CHAPTER 5: Deception

To my family and friends, my supporters and fans, I appeared to be a decent man with a kind heart. However, there were not many who knew the man I transformed into after the crowds went home, the lights dimmed, and the cameras were turned off. Admittedly, upon the completion of my rookie season in the NFL, I was nothing more than a professional womanizer. Due to my childhood experiences, I thought having respect for women meant not verbally or physically abusing them like my dad did my mother. I often thought, At least I’m not like my dad! I don’t put my hands on women. I’m not an adulterer—and I’m certainly not an alcoholic. Since I didn’t want to run the risk of ruining my professional career—and also to not be like my dad—I made the decision to stop drinking during my second year with the Broncos. I was proud of myself for this and I somehow convinced myself that the rest of my behavior didn’t resemble my dad’s at all. But the reality was that, with each passing day, I became more like the man I both feared and loved as a child.

At the end of my second professional season in February of 2002, football fans, my peers, coaches from around the league, and the media voted me to the Pro Bowl! Filled with excitement, I phoned my mother and brothers and told them to pack their bags for Hawaii! Yet in the midst of all the excitement, all I was really thinking about were the beautiful Hawaiian women. In Honolulu, I connected with another player whose flight arrived around the same time as mine. Leaving the airport and heading to our hotel, we were both thinking the same thing: Where are all of the Hawaiian beauties?

Later that same evening, with my family not arriving for another day or so, the other player and I set out together like a pair of male lions combing the plains of an unconquered territory. Though the first night in Hawaii ended up being pretty uneventfully for me, it was a different story altogether for my buddy.

When we met up for breakfast the next morning he looked as if someone had just died.

“Dude, you won’t believe what happened to me last night.” He told me that, after hiring the services of a prostitute, he didn’t realize that his cell phone had inadvertently redialed his girlfriend’s phone number. His girlfriend heard all of the steamy details he and the woman-for-hire discussed in the back of the limousine. Shortly thereafter, his phone rang. It was his girlfriend calling him back to give him a piece of her mind and to end their relationship.

“Man, that sucks,” I said, shaking my head.

“I’m thinking about going home,” he remarked.

I sat listening to him for the next thirty minutes as he looked and sounded worse and worse. After we finished breakfast, other players began arriving at the hotel. Following a brief team meeting later that evening, about ten of us hopped in a few limousines and headed to a small bar in Waikiki. When we arrived I noticed a group of Hawaiian women walking up to the door. One of them caught my eye. As we entered the bar together, the group of women decided to join us. Seated amidst a starving pack of male wolves, I thought: If I don’t make a move on her, somebody else will! She was by far the most beautiful one out of the entire group.

As she finished eating her sandwich, I asked, “Hey, you wanna go talk over there where it’s not so crowded and noisy?”

“Sure,” she responded.

Just as I got up to follow her one of the guys whispered, “Man, I was just about to—”

“Too late!” I said, cutting him off before he could even finish his sentence.

She and I began to talk at the empty bar. In addition to being one of the most beautiful women I had ever been in the company of, I also found her to be one of the most intriguing women I had ever met. I even pinched myself at one point during my encounter with her, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

We talked about our faith in God. We talked about our appreciation for family. After talking with her for nearly an hour I had clearly fallen in lust, and for the moment I thought, I’m in love. Spending time with her made me feel intoxicated, which greatly impaired my judgment. Finally full from our conversation, we decided to rejoin the others. When I took a seat next to one of my buddies, he asked, “Damn! You gon’ let her come up for air?”

“Nah,” I said arrogantly.

Soon after our return, everyone decided to leave and go to a nightclub down the street, but having other plans in our minds, we parted ways with them. Out of sheer ignorance, I made an extremely careless decision—I went back to her hotel room.

Despite the connection I felt with her, I became a bit uneasy when we arrived at her hotel room. I just finished my second year in the league and made it to my first Pro Bowl. I’ve got a bright and promising career ahead of me and I’m about to risk it all for one night with her? What if this is all a set up and I get robbed or killed?

She said, “Hey, I’m going to take a quick shower.”

And with that, all my apprehensions were chucked out of the hotel window! I got undressed and under the covers quicker than a fireman. When she re-emerged from the bathroom, wearing only a white towel, we were intimate. Intoxicated by her beauty, I didn’t use any protection. I made one dumb decision after the other. Man, she could have an STD, I thoughtBut, taking one more look at her, I dismissed my thought—Nah, she’s way too beautiful!

After taking a shower together, she offered to drive me to the stadium the next morning for my first practice, so I stayed the night. Awakened by the sunlight, I rolled over and saw her beautiful face. Wow! Seconds later, however, I realized I had overslept! Somehow my alarm clock failed to go off. I began to panic. I’m at my first Pro Bowl. It’s the first day of practice, and I’m late! The drive to the stadium felt like a roller coaster—and my stomach just wanted it all to stop! I thought: I’ll just walk out to the practice field with her and say, “Now is she not the most beautiful excuse in the world for me being late for practice?” It didn’t take long to decide that approach probably wouldn’t work.

