As a punter for a New York Giants Super Bowl championship team, Steve Weatherford achieved the fame he always dreamed of growing up on a farm in Indiana. Weighing just 108 pounds in high school, Weatherford’s dream was to play pro football. But soon he would discover that his journey to the pros through fitness would become its own reward. With one of the most active fan bases in social media, Weatherford has now become a resource for those wanting to make changes in their daily lifestyle. As he moves on from professional football, Weatherford explains why he answers every single message he receives.
Now that you’ve moved on from a career as a Super Bowl Champion to a life of fitness, who’s following you the most these days on social media?
I’ve got a really good mixture of people. My Instagram, my Snapchat is like a video diary of what I’m doing, and what I’m passionate about. I would say it’s a mixture of my family, fitness, people who are looking for motivation, and football fans. The interactions and questions I get have been dominated by fitness for the last three years.
Was there a tipping point for you in attracting an audience?
Anyone that has been to the Super Bowl will tell you that you will get a huge influx of attention. I had about 40,000 Instagram followers before that. I got a huge bump after the NFC Championship. After we won, there was a photo of me running around the field after the game. That image was on every major newspaper backpage. I went up to 50,000 followers in a week. And then I had the best game of my life in the Super Bowl.
How did life change after the Super Bowl?
A lot of doors opened up for me. It was a lot easier to get people on the phone, and I took advantage of that. I was very blessed by that. In 2011, I also did my first fitness shoot in Muscle & Fitness, where they named me the fittest man in the NFL. I think people knew I was in good shape, but after that came out, things changed a lot because it was Muscle & Fitness. People started taking an interest in me versus my career as a football player.
Beyond being an athlete, what attracted you to fitness?
Fitness is one of the truly fair things in life. A lot of times in life, you do the right thing, you treat people well, you work hard and you don’t get what you deserve. Fitness is not that way. You’re always going to get out of it exactly what you put into it. I’ve always hung my hat on being the hardest worker in the room no matter what I’m doing. Fitness will always reward you for being the hardest worker.
Why do you think you’ve stood out with so many fit athletes?
I have become much stronger and more flexible with the consistency of the work that I put in. It’s not as though I work longer than everyone else. But I’ve only taken three days off of training in 2016. I set a goal on January 1st to grow my arms from 16.75 inches to 19 inches in 90 days. Without taking any kind of performance enhancing drugs, that’s a really difficult thing to do. It’s a huge amount of progress to make. At 90 days, I measured myself at 18.9 inches, so I missed my goal by .1 inches, but I’m super proud of that. I’ve been detailing the journey as part of a documentary that I will be sharing on bodybuilding.com. My successes in fitness will always have a story to them. If I post a picture on Instagram, if it seems like a self-promoting boastful photo, please read the caption. 99% of the time, there is going to be a story behind the photo. I get the most life fulfillment in inspiring and motivating people and giving them the tools to do what I’ve done.
What are your plans in the fitness world?
For 2016, I’m taking the entire year without putting an emphasis on financial gain. I’ve been very blessed to play 10 years in the NFL, and I did a good job of saving my money. I didn’t make quarterback money, so there will come a time where I will need to work again. But 2016 for me is about providing value for people. The arm training documentary that I have done—if I were to package that into an eBook for $19.99, I could easily make $50,000 in the first 30 days. Instead, I’m going to give it away because I want to give value to people. I want to help them achieve something they want. What guy from 15-50 years old doesn’t want to have bigger arms? I’ve been blessed to have incredible mentors and I want to pass that wisdom to other people. When 2017 comes around, I’ll start thinking about what I am going to do with the social media capital that I’ve built up and the value that I’m creating for people. For now, it feels great to be able to give something to people without asking for anything in return.
How do you want to interact with the fitness industry beyond what you’re doing now?
I don’t want to be a fitness model or personal trainer. The most fulfilling thing that I’ve been doing has been public speaking. Again, it’s providing value for people. It’s not always about money. To be able to speak at schools, if I reach one kid, and it inspires him to start doing what I did at age 14, it’s a big deal to me. I was a kid from a small farm in Indiana that had big dreams to play football. My dream isn’t different from a lot of kids’ dreams. The difference is in the consistency of the hard work. I worked every single day. I never missed a single training day and I never missed a meal. If you invest every single day, the yield is going to be massive. It’s great to now be in a position of influence.
You put a lot of work into your social media channels. Is it hard to maintain?
It’s a full-time job! One of the things I take pride in is my personal interactions. I don’t know any other celebrity or athlete who replies to every single Snapchat message that they get. It takes me a good 30-60 minutes every night, which doesn’t sound like that much time, but every day, that adds up a lot. I’m giving a lot of my time to answer questions. I’ll explain things to people in great detail, because it’s a way for me to show them I genuinely care and want to help them on their fitness journey. If someone tells me they are dealing with depression, it may take me six or seven ten-second videos to talk about how I try to keep a positive mindset every day, but I’m hopeful that those videos will help that person to move forward in their life. And people appreciate that. If you look at my Instagram photos, look at all the comments. You will have a hard time finding negative comments in there. I think you attract what you project. I project positivity and optimism, and I always get the same thing in return.
Do you feel that the time you invest in social media is well spent?
Every time you pick up your phone and tweet something, you’re essentially doing an interview. I don’t think a lot of athletes utilize social media to the best of their abilities. Some guys just don’t want to take the time to do it. I interact with fans every single night, it’s a real time investment. But there could be that one time, where a fan sends a personal message and they’ve never sent one before, I don’t want to miss that person. That may be my only chance to reach them.
What are you working on when you’re not working on your arms or social media?
Project Prom is very important to me. After Hurricane Sandy, there were so many people trying to help replace the tangible things that people had lost—homes, cars, clothes. No one was replacing the experiences that kids were losing out on. You can replace your car. You can’t replace the opportunity to go to your senior prom. I thought it would be cool to figure out how to find schools that were in need and give these kids a chance to go. That’s how Project Prom was born.
The first year I came out of pocket about $7,500. Every year since, we’ve created momentum, and in the cities we do it in, there’s hardly any cost at all. Everything is being donated. We did one school last year, and Mr. Mara, the owner of the Giants, asked how he could help. By that time, I had everything donated—the tuxedos and dresses, hair, nails, limo. Mr. Mara gave us a check for $25,000 so that every kid at the school paid half the price for their prom tickets. It was such an incredibly generous thing for him to do. My dream is to get Project Prom adopted by all NFL cities so that each team could have one player that could lead the project. All they would need is to have their team to help pay for the tickets for the kids, and they’ll find people who will donate their services to take care of the rest. When you’re doing positive things, it’s amazing how many people want to join in to help.