NFL Legend Larry Tripplett Fell in Love with Football After His First Hit
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
Larry Tripplett didn't start out playing football — he grew into it.
"I played baseball as a kid," he said. "I loved baseball. But I was a big kid. My freshman year (of high school) I was 5-10, 260.
"The coach took one look at me on the baseball field and said, ‘Why don’t you try that field over there.’ I went out for football and that was that."
Switching sports worked out well. Football earned Tripplett a college scholarship, a six-year NFL career and a love affair that never ended.
"After my first hit in football, I fell in love with it," he said. "I tell people, when you get hit or hit someone, you either love it or you hate it. I fell in love with it. There's just an excitement with football that’s unreal."
Tripplett experienced a steep learning curve when he started playing at Westchester High School in Los Angeles — but he quickly caught up to his peers.
"I didn’t know a lot about the game, but I was big, I was athletic and I was hungry," he said. "I feel like in football, if you have those three things, you don’t have to know everything about it right away; you can learn the game."
And even though he liked hitting ballcarriers more than baseballs, Tripplett's first sport did play in a role as he became a force on the gridiron.
"Baseball helped me learn to focus and zero in," he said. "You had to concentrate, tune everything out and focus on the little things. That really helped me when I got to football."
Tripplett realized football could be more than a game for him when he started hearing from colleges his junior year.
"Playing football in college was not even on my radar," he said. "I’m competitive. I like to win. I was trying to beat Dorsey High and Inglewood. I wasn’t even thinking about college."
Then a former teammate, who had gone on to play at Washington, came back to high school for a visit. "He had all his Huskies stuff on, and I saw all the girls around him and everybody talking to him, and I said, OK, I want to go to college too."
Tripplett followed his teammate to the University of Washington on scholarship. In 2002, he was selected with the 42nd overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts. He played four seasons in Indy, reaching the playeffs each year, before moving on to the Buffalo Bills for his final two seasons.
While playing in the league, Tripplett began his post-playing career. First, he purchased a hotel with his father, Larry Sr., in Glendale, Arizona.
"My father taught me a lot about business and came to me with the hotel idea," Tripplett said.
Tripplett also learned about business from the NFL's offseason business workshops. "I went to the one at Wharton," he said. "I learned a ton there. Those workshops are awesome."
Today, Tripplett owns his own hotel in Glendale. The hotel hosts the Chicago White Sox during spring training. He also works as a superintendent for a construction company in Oakland.
Tripplett said he sees a lot of parallels between football and working in constuction.
"Football is the ultimate team sport, and that’s what helped me in life," he said. "In football, you come from all backgrounds — White, Black, Hispanic, from the city, from the suburbs, from the country. And you all come together on the football field and focus on one common goal. When that’s achieved, there’s nothing like it.
"But there’s a lot of correlation between construction and what we felt playing football. You’re bringing guys together and working toward a common goal."
Photo: AP/Paul Spinelli
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