We arrived at the stadium and just before I got out of the car, she handed me a photo of her that was on her dashboard. Following a kiss goodbye, I assured her I would see her after practice. As I hurried into the locker room, sure enough, my teammates had already gotten dressed and were out on the practice field! My nerves began to settle down as I thought about the situation. Dude! Why am I trippin’? This is the Pro Bowl! No one should be uptight because I’m late. After all, we’re here to have a good time!

After putting on my cleats and grabbing my helmet, I jogged onto the practice field and my head coach, Bill Cowher, a coach for whom I had tremendous respect, walked up to me and said, “Okay, Gold, why were you late?”

“Coach, I’m really sorry,” I explained, “my stupid alarm clock didn’t go off and I overslept.”

He responded with a smile. “I’m glad you’re having a good time, Gold, but let’s not make this a habit.”

I got the message and thanked him for his understanding. After he walked away, Rodney Harrison, a veteran player I respected, asked, “Ian! What do you do for a living?”

“Uh, I’m a professional football player.”

“Then be a professional, Ian! Be a Pro!” he said gravely.

While I knew he had a valid point and I appreciated him for taking the opportunity to make me aware of my lack of professionalism, my mind was still laying in bed with my Hawaiian beauty. I can still smell her sweet scent, I thought as I participated in the drills.

After practice, I walked into the locker room and a few guys started to give me a hard time for being late. Out of my arrogance, I placed her photo directly in the line of sight of one of my teammates. When the photo made its way around to a few of my teammates, one of them asked, “Damn! Is this why you were late? Hell, I would’ve been late too! She got any sisters?”

“Nope,” I laughed.

“Well, why don’t you throw her to the wolves and see if she’ll come back!”

I laughed along with everyone else who heard the comical remark. But then it hit me, Wait a minute. Dude, you’re married!

Strangely enough, his comment eliminated the guilt I felt from having sex with her on the first night we met, and for being late for practice. Every free moment I had during the remainder of my time in Hawaii, I spent with her. That night, after practice, we went out together. Pulling me out on the dance floor, she danced circles around me. Every person on the dance floor stopped to watch her. During a slow dance, she sang in my ear—she sounded like an angel. Who is this woman? I know I just met her last night but I feel like I’ve known her my entire life! In fact, when a teammate—the one who told me to “be a pro” on the practice field—saw her and I walking together outside of the hotel, he jokingly asked, “So, when is the wedding?”

Although I laughed his question off, it didn’t sound like a bad idea to either of us. In fact, it quickly became a topic of conversation.

Due to all of the time I spent with her, I failed to spend the quality time that I should have with the people closest to me—my mother, three brothers, and my roommate from college, Marcus—who were all there to support me. As I look back now, sadly there were many periods during my career when I pushed my family members and close friends away. When I grew tired of wearing the mask that covered up my true identity—a womanizer—I isolated myself by completely closing off from the world. And in isolation I found myself losing more and more ground in the battle for my soul. There were many times I prayed, Lord, I love you, but I just don’t think I can stop having sex. For many years, thoughts like this continued to prevent me from fully surrendering my life to the Lord.

After the Pro Bowl, I returned to Denver and the professional cheerleader who I left my truck with picked me up from the airport. As soon as we got back to my place—in spite of my feelings for the woman I had just met in Hawaii—we were intimate. The next day, however, out of a desire to be honest with her, I told her about the feelings I had for the woman I met in Hawaii. She didn’t take it well. After listening to her cry her heart out and profess her love for me, I decided to take a break from her and the other women I was sexually involved with at the time in order to give the woman from Hawaii my undivided attention.

All was going well, until the day I learned the woman from Hawaii had not been completely honest with me. Upon meeting her, she said she had recently gotten out of a relationship. However, through a mutual acquaintance of ours, I learned she was still involved with a number of men at the time. My heart was broken because I truly had thought she could be the one.

After receiving this disappointing news, I quickly made up with the cheerleader. I soon learned however that she too was still involved in a committed relationship with someone she claimed to be her ex-boyfriend. Feeling betrayed I thought: And she had the nerve to sit there and profess her love for me after I told her about the woman from Hawaii! She was not the first cheerleader, nor the last, to lie to me, though. Just before meeting her, I was sexually involved with another cheerleader who I eventually learned was engaged to another man.

I had tried my best to be honest to each woman in my life. Sure, I slept with lots of different women, but when they asked me a question, I was honest, for the most part. But after experiencing so much deception, I arrived at a major crossroad. Am I going to allow the lies and deception of these three women to have a negative impact on me and begin deceiving and lying as well? Or am I going to come out of all of this with my integrity intact?

