Dawn Neufeld’s Playbook – Football Wives Episode 3

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Dawn Neufeld of Football Wives has agreed to blog for us, giving us weekly behind-the-scenes insight and dishing on each of her show’s episodes. Her take on Episode 3 is below (the bolding is our editorial emphasis, not hers)…

This blog is a little longer than usual but there are so many things to talk about in Episode 3. Bear with me.

Let me start by taking you back to opening day of the NFL season in 2007. It’s the beginning of the third quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. Tens of thousands of fans stand and roar as the special teamers take the field. Rian Lindell kicks off and the Bills coverage team heads down the field full speed. Denver Broncos receiver Domenik Hixon fields the ball and races into oncoming traffic. The sound of helmets and bodies colliding can be heard over the fans’ cheers. The whistle blows, the play is over.

Ryan was on the field during that play. When I noticed there was a Bills’ player down, my heart started racing. I immediately started looking around to make sure Ryan was heading to the sideline. I spotted number 88 and immediately felt relieved, but was overwhelmingly concerned about the player on the field. The players were frantically summoning the training staff – you could tell by their urgency that someone was really, really hurt. Players from both teams were crying. Some immediately fell to their knees and began to pray. The silence that fell over the stadium was breathtaking. After a couple of minutes, I realized the hurt player was another tight end, Kevin Everett. As the ambulance rolled onto the turf, I said a prayer for Kevin and his family but thanked God it wasn’t Ryan.

Immediately after the Bills’ devastating 15-14 loss that night, we rushed to the hospital and waited in the lobby for news. Kevin was in surgery. It was bad – a spinal cord injury that would most likely leave him paralyzed. Even worse, they were not sure Kevin would survive.


We spent a lot of time at the hospital over the next week until Kevin was transferred home to Texas making sure that Kevin’s family had whatever they needed. I witnessed more grown men cry that week than I had ever in my life — as the players came to visit Kevin, each one was confronted with the danger and reality of the sport they loved and lived. Any of them easily could’ve been laid up in that bed on a respirator, hooked up to monitors in a medically-induced coma, a cold experimental saline solution being pumped through their veins in a desperate attempt to keep their spinal cord from swelling. I drove home from the hospital one day and I just lost it. I had to pull over as I sobbed uncontrollably. This one hit too close to home – that could have been Ryan.

There is a happy ending to this story – Kevin has made a miraculous recovery and while he’ll never be the same guy that was out on the football field before the collision that almost took his life, he is not paralyzed and is living a wonderful life with his wife and children. Unfortunately, not all of these stories have a happy ending. Just recently, a Rutgers University player suffered a spinal cord injury during a game and is paralyzed. We’ve heard of several high school students in our area suffering similar fates. The risks associated with football are real, the health consequences life-altering. We will forever live with this reality and no amount of money ever makes it feel “right.”

I have to take a moment to address one of the critiques we’ve been getting. People seem to think that we don’t have perspective – that we can’t possibly contemplate and appreciate that there are other jobs far more dangerous than football that aren’t compensated nearly as well. Well, here’s some perspective: as we prepared for Ryan to leave for training camp this year, my reaction was always the same when people asked how I was going to get through three months without him. I always said, “Well, he’s not going off to fight in a war and its only three months so we’ll manage. We just have to take it day by day.” My point is that I get it – no, playing football is not as dangerous as taking sniper fire in the middle of Afghanistan. My husband did not choose a career in the military, so I don’t know what it’s like to have my spouse gone for a year or two. Ryan approached me several years ago and discussed the possibility of going into law enforcement after football and I shut him down real quick – it’s too dangerous. However, appreciating the sacrifices and risks of other careers does not minimize those associated with football. We didn’t share our stories to get sympathy – we simply shared our reality about the risks associated with the sport. People suggesting we don’t have a right to be concerned or to bring attention to those risks because our husbands are spoiled, high-paid athletes is frustrating.

Ryan and I also addressed another aspect of our reality during this episode – our finances. Sharing our struggles has been difficult and has opened us up to all sorts of criticism. Someone actually chastised me for over-sharing and said I shouldn’t be putting all of my business out there. Well, I’m on a reality show. The only way I can make this process authentic is to be real about every aspect of my life, and this is one of those areas that deserved some attention. Ryan and I aren’t broke – we manage. But things definitely aren’t as comfortable as they used to be.

The reality is that a significant number of football players are in extreme financial distress two years after official retirement from football. The average NFL career is a little over three years and I don’t care how well one plans and prepares for the transition, the money will only last for so long. We aren’t immune to the woes of the economy either – I had to take a part-time legal job that pays well under the going rate for an attorney these days because it was the only job I could find. Companies aren’t lining up to hire anyone these days, let alone retired football players, so it took Ryan some time to find something he wanted to pursue. Apparently some viewers aren’t interested in our story because of our financial situation – we’re just broke ex-football players so why are we even relevant? Again, this is our reality and it’s the reality for many people coming out of the game – it matters for the parents who emphasize sports over education, for women who think marrying an athlete will solve all of their problems. May our story be a cautionary tale for current and future football players and their families.

There was a lot of crying in this episode. I didn’t realize Chanita was such a crier – she’s just a big ol’ softy under that mean, aggressive exterior. People have asked how in the world I can let her talk the way she did to me in last week’s episode and still be cool. I’m not kidding – I ignore Chanita and some of her antics. They are beyond me. My mom always taught me to pick and choose my battles – the ones with Chanita aren’t worth fighting.

Seriously, there was so much riding on this football season for Ryan and me. This was supposed to be his last season playing the game he’s loved all his life. He’s finally hanging up the cleats and we’re closing this chapter. I didn’t think I was going to get so emotional, but the finality of it all got to me. Well, and the fact that I was going to be changing diapers and dealing with autism meltdowns for three months by myself. Speaking of autism, I want to do a separate blog focusing on that aspect of our lives – I will try to get to it this week.

Enough with the heavy stuff – let’s talk drama! We can’t have an episode of Football Wives without a little drama! First scene of the show – Pilar states she has a fitness program that she runs out of her home and that she wanted to invite us into her world for a workout. The TRUTH? Pilar lives 15 minutes from my house and I’ve never been invited to her home. We shot that scene the day Ryan left for Omaha. After dealing with the emotions of him leaving, I had to go to work (I do that) and then I had to go to an audition. It was a really long day. We were supposed to meet in my home city of Frisco for Pilar’s Zumba-type dance class at 5:30 p.m. that evening. A little over an hour before the class was to begin, we got a call that the location of our fitness class had changed. It was only after I typed in “Lancaster” in my navigational system did I realize just how far it was – it was about an hour south of where we were and we had to head down there in the thick of rush-hour traffic. When we arrived at the location, we found out we were going to be outside in 100 degree heat doing a boot camp-style workout. We all felt so bamboozled. So excuse me for not being appreciative of being invited into her world.

Looking back on the three months we were in production on Football Wives, I can honestly say that boot camp was the first time I actually wondered if Pilar and I were going to get along. Up until that point, we’d had some good interactions. She and I actually have a lot in common – probably more than we care to admit. But something about that day and how things went down just didn’t sit right with me. We ended up having a good time once we got out on the field that day – I even ended up playing a little football with some of the ladies from the boot camp class. But the lack of consideration for everyone else’s time really rubbed me the wrong way. Pilar hasn’t hesitated to tell us how busy she is, and so am I. My time is very, very precious to me.

For the record, Pilar’s body is banging. You can tell she works hard. But just FYI – I have abs. I just don’t run around showing them off all the time. And I have a kick butt boot camp instructor who is also a Football Wife – shout out to Sheila Stoutmire!

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I’m not going to spend too much time focusing on the fact that Pilar lied about her age although I’m sure she might try to say she was just kidding. It certainly didn’t sound like she was kidding to the ladies sitting at my table. I don’t think Chanita will be throwing herself a Sweet 16 any time soon.

  1. Limah says:

    I mean Pilar shouldn’t lie about her age, if she is 35, 36 just admit it! Be proud of your age and who you are, especially in today’s age where people can find out the truth. But a couple of sites did say she was 34, I can believe that more than 28! lol! She hilarious, but I like her!

  2. Zzzzzzz says:

    Dawn you are so self indulgent!! I can’t believe you actually put a picture of yourself in a bathing suit – you should’ve just showed your abs like Pilar did. You did say it was 100 degrees don’t hate her cuz you covered up! You hate her cuz she is beautiful. We only saw Pilar for a brief moment in a couple of scenes. I don’t understand why you are soooo on her like you are. Do you realize you and Chanita get the most airtime out of all of the football wives. Amazing! Oh and that age thing – that was obvious tongue-n-cheek humor. Pilar was obviously joking about her age, I mean I saw that! I can’t wait see Pilar again, she makes this dumb, boring ass show come to life. Sorry, but it is a snooze fest, I honestly wait for her to come on. No disrespect to you or the other wives, but I am bored already and all you guys do is yell and scream and cry…..BORING….Pilar is entertaining to me, that is the only reason why I tune in.

