Dale Earnhardt Jr. had former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen as a guest on his Dale Jr. Download podcast this week.
And of course, he had to tell the story of the time he went to speak at Panthers training camp in Spartanburg, South Carolina one summer.
Reporter Lindsay Czarniak had asked Dale Jr. to join her down there to talk to the team about how to handle social media interactions and an online presence, among other things.
Jr. admitted he loved working with her and was excited to get to speak to the team, thinking it would be a great experience. But as he told Greg, when he got there, it wasn’t exactly what he expected:
“And I’m gonna tell you, man, when I walked in that room, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room where the walls were bulging with, like, I don’t wanna say egos, but every guy in there thought he was the baddest guy in the room.
And I don’t know, there was 70 people in there or 50 people in there, plus the coaches, and the bravado… Oh, God almighty.
And they’re all starin’ at you. And I was like, ‘This was a mistake.'”
I can imagine how intimidating that must’ve been, especially considering the fact that Jr. is a hardcore Washington Commanders (formerly Redskins) fan…
He added that it left him wondering how a lot of NFL teams even keep a locker room together:
“Through that experience, I walked away from there goin’, I don’t know how the hell they keep some locker rooms together.
Because the dynamic of personalities and everybody really does, they put in all that work, they believe in themselves, they believe they’re the best, they believe they belong there, and they all gotta mesh.”
Greg added that’s what makes football so unique. With a sport like basketball, you can get one great player and usually be a pretty decent team.
But, in the NFL:
“There’s no guarantee because you get a great player on your team that you’re gonna be good. There’s so much more that goes on. And what you just talked about, like, just running a team meeting.
I mean, some of the team meetings I’ve been in are circuses, other team meetings are very professional. So like, every team has their own unique kinda vibe.
It has their own unique power structure. Player led, coach led, do the players lead by fear, do they lead by initiative. Like, there’s a lot of, like, social experiments and it’s ever-changing.”
He says that even the Panthers team in 2015 and 2016, that had a lot of the exact same players, was very different for several reasons:
“Our team in 2015, in 2016, very different. Same guys, but all of a sudden, this guy has a little more success, this guy’s no longer a rookie, this guy’s no longer an undrafted free agent, he got a big contract, whatever the case may be, things are constantly evolving.
Because at the end of the day, like you said, you’re dealing with a lot of guys that, yes, it’s team, yes, that’s the ultimate objective, but these are guys’ careers.
These are livelihoods, this is stuff that guys work their whole lives for, and at the end of the day, people are gonna look after themselves first…”
And he also added that most of them were out of their minds for thinking they were that good:
“And guess what, that room of 70 guys that thought they were the best?
Like, 10 of them had the right to do that. 60 of them were nuts. 60 of them weren’t the best.”
I love the unabashed honesty, and I could probably name off the exact 10 players he was talking about at the time, but I digress…
Make sure you check out Jr. telling the whole story below. It’s pretty funny to hear him talk about how nervous all those NFL players made him, especially considering that he’s now a NASCAR Hall of Fame driver himself: