Eric Wood was supposed to be there to help lift the AFC banner when the Buffalo Bills finally broke the longest playoff drought in professional sports. But life in the NFL is rarely linear, and Wood’s career as Buffalo’s starting center came crashing down perhaps too soon. Wood is one of Buffalo’s sons—a man who stuck with the team through some of the franchise’s toughest years. He was there to help start “The Process” of building a new team under head coach Sean McDermott, its ultimate goal a perennial playoff team continually vying to play in and finally bring home the team’s first Super Bowl trophy.
When the devastating news emerged that Wood had suffered a career-ending neck injury right after the Buffalo Bills had reached the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, he had to switch gears and come up with a new game plan. In doing so, Wood escaped becoming a statistic. He now has a desire to help others change directions, take leaps, and tackle what’s next.
In his newly-released book, Tackle What’s Next, Wood discusses the emotional difficulties involved in transitioning from life as a professional athlete to simply not being an athlete.
“Over the years, I have gotten used to telling the story,” Wood told Buffalo Rumblings in a recent interview about his new book. “I felt like I should still be playing in the NFL.”
Wood said that over time, telling his story has become a lot easier, and he has realized the devastating news that ended his career—that what has become his story—has put him right where he is supposed to be. “It’s given me a platform to speak. I see it as blessing.”
Wood—who said that along with his on-the-field abilities, communication is one of his strong suits—took his football knowledge and transitioned into the broadcast booth.
“Calling the games and being still around Buffalo is good for my soul. It allows me to still be a part of the game day,” Wood explained, adding that making the transition wasn’t the easiest job he had ever tackled. “It was difficult to see my gifts off the field.”
Wood said that many media members local to Buffalo reached out to him and pointed him in the right direction, and it’s that type of help that he himself hopes to give through his new book.
“It’s hard to see [your gifts] in yourself. That’s when you need to talk to the people who know you best.”
Wood went on to say that there was no one day where he was smarter or stronger when creating the football career he loved. The same was true for his post-NFL career.
“The key to success is stacking wins each day,” Wood said. “Accomplishing things each and every day that are towards your goal.” He said that the message his book presents is the same as the one he used to be successful on the field and after. “It was constant commitments each and every day.”
Wood went on to note that he knows people don’t always know exactly what it is that they want next in life, or how to get there if they do, but the key is to not overthink it and just take it one step at a time—and that frustration can often be avoided by just adjusting focus.
“They overestimate what can do in one day,” Wood said, “but completely underestimate what can be done in five years.”
While mental health is a serious topic, and one that Wood would encourage people to seek professional guidance for, he hopes that through his book, he can be a voice that people can hear—a person to whom they can relate.
“Nothing can replace a mental health expert, but books like this can provide tools and resources to encourage and help you,” Wood said, adding that he himself still seeks help and guidance from those who have navigated these waters before him.
“Of course, I would want it to be a best seller. I’m competitive,” Wood said, before adding that he hopes his book can have an impact on those who read it. “I want to impact lives. I wanted to honor those who helped me along the way.”
For the retired Bills star, becoming an author was really just about sharing his story in an effort to help others. Wood isn’t just a broadcaster, but also hosts a weekly podcast where he has guests who inspire him and whose stories are either similar to his or who can help himself—along with his listeners—to sort through the complexities of life.
As for advice in trying to find out what’s next for you, Wood said that the biggest thing is to not be afraid to fail.
“Don’t feel like you have to know everything about something to get started,” Wood said. “Taking chances in life is great.”
Wood recommends being sure that whatever you are tackling is something that you believe in and fits your core values, because there is only so much time in a day.
“Anything you add,” Wood notes, “you will have to take something away. Any yes will require a no.”
Wood’s experiences changing course from athlete to broadcaster-slash-podcaster-slash-businessman are documented in his book, as he talks about all of the real-life struggles that got him to where he is today. He details the process that it took to get there, in an attempt to make sure others understand that change is not a bad thing, processes are real, and success is attainable.
“Sean McDermott wrote the forward,” Wood said, adding that it might be the first time the coach he holds a lot of respect for may have ever been in print, “and Brandon Beane did an endorsement on the back.”
Eric Wood’s Tackle What’s Next is currently available anywhere books are sold, and is also available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle. Wood said that the audio book, which he himself will be narrating, will be out shortly.