Ian Beckles is feeling good.

That’s no small feat considering the number of times he got kicked, punched, chipped, and bull-rushed during the 10 seasons he played one of the most physical positions in the National Football League. “Being an offensive lineman is like getting hit with a hundred sledgehammers every day,” Ian explains. “I got paid a lot of money to take those hits so I just dealt with it.”

At 6’ 1” and 295 pounds, Ian was a powerful combination of size and quickness who shined at the University of Indiana. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him in the 5th round of the 1990 draft, and he went on to create running lanes for Erricht Rett, Mike Alstott, and Ricky Watters and protect quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer.

In a league where the average career lasts just three and a half years, the fact that Ian played ten full seasons is amazing. Combined with the fact he rarely took anything more potent than Tylenol to manage the pain he took every week, and you can make a serious argument that Ian Beckles is one of the toughest men to ever play in the NFL.

Today, Ian is a successful businessman and popular talk show host on sports radio 95.3 WDAE in Tampa. We sat down with Ian after a taping of his Power Plant podcast (which Curaleaf proudly sponsors) to talk about his playing days, how he coped with the physical punishment of professional football, and how his life has changed since he discovered cannabis.

Anyone who has played organized sports or worked out in a gym knows what physical pain is like but how does it feel to be an NFL offensive lineman on a Monday morning?

Believe it or not, Mondays weren’t that bad for me because I was still in shock from what I’d gone through the day before. The physical beating is brutal, and I think most people can imagine how much it hurts to slam into a 300-pound man in anger 50-80 times in 48 minutes. I don’t care how empathetic you are; no one will ever understand the mental stress of playing professional football. Every play is a chess match, and if you end up on the losing end too many times, there’s always someone ready to take your place. It’s a grind.

How did you deal with the physical pain and mental stress?

I drank a lot. I’d come home after a game and just down vodka until I passed out. It was the only way I could fall asleep.

What were your teammates doing to manage their pain and stress?

I swear I was the only guy in the league who wasn’t smoking weed or taking pills.

If using cannabis was that common, what stopped you from trying it?

The number one reason I didn’t smoke pot was I didn’t want to get caught. Back then, the league tested for THC twice a week, and if you tested positive, you were gone. Because I didn’t smoke, I took the pee tests for many of my teammates. Honestly, though, even if cannabis were legal at the time, I probably wouldn’t have touched it because of my upbringing. Back then, everything I knew about cannabis I learned from Cheech and Chong. As much as I liked the idea of chilling out after a game, at 295 pounds, the last thing I needed was something that would slow me down. I didn’t know anything about the different strains of cannabis, how Indicas mellow you out and Sativas can actually improve your focus and energy. That might have made a difference but it really was a different time.

Tell us why you stayed away from pills?

It wasn’t easy because every team in the league handed them out like supplements. Not many guys talked about what they took, but I did see some guys with serious pill problems that I didn’t need, so I dealt with the pain as best I could. I don’t know, between my parents making me afraid of all drugs when I was a kid and the whole “Just Say No” movement that was so big back then, I guess you could say I was scared straight from the start.

When did you finally try cannabis and what inspired you to do it?

I was 35 when I first lit up during a pretty rough patch of my life. My NFL career was over, and I was having a hard time figuring out what to do next. I was also drinking a handle and a half of vodka every other day, which didn’t help. One night a friend offered me a hit off a joint. I figured I didn’t have to worry about passing a drug test anymore, so why not? I was amazed by how good it made me feel, and that’s why I’m still using cannabis today. It just makes me feel good.

Can you describe your cannabis routine?

After working out in the morning, I usually hit a vape pen during the day but not all that much. I have a radio show from 3pm-7p, so I have to say I rarely get high anymore. In the evening, I may take a gummy to chill a bit and smoke a little as the night goes on.

How does cannabis help you?

I’m blessed. I feel good, and I believe THC and CBD have a lot to do with that. It helps me sleep, and in my opinion, the better you sleep, the better your life will be. When you’re well-rested, you’re less stressed and more open to change, and over the years, I’ve made a lot of positive changes. I quit drinking last year. Not only did that help me lose weight, but I found myself feeling less anxious and a lot less quick to anger. I’ve been vegan for two months which is probably something I would never have thought to do without the peace I feel from using cannabis.

How do you think cannabis could have helped you during your playing days?

I had a great career, but I sometimes wonder how much better I would have felt if I’d used cannabis. I used to drink vodka until I fell asleep every Monday and Tuesday night. That’s not healthy, and I put myself in a kind of danger I would never have come close to with cannabis. It’s ludicrous that marijuana was so taboo back then while alcohol was doing so much damage to so many people.

What advice do you have for athletes thinking about trying cannabis but are concerned about the stigma?

I hope we’re past the moment where anyone gives a crap about anybody’s stigma, but I think everyone has to seek out their own real answers. I’m not the only ex-NFL player speaking out about the difference cannabis has made in their lives, and lots of other former professional athletes are saying the same thing. To my knowledge, no one has ever overdosed on cannabis. That’s not something you can say about many subscription pain killers. At the end of the day, cannabis makes me feel peaceful. And despite all the madness going on in the world today, I feel pretty darn sane.

Any final thoughts for your fellow Curaleaf patients?

We have a lot of choices on where to buy cannabis down here in Florida. I like Curaleaf because they have great products, and their customer service is by far the best. They’ve been very good to me and I’m glad I can return the favor. We all use cannabis because it makes us feel good. Whatever cannabis products work best for you, don’t ever be ashamed of it. Embrace it.

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