  3. shelly says:

    ryan was an undrafted te out of colege..he never made big bucks..he is now in the ufl and he proly makes about 50k..yes its 3 months work but to stay in pro league its a 24/7 job..i hope this reality show helps this nice family financially

  4. aresa says:

    I understand football is a very tough sport tough on the body tough on the family…but i dont want to watch a group of women cry over how dangerous it is and how their husbands risk their lives…please my husband works in law enforcement and makes way less money than yours and is way less appreciated than yours and we get way less perks than yall…dont want to hear it…ppl that watch are married to police officers fire fighters soldiers, other law enforcment agencies and they risk their lives every single day they go to work dont want to hear it if u didnt want to deal with it you shouldnt have married into it

  5. Lisa says:

    It was so great to see you and your husband Ryan saying goodbye and on your date night. This shows us that some of the players and wives are down to earth folks with bills and stress like everyone else. Will we get to see more of you being a single mom, while he’s in Omaha?

    Pilar and Amanda seems to deliver on the over the top stereotype of the spoiled player wife. Pilar even more so than Amanda. Will they ever mention that she is Deion’s 2nd wife? She really seems to think she’s the new and improved trophy.

    I’d also like to see more of Erin. She doesn’t seem to get much screen time. Is that because she gets along with everyone?

  6. Dawn H. says:

    Dawn,
    Thanks for the great blog. As a former football wife, I too can relate all too well to your worries. I think your portrayal this week was raw, honest and relatable. Any true fans of reality shows want to see the truth, and for 95% of NFL players, this will be their truth after their time in the NFL is over. The other 5% live like Pilar. People watch reality shows to find what they have in common and what is relatable to their life. Who can relate to a woman who is so full of herself like Pilar is? She is out of touch with reality and another example of a woman who let money go to her head.

  7. Alexandra C. says:

    Dawn – Thanks for being so real and for providing a perspective that we otherwise would not have. While so much of our society is impacted by football – from its enormous fan following to its strong marketing influence – you give it new life. By sharing the stories and sacrifices of the families behind those wearing the uniforms – with openness, honesty, and realness – one realizes that football is more than just a game.

    Your story is one that women everywhere can relate to – whether their husbands are serving in the military, law enforcement, or in other professions that place them in danger or require long periods away from home. Its reflective of our admiration for our husbands and fathers, while a reminder of our inner strength as women and mothers.

    You are an amazing lady – a great mother, smart lawyer, and all around beautiful rock star. Keep up the great work!

    You have a great following in our nation’s Capitol! : )

  8. KT says:

    Aresa, I could not agree with you more. Over 100 police officers are killed in the line of duty every year in the United States. Over 100 firefighters are killed in the line of duty every year in the United States. How many football players are killed playing each year in the United States? I agree that football is a dangerous sport and I am a huge fan, but honestly some of the episodes of this show are way too far from reality. These players are making millions upon millions of dollars. Firefighters make on average 30,000 per year and when they die their wives and children are left with a melted helmet and a laughably small death benefit. I guess the wealthy will never understand this, but they will enjoy living under the blanket of security that police, firemen and our soldiers provide. Enjoy your mansions and fancy cars, but just know that any police officer, fireman or soldier would give their life to assist you in a time of crisis.

  9. D.B. says:

    Hey Dawn!
    First let me begin with commending you for being authentic and real about your “reality” as a football wife. It takes alot of guts to be on a reality show these days and the fact that your story is not all glitz and glamour gives a different view of what the audience probable expected. I believe most of the reality shows these days are 95% FAKE! Some people would rather turn on the TV and “dream” that they lived the life of glitz and gold, but honey you have made it clear that it ain’t all gold! You should be praised for being that honest about what MOST Americans are facing these days. Not knowing if they will have a job tomorrow, losing their homes, not being able to send their kids to college,having a child with autism.. I could go on and on…it’s depressing! But like I said, that fantasy of being a “Football Wife” and watching the show for that hour, takes their mind off of whatever trials they are experiencing. I think you can use this “15 min” of fame and turn all these negatives into a positive for yourself and your family. Keep being authentic…
    Best Wishes.
    D.

  10. Ashley says:

    Dawn, the people that know you, and love you , know that you are far from self indulgent. For people to state that you hate pilar because she is beautiful is the most absurd thing, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you can be pretty on the outside and still be the ugliest thing walking because your attitude and personality is horrible like pilar. I too am a football wife and can appreciate the rawness of this last episode, because no! Not everybody lives like Deion and Pillar. And what you guys showed is reality. If you think the show is boring….then don’t watch! It’s that simple. And to the person that defended Pilar and said that was her being funny…….do you know her? Yeah I didn’t think so…..enough said!