Despite knowing that being deceptive would hurt women—and potentially myself—I swallowed the bitter seed of deception, choosing to also deceive all of the women I became sexually involved with for the remainder of my NFL career. All but one. My mindset switched from “honesty is key” to “I’m going to hurt you before you hurt me.” From that day forward, I assumed every woman I met was a liar and could not be trusted. Sadly, I allowed a few hurtful experiences turn into a cycle of deception. I falsely painted all women as deceptive, and went on to hurt many decent women.

I decided to cut off all communication with the three women, removing them from “my rotation”—the women I slept with on a consistent basis. But even with this decision, I still maintained on and off sexual relationships with two out of the three women for the next seven years. And so I found myself involved in many back and forth, up and down, and on and off relationships for the remainder of my career. In the midst of my own lies and deception, I found myself incapable of trusting women. That is, until I met a woman at a music festival in New Orleans.

Leaning over to a buddy standing next to me, I said, “Hey, you see that woman right there? She’s going to be my wife!”

“Yeah, right,” he said. “And how many times have I heard that before?”

The truth was, he was right. If I had a dollar for every time I had said those words during my collegiate and professional years, I would be the wealthiest man in the world. But this time it was different. With all of my heart I wanted to believe it would be true.

I found her to be well cultured, beautiful, caring, considerate, and highly intelligent. Needless to say, I fell in love with her quickly. We met in July 2002 and I invited her to attend a wedding with me two weeks later. Following the wedding, we parted ways—I headed off to training camp to prepare for the upcoming football season and she headed back down south. I was determined to remain faithful and committed to her. In fact, she would be the only woman during my career—out of a grand total of two committed relationships—that I remained faithful to.

I tried to do everything right with her. For the first time ever, I found it effortless to remain committed to her, even from a distance. I had given her the keys to my heart. The first two months of our relationship went along great, until one night I caught her in a silly lie, which revealed an even greater one—she was involved with someone else. Sure I may have been a tough linebacker in the NFL, but the truth was that I still had the same tender and fragile heart from my childhood. With yet another break in my heart, I decided to once again take back the keys to my heart, refusing to ever give them to another woman. She was the last woman I allowed to get close enough to hurt me. Although we continued an on and off again sexual relationship for the next seven years, I never gave her, or any woman, the full measure of my trust and love. It was just too painful.

After that mess, I went back to simply having fun—intentionally guarding my heart from becoming emotionally attached to any one woman. After learning that eighty-five percent of NFL marriages end in divorce within five years of a player’s retirement, I felt good about being single. In fact, after watching some of my teammates go through divorces, I promised myself I would not get married while I played professional ball. I never wanted to experience the pain associated with going through a divorce. Instead, I slept with so many different women that I wouldn’t even recognize most of them today. There is one who stands out, however—a woman I met one year after meeting of my ex-girlfriend at the same New Orleans music festival.

In the summer of 2003, a week or so following the music festival, I went back to New Orleans to visit this second woman. After picking me up from the airport, we went straight to the hotel. We entered my hotel room and I dropped my bag on the floor. No more than a few seconds after I took a seat on the bed, she blurted out, “Look, I’m a ni**a wit’ mine, so are we gon’ fu#@?” Translation: “Let’s skip all of the formalities and have intercourse now.”

I was completely blown away! With my mouth wide open, I thought, Whoa! You’re in law school and way too beautiful to be talking like that! Besides, that’s supposed to be my line!

Shrugging off the tone of the invitation, I allowed my actions to deliver my response to her question. After this escapade, strangely enough I found myself having a great deal more respect for women who “kept it real” than for women who I assumed were “playing innocent.” What I failed to realize, however, is the women that deserved my greatest respect, did not receive it simply because they were not willing to have sex with me on the first night. In other words, I became confused as to who deserved my respect!

For the remainder of my professional football career, I destroyed the innocence of a number of women who were sweet and kind when I first met them, but by the end of our time together were extremely bitter, manipulative, and broken. They became mirror images of the person I had become—a person who resembled Saul of Tarsus.

Scriptures remind us that Saul spent the majority of his time persecuting and condemning Christians—imprisoning men and women who preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, one day he had an encounter with Christ. In the book of Acts, verses 9:20-21, we can see the result of Saul’s encounter with Jesus:

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” (niv)

As we see from this passage, Saul’s encounter with Jesus changed him. He went from persecuting those who followed Jesus to preaching the gospel of Christ to men and women everywhere! When I played professional football, I was a renegade—better yet a nomadic lion aimlessly wandering alone through the wilderness, consumed with my sexual obsession. Sadly, I also led many women into the same miserable and deserted wilderness—where I used them for my own selfish purposes.

Thank God that, just as Saul’s life was changed by his encounter with Jesus, my journey didn’t end there…

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