This column appears in the Feb. 8 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
I love fans. And fans love me. Sometimes a little too much. I'm no Tom
Brady, but still, I get recognized just about everywhere. It seems like
every time I sit down for a meal at a restaurant, a fan taps me on the
shoulder. "Sorry to bother you," he will say, "but can you sign this?"
Situations like that crack me up. He's not really sorry; he wants an
autograph. Which is fine. Just wait until I'm done chewing my potatoes!
But fans like that are easy. The guys we gotta watch out for are autograph
stalkers. We'll get off the bus on a road trip at our "undisclosed" hotel,
and there will be a hundred guys waiting. It's like Hollywood: Some hotel
staffer is always tipping off the hounds. And these aren't kids waiting for
us. They're grown men collecting signatures to resell online or at card
shows. It's big business, and it comes with the territory.
But as long as people are respectful, I'm fine to sign. I know guys who do
it only when they're made to by the team or paid to do it by a card show.
(Your average Pro Bowler, in case you're wondering, gets $10,000 to $20,000
per appearance.) I do shows too, but I'm not a prima donna who thinks my
signature is so great I have to get paid for it. If asked nicely, I always
sign for free. Especially if you happen to catch me after I've had a good
game in a big win or at one of my charity events. Pros are like anybody
else: We're generous when we're in a good mood and a lot more generous when
you give to a cause we believe in.