  11. NEET says:

    DAWN,
    I ENJOY WATCHING YOU AND I LOVE HOW YOUR A CAREER WOMAN AND TAKE CARE OF YOURS. MY COUSIN IS A FOOTBALL WIFE ALSO AND VERY EDUCATED BUT AFTER MARRYING A FOOTBALL PLAYER SHE SETTLED AND LET HER CAREER GO. SO I ADMIRE AND WOULD OTHER WOMAN TO TAKE NOTICE THAT EVEN THOUGH YOU MARRY BIG DONT MEAN GIVE UP ON YOUR EDUCATION…WHAT IS THAT TEACHING YOUR DAUGHTERS….

  12. LB says:

    Dawn,

    I’ve never known you to be less than honest, and I’m glad you have this opportunity to clarify how you were portrayed on the show. It’s impossible to get a clear view of you on an edited reality show…but I have always seen you as a hard worker and dedicated mom.

  13. Chile Pleaze says:

    Unfortuantely, viewers “like” certain cast members so much because of their outer beauty and to insinuate that the other wives are jealous is absurd.
    Zzzzzz you don’t even know Pilar because if you did, you would know that she’s extremely sarcastic and self serving and that she has no shame in her game to walk around half ***ss naked even at children’s events.

  14. Spare Me says:

    Um, doesn’t anyone else find it funny that this Dawn chick is worried about money yet she’s living in a huge house, driving huge expensive cars and getting mani/pedis? And she talks about her son needing consistency in his life but brings a reality show into her home to film? That can’t be a good choice for him. Plus, who is with the kids all the time – dad is off playing football, she’s supposed to be a lawyer/actress/hostess. Do they have a regular nanny for consistency that we don’t see (and that would cost more money)? That woman needs to get a clue.

  15. Insane says:

    This is really getting silly. Of course no one is comparing these spoiled football families to military and law enforcement families. There is no comparison. What is making us “regular” folks upset is the protrayal of the “reality” you,oh so reluctantly, seem to embrace and then complain about. It is complaining ladies. You don’t hear military wives whining about this; they are proud, albeit scared, of their brave husbands. They don’t complain..they wait and survive. And, ok, NFL players going broke after being in the league for 3 years? Get a job. Gasp…I know…how dare I suggest that! Are you kidding me with ex-football players not getting jobs? How exciting would it be for a high school to boast Mr. X football star as their varsity coach? Who wouldn’t buy a car from a smiling sports icon? Are these jobs below you Mr. Football family? Most folks retire around age 65…not 35. Moral is, don’t expect sympathy for these issues when you seem to have little perspective of the real world. How about some more unsolicited advice from someone living in reality: Health insurance? http://www.cigna.com. Needing to pay for a child’s medication? Sell an SUV. Get a full time job. Get a second job. Get a clue. Wondering about life after football? Monsterjobs.com or take a college visit. The world is spinning as we speak…and not directly around a football stadium.

  16. Thelma says:

    @ KT and Aresa: So should these women not express compassion for the dangers their husbands encounter on the field? I don’t think that by sharing their stories, these women are trying to take away from what your husbands do on a daily basis. Neither one of you ladies can convince me that if you were married to a football player, you wouldn’t have some sort of emotional reaction to what your husband might experience. To suggest that they not complain because they knew what they were getting into is just callous and ridiculous.

    From one human being to another, I appreciate what your husbands do and without them we would have constant chaos and destruction. But judging by both of your posts, you insinuate that just because these ballers’ wives have access to excessive amounts of money (and some of them do not if you read Dawn’s and others’ posts), they should be more accepting of their spouses being injured. If your police officer and firefighter spouses were better compensated, would that help you cope with the fact that they face danger and possible death on a daily basis? I don’t think so because no amount of money can raise the dead or reverse paralysis if isn’t in God’s will. Think about it. Bottom line this show is about how THEY cope with what THEY have to go through, so unless they are actually emotionless robots, please expect them to express emotion and not be steely-faced when discussing what their husbands do what they do to earn their keep.

    For the record I have dated a police officer and my husband is a postal worker. He has been attacked, bitten, chased, cussed out, spit at, threatened, etc, and still is on any random day, all with only a can of mace on his hip. Did I know that before I married him? Yes. Does it still cause me concern? Absolutely. But that doesn’t make me any less compassionate for what these “high-paid” players and their wives go through. After all, it is THEIR story. If I want someone to hear my story, I will audition for POSTAL WORKERS WIVES. No disrespect is intended with this post, so please respond in kind.

