Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Rice Cooker
What started as a challenge to himself last November quickly became a new passion for former NFL receiver and current Fox Sports analyst Greg Jennings. Just days after finishing first in a trio of categories, including first overall at the Mr. Natural Minnesota — in his debut bodybuilding showing— he is already looking ahead to his next competition. Along with sharing his fitness journey across his social channels, he’s also been vocal on those platforms to speak his mind in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in custody of the Minneapolis police.
With Minneapolis being home to Jennings, his wife and their four children, the aftermath of what’s transpired around the world has been a revelation for him. I spoke with him on his transition into his second sport, the city he resides in becoming the epicenter of protests that spanned across the world and what he believes this NFL season will look like.
What sparked your interest in bodybuilding?
It was my wife. She ran a marathon last summer. She thought she signed up for a half marathon and it turned out to be a full marathon. She is not a runner but she choose to challenge herself outside of what she would normally do. I saw this process and I asked myself what am I doing to challenge myself? I remember going to work and I’m at the airport. I go to one of the stores and I see Muscle and Fitness and Men’s Health magazines and thinking, “I want to be on the cover of one of those.” I got back home, started some research, went to my gym and had some interviews with trainers who were in that profession. After that, I got a trainer and went to work.
When you begin to train, was it similar to the mindset you used to tap into while training during your playing days?
Without question. I was competing with myself all over again. Once I started bodybuilding and men’s physique journey, I’m literally competing against myself. This was the most challenged I’ve ever been from a mental standpoint in any phase in my life. You’re talking locking into nutrition, being committed and disciplined to it when no one is watching. I had every opportunity to eat whatever I wanted but I knew how important it was and my why was so big, I couldn’t allow myself to become complacent or to cave at any particular moment.
Was it difficult maintaining the proper nutrition with also having to travel back and forth for work?
It took time to get it down and for it to become seamless. I had to create a plan where I picked two proteins, two carbs and veggies per week and just ride them out for that week. Once I did that, once I begin traveling, I already had it in mind because of that plan and I knew what was needed for my macros and calorie count. I fell in love with rice because I was able to take a rice cooker in my bag. It got to the point where they knew that wherever I traveled, I knew I needed certain things to make my life easier. I would just go grab my produce and meat and make it work.
What’s been the response from fans when you begin chronicling your journey on social media?
Me and my wife have known each other since grade school. She’s never experienced what I would classify as a ‘soft and mushy’ Greg. That is my forever goal. When I got into this, the response from the fans was that it was going to be easy for me because of my background. That sounds good until you have to go through the journey by yourself. I think it was cool that people were supportive and knowing that I have been inspiring others has been the coolest part. I tell my kids all the time that I want to be an example to where they can recall moments where they saw mommy and daddy do something great and they can pull from that and apply it to their life.
How have you adjusted to working from home and keeping four children busy during quarantine?
Working from home has been a dream actually. I’m a huge family guy and anytime I’m home, I want to be involved with whatever it is with the kid’s schedule. It’s been a blessing in disguise. My kids are 13, 11, nine, and seven. They are busier than me and my wife at times and if they’re not, they’re what keeps us busy. It’s been fun being able to spend more time with them individually and collectively and I think it’s brought us closer together as a family.
What has life been like for you and your family in the wake of George Floyd’s murder?
It’s been very eye-opening and very educational. As a black family and black man, it made me realize the lack of information that we had been providing our kids. How we think as parents, to protect our kids, we need to shield and shelter them from the bad experiences that we had. What we realized was we have to share those experiences so that they can gain an understanding so that if they’re ever put in those situations, they have something to pull from. I wanted to guard my family from tough areas but what I was really doing is removing them from the bits of education that’s necessary for them to apply in their lives to understand who we are as a people and what we desire and need to happen as a country to progress and advance equally.
The unrest has been beautiful to watch. What comes out of unrest and discomfort are beautiful things. Anytime you’re in a position of discomfort, you’re forced to get to a position to where you can spread out and grow. You can’t get there without feeling that discomfort. That’s what I think we’re experiencing as America. As a black man, we knew it wasn’t what it’s supposed to be but even I at times have taken for granted some of the situations that I’ve been afforded by being outside of what used to be the norm for me when I was growing up.
What was your reaction to Roger Goodell’s saying that the league was wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier on issues around racial injustice?
Thank you! When someone recognizes their wrong, they’ve acknowledged it. Now, lets progress on that. Once Goodell acknowledged that, I realized how challenging it is in my own life to stand up and apologize because you’ve done something that someone else felt was wrong, or wasn’t fair to them. Now, it’s up to us together to either move forward or go nowhere. I would love to see us move forward together. I don’t care what it looks like, just do what’s right. Even if you’re doing it for an agenda, it’s going to become contagious and you’re just going to have to naturally do what’s right because it’ll become what you do now.
People are now having uncomfortable conversations; conversations that they would have never had before. People are collaborating and partnering with people they would’ve never talked to before. These are just small steps to where we need to get to.
What do you think this NFL season looks like with there expected to be a second wave of the coronavirus in the fall and a lot of states seeing spikes in cases since opening businesses back up?
It’s going to be very interesting if it happens. To be honest, it’s a big if. I don’t see fans throughout the season. We’re seeing it with the NBA where guys are choosing not to leave their families or they don’t feel comfortable with playing right now. We have to honor that because these are unprecendented times. Don’t get me wrong, is it going to be some sort of relief for fans that sports is returning? Of course. I would love nothing more than to see the NBA finish without issue and the NFL start when they’re supposed to so that we have that escape. The reality is you can’t escape something that’s meant to make you grow. I believe this is something that is meant to make us grow and there is no way to escape that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.