough you could go pro? Did someone point that out to you or...?
DJ: I don't know (laughing...). I always sort of maintained the blue collar mentality where if you just work hard things would work themselves out. In this case they worked well. Every day, every week, I practiced hard and got a bit better, learned more. My aim was to be as knowledgable as possible about the position that I was playing so that when I entered the field I could do whatever I wanted to do.
CP: Some people characterize you as a Renaissance man and, indeed, you are a man of a scope much wider than that of an excellent football player. You are engaged in various worthwhile causes. Can we briefly talk about your involvement with the Climate Change Project, working with Al Gore...?
DJ: There are people who are socially conscious, many are politically conscious, yet there is an additional important concept of being environmentally conscious. When you spend so much time outside every day, especially playing sports, you begin to notice the difference, the changes in environment. As a result, I committed myself to learning more about the causes of those changes and being able to create a meaningful positive impact by getting educated about it and sharing with people what I have learned.
"Certain countries and people hoard the resources
CP: You're also involved with the UN's World Food Program...
DJ: There are millions of people in this world that are in need of the basic neccessities such as food and shelter on the one hand while on the other there is an overwhelming amount of natural resources to take from. Certain countries and people hoard the resources and we strive to find a way to channel those resources toward the ones that are most in need of them.
CP: A noble effort. Within the same line of thought and the spirit of charity is the Gift of New York -- a 9/11 philanthropy organization. Perhaps you could shed a bit of light on your involvement with it?
DJ: The attack on the World Trade Center shook up America and the world. At the time I played for the Giants. We stopped playing for a week. Aside from the much needed philanthropic side of it, we understood that people needed and wanted a way to collectively come together and that football, as a sport and an inexorable part of the fabric of culture, is a great means to do that, to get their mind off the pressing thoughts by 'being on the field with the athletes', to allow them space and time to communicate and spend time with one another.
CP: Were you always a worldly person, a guy who has his mind on affairs that impact all of us, modes of existence that lie beyond your immediate field of vision...
DJ: I've always been interested in people. Both my parents were in the military so we traveled quite a bit. Having experienced so much interaction with various people and all these different places at such a young age ingrained in me a lasting curiousity that ever propels me to learn about various peoples and their cultural worlds. I do not think this will ever end.
"If you wanna travel, get on a plane and get out of the country;
CP: Dhani, you're an athlete and entrepreneur, a poet and a painter, photographer and musician, world-traveler, environmental philanthropist and a community volunteer. How are you able to find the time to do all these things?
DJ: It's about using your time wisely, that is, finding what you passion is and commiting the time to yourself so that you can do the things that you want to do. If you wanna travel, get on a plane and get out of the country; if you wanna paint, find a canvas and illustrate. It's the same approach for any of the things you wanna do.
"My motto is CARPE DIEM"
CP: You're a man of action, you don't just think of something you would like to do and then leave that wish stowed away in some drawer to wait for a better, more auspicious time...
DJ: My motto is CARPE DIEM. I truly believe that. You know, a lot of people stare out of the window and just wait... Other people see that window is open and they take a chance and jump through it. I live my life trying to take chances. Now, of course I do not proceed haphazardously. I think and calculate, but I do proceed despite inherent inevitability of a certain amount of risk.
CP: Your love of travel is well known.
DJ: Travel is my passion, it's what I love to do. It's something I'd like for others to do as well because I believe it would enrich their lives.
"Communication is not only verbal.
CP: How has traveling enriched your life?
DJ: I think it has allowed me to be a better person, to expand my horizons, to learn how to communicate with different people even if I do not always know their language. Point in case is when I found myself in Paris. I do not speak French, but because I have traveled widely I just drew from my experiences and successfully communicated with the French. Or, when I ended up some four hundred miles outside one of the main cities in an African country without a translator. Same thing. Communication is not only verbal. Thus, I find that people can always relate to one another and find a way to communicate.
CP: Travel, it seems, is also a great way to get the first-hand knowledge of the world?
DJ: Sure. You learn about places, about people, different cultures, history, you learn what makes the world -- the world. Some people sit at home and try to learn that through televison and the internet, but there is no better way to acquire the understanding of the world than by witnessing it first hand.
"I maintain understanding that we're all just men, women, and children
CP: You were a TV-host and now a TV-star. How has being in the spotlight affected your life?
DJ: I don't pay attention to it. I maintain understanding that we're all just men, women, and children who happen to live in different places and do different things.
CP: Let's talk about sports for minute. You participated in a whole variety of them. Can you tell us of some?
DJ: For example, Hurling in Ireland, America's Cup racing in New Zealand, Surf Life-Saving in Australia, Mauy Tay in Thailand, Pradal Serey in Cambodia, Waterpolo in Croatia... the list goes on and on. I just hope I can continue and do as many sports as possible during my off season and then, during the season, just get back to football.
"... Waterpolo is a very difficult sport
CP: How was your athletic experience here in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the world's capital of waterpolo?
DJ: It was a bit ackward because waterpolo is a very difficult sport that you have to practice to be able to really play. However, I am a swimmer and I am a competitor, so I had at least two thirds covered. The last third is being an experienced waterpolo player and that's the edge that professionals in the sport have over me. I just went at it wanting to participate in the sport and to learn, to have fun experiencing it.
"Open your eyes. Go out and see the world"
CP: Your advice to children. How can they grow up to be better persons, better athletes, how can they better respect and appreciate the world and people in it?
DJ: Open your eyes. Go out and see the world. Don't spend all your time in the house, with the blinders on. God gave us the environment, God gave us nature, God gave us people and different countries and forms of transportation, a way to see the world, God gave us means to communicate with our mouths, with our eyes, through foods, through sports. Go out and experience all these different cultures. That's the best form of education you can get, the best way to understand who you are and where you fit into this world, the best way to express yourself and give to other people.
CP: Dhani, on behalf of Cavtatportal, thank you very much and welcome to Dubrovnik and our Riviera. We hope to see you here again.
DJ: Of course. And, I'll always come back.
Born in Dubrovnik in 1973. Shortly after, his family moved to Cavtat. Spent the college years (and then some) in the US, mostly in NYC. Organizational behaviorist, HR L&D expert, published author, show-host (TV & radio), afficionado of water sports and tennis. Cavtatportal's editor-in-chief.