“I survived the Coronavirus. Most of my family got it, but took good care of ourselves and are much better now. God created me with grit. My biological father was murdered by his mother’s boyfriend. They were drinking and got into an argument. The man just tried to poke him in the side with a knife but hit his jugular vein. My dad bled to death. I was two years old. It was just my mom and me and we moved in with my grandma in her small, two-bedroom house in Prichard. I grew up with 15 people sleeping there on any given night. When my sisters, cousins, and I were small, we slept in the bed with my grandma and turned all kinds of ways. If there were too many, we made pallets and slept on the floor. I got my own bed when I got older.
We were a close, committed family and found a way to keep going forward, but I still found a way to get in trouble in Prichard. My mom had to quit her job multiple times just to keep me away from the streets and my surroundings. She married my stepdad, a military guy who brought structure to my life. He introduced me to football and helped me see that my purpose could be making it to the NFL, but the vision was getting scholarships for a college degree. That later turned into a master’s degree. I became focused and my mission was getting out of Mobile but coming back to help young people struggling here. I got a scholarship to play football at Clemson and went with the mindset that if I don’t pass this test, or if I don’t show up on time in this classroom, some kid back in Mobile was going to suffer because I didn’t live my mission.
I was a three-year starter as a middle linebacker at Clemson and had an All-American career. I was the guy that barely qualified to go to Clemson, but I graduated in three years, cum laude. Going into my junior year, I had to choose between entering the NFL draft or staying for my senior year and getting a master’s degree. I was rated one of the top players to be drafted, but getting my master’s would separate me and increase my NFL draft grade. Then my mom called and told me my grandma had congestive heart failure. I didn’t go into the draft and jump towards money because maybe somebody would draft me farther away from my family and I wouldn’t be able to be there for them. I transferred to Mississippi State for graduate school and my last year of eligibility so I could be closer to home.
I was described as an NFL player transferring to Mississippi State. Coach Dan Mullen and I were excited about me being at State and I thought it was going to be my year. But in the third week of camp my whole life changed. Running to make a play with nobody near me, I ran into an offensive lineman and felt something pop in my Achilles. I thought surely that was not about to alter my career and my purpose. The doctors had trouble figuring out what was going on and I felt like they misdiagnosed me. I played my senior year hurt. I went to Indianapolis to train for the draft, thinking my body could still work.
Since I was a kid living in that two-bedroom house, I told my mother I was going to play in the NFL and make millions so she and my grandma would never have to work again. They would never want for anything. I wanted to pay my mom back from all that she had done for us and give her a better life. That NFL draft was the defining night of my life and my whole family watched it together. Cam Newton was in that draft. They got down to the last pick, and my name still hadn’t been called. You talk about devastation.
That night, I got into the Dodge Charger that my mom had scraped up the money to buy because I made All-American as a sophomore. I drove past my elementary school, my middle school, and my high school. I came up on the bridge and I said this was the end for me. I tried to drive off the bridge, but my car cut off. I burst into tears. I’m a spiritual guy. I’m a faith guy. At that moment, I felt God say, ‘Football was only the platform. I require more of you.’
The next morning I went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and failed my physical because of my Achilles. I had a 15-hour surgery to reconstruct my Achilles. I went through posttraumatic stress and wanted to give up but I felt God say keep going. My grandma told me the pain is going to break you or push you. I later took my car to a mechanic find out why it shut off and he couldn’t find anything wrong. There was no reason it should have cut off. I understood there are bigger reasons I am still here.
I pulled out a notepad and started writing a book about my life story to inspire people. Growing up, I hated to even read a book, but I became a published author. And then I started sharing my story at churches and became a motivational speaker. Through football, God gave me the opportunity to get my master’s degree and get out of the hood, but football was only a part of His plan for me. I have become grateful for the other parts of my body and gifts. Through the brain and vocal cords that he’s blessed me with, I have been able to help others and become an entrepreneur. I learned your gifts will make room for you. The cemeteries are filled with people with gifts who died with them. I am going to live my life on full and die on empty. God has given us this moment, this day and we need to focus on that, not what is happening on Facebook.
My family showed me how to serve. My mom has an unbelievable ability to focus on others, more than herself. We watched this all of our lives. She had a vision for her kids and wasn’t going to let the streets or the world raise us. She and my dad would drive seven hours after work to see my game at Clemson, then turn around and drive back to Mobile. My grandma allowed 15 people to be in her house at any moment. Even in her dying days, she made an impact on my life. I gave up millions of dollars to be closer for her last years. I didn’t realize that saying no to the money was saying yes to being one of her main caretakers. I helped flipped her over in the bed, making sure her body was good and she got her meds. She wouldn’t take her last breath until I was there.
I started the Brandon Maye Legacy Foundation a year ago and my goal is to help Metro have empty cells. I want to cut down on the men and women in jail because we helped them find a better vision and purpose to go after every day. We have done a couple of events for schools. I want my story to show young people a better life is possible. Growing up, people told me that I couldn’t be successful. That I would be nothing but a dropout selling dope. Even teachers told me that. It is too easy for kids to become a product of their environment when they don’t know that other paths are open to them. I am trying hard to show them better options. We push education, but also skills like plumbing, roofing, and flooring. They can turn these into their own businesses. Create a business out of what you can do. People in this city have the knowledge to help these kids out. I am trying to bring the solutions together. Helping kids use their gifts is why I came back to Mobile.
Watching stories on the news about a young man murdering another, I wonder if I could cut that person open and see how many times he thought of being an electrician. What if I could do success autopsy and look in his wiring and thoughts to see the dreams he had for his life? What if we could direct young people towards those dreams and vision, instead of what the environment tells them they should be. Next March will be our first Legacy Men’s Conference with 50 to 100 young men for a two-day event. They will learn entrepreneurship, how to create a business plan, and how to analyze numbers. I’ve got friends who have played in the NFL and are multimillionaire entrepreneurs coming in to speak.
My life is a ministry, including my businesses. I have a power washing company and hire guys who have made mistakes and deserve a second chance. I teach them how to gain leverage. How to leverage their money, how to leverage their knowledge, how to leverage their influence. It’s hard to leverage having a felony on their record. I teach them accountability. You did this, now what. I also started a Facebook group called Elite Transformation, an entrepreneurship and personal development community. Every Wednesday night I bring in a different speaker for a webinar. It is creating a place that you can be loved, a place that you can share your experiences, and that you can hear from other people. People are getting sick, losing their jobs, losing their business. I want to change the narrative and create a new normal to help others get through this and win.
I have my setbacks and my challenges. Things get hard as a company, as a foundation. I have days when I want to give up and give in. I have times where I feel like we’re not going to make it to the other side. But I’ve committed myself to never give up. I write down my vision and goals for myself. Don’t forget the five, four, three, two, one. That is the countdown we do on December the 31st, every year. It is the moment of hope and we are committed to our goals. This year, the Coronavirus has changed the situation and made it harder. A lot of people are struggling, a lot of people don’t have income coming in. Some people had to quit their jobs because their kids don’t have a place to go. Single parents have so much going on. Stay committed to the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and the goals you set for yourself.
Don’t quit because the storm always passes over. Mobile is a hurricane world, but the hurricane doesn’t last forever. After the storm passes, the next day is sunny without a cloud in the sky. Don’t wash away, because the storm is going to pass and the sun will come. I have to keep telling myself this, too.”