  17. Jenna D says:

    I may not be a football wife, but i’ve grown up around football players, thier wives, and the sport – both it’s high and lows – and I can say without a doubt that Dawn is a true class act who would do anything, ANYTHING, to help out her family and friends. Her blog is a direct representation of how she interacts with family and friends so when she says she is concerned about her husband, she is. Just as you would be if your husband did something dangerous. Haters, spend a day with Dawn N and then try and think of something you don’t like about her. i can tell you from experience you wont be able to think of a damn thing.

    Much love from Buffalo Dawn :)

  18. Lily Springs says:

    Dawn,

    Thanks for representing the football reality! The lifestyle certainly affords many pleasures, however the difficulties and heartbreaks are intensified. You have accurately portrayed our lives, and I thank you for it! ~Your girl in chocolate city

  19. Angela says:

    It is refreshing to watch Dawn – I find her to be very authentic and down to earth. She is open about very REAL issues. I hope they show more about her mission with her son and his autism. It would be a nice opportunity to inspire many parents that are coping with an autistic child. Also, seems pretty obvious that Dawn is comfortable in her own skin…she doesn’t need to pile on a bunch of make-up or a wig like Pilar. She’s clearly beautiful and confident. Plus, I admire the fact that she and Ryan have stayed together through what she said were some tough times. She is not a second wife like Pilar. Hoping they show more of Erin – she seems pretty cool and not caught up in showing off like Pilar. And wondering if the blonde girl will get her engagement ring…I like the fact that she is real and could care less what people think about her working at Hooters. LOL. Good for you girl!

  20. OhBrother... says:

    Oh gimme a break! Don’t be mad because your spouse CHOOSES to risk their life for pennies. While I am always grateful to the men and women who serve this country, last time I checked there was no Draft in effect. So, who’s fault is that? Who told your spouse to go and risk their life for $30,000? Life is about choices, don’t look down on these women because their husbands chose a different path. Should they not be worried? And some of these military people are so hypocritical. I’ve had someone tell my friends’ families that they shouldn’t be upset or worried about their loved ones being in Afghanistan because they are not in combat and they really shouldn’t be crying…blah blah, blah. Really? Seriously? I’ve heard it all before. It’s always something, someone’s sacrifice will always be valued more by someone else. Break out the violins…

  21. ThePhatLady says:

    Man on man, some of you respondents are NUTSO. Anyone care to bash ME for being upset that my husband left for three days this week for his “regular” corporate job … that I actually MISS him the minute he walks out the door … that I WORRY about his flying … that I WORRY about him driving? Geez … let people have their own emotions, appreciate their spouses – no matter their occupation, miss them when they’re gone and worry about their own lives, finances, etc. Ya’ll are all cray cray. I find the show entertaining and very eye-opening. I actually loved that Chanita and the rest of the girls brought to light the dangers and the fear of injury and death that surrounds the sport. It’s those same thoughts and feelings that make me want to keep my son out of the sport. Dawn, I love your blogs. Love getting to know a little bit more about what’s happening behind the scenes. Glad you elaborated on the boot camp footage. XOXO

  22. Jaylyn says:

    Why are those two boring white women on this show. One of them is not even a wife. The other I could care less about. Why everytime us black women have a reality show we have to add a few white girls on the show to make the rest of America watch it ? You didn’t see any black women on these other reality shows when there are at least five white women on one show together. They have never thought one time to bring a black woman on the show nor latina nor an asian. They have their own show. I am tired of it !

  23. LYN says:

    I LOVE YOU DAWN. You are soooo making the show worth-watching!!

  24. LYN says:

    PILAR should really pay attention to real down-to-earth hard-working women like you. You are beuatiful in and out. Don’t stop expressong yourself! Women like Pilar try to get attention with looks, over-worked bodies, fake eyes, TONS of make-up and a righ older husband… Your beauty goes deeper you are a sweet professional woman who truly cares about her kids and husband!!

    I wish national TV could put more role models such as yourself on people’s screens

  25. LYN says:

    Go Dawn… FAKE GOLD DIGGING PILAR HASSD NOTHING ON YOU

  26. Miss Jai says:

    Dawn is ridiculous!!! She and Chanita both have children and act more immature than they do. If I don’t like someone, then I refuse to be in their presence and have them in mine. I guess the people who love her on the show forget that she has divided the cast into the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Why???!!! What’s the purpose? It seems to me that there is jealousy between the women. These shows continue to show the hatred that black women have for each other and it is really silly and embarrassing. Now I see why other cultures have such negative views of us, we are continuing to do it to ourselves. Sad!!!

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