Marine Veteran

Never Underestimate - Never Give Up

On Sunday, April 29, 2007, Oren was sitting in church and his cell phone kept buzzing in his pocket. He saw missed calls from the Oakland Raiders, his agent, and numerous friends. As the first pick of Round 6 of the NFL Draft, the Raiders had picked him to play in the NFL. He was one of the mostly uncredited forces for leading the Raiders 2007 run offense into sixth place in the NFL.  

Then disaster struck again. In the 2008 third preseason game against Arizona he went down with a severeinjury, tearing his ACL, LCL, PCL, biceps femoris and nearly severing a nerve: a ‘career threatening injury’, but he never gave up! He was out for the whole 2008-2009 season. He came back as a starter in the 2009-2010 season, but injured his back and ankle, but kept playing with pain pills, cortisoneand Toradolshots. The Raiders cut him in April 2010. 

His football career was over. “For a year I went into isolation and was full of rage. I was married to Kelseyand had James,my first child. I didn’t talk to my wife,family, or friends.” He had earned two degrees in college: a B.S. in Manufacturing/Industrial Engineering Technology and a B.S. in Technical Studies/Engineering. He found a job in Texas at General Electric as a steam turbine engineer but after three years the pain was too much. The first spine fusion surgery in 2013 for holes in his vertebrae didn’t work. “I blew up to 300 lbs. and couldn’t face another terrible rehab from a second back surgery. In 2014 I was out of work for another year, living in Texas and in a ‘miserable state’.”

“I couldn’t work, I was recovering from a failed back surgery and in mental distress. I kept looking at my babies: James, now 9; Benjamin, 7 and Dorothea, 6 thinking I had to do something different. Tony Stewart, a former Raiders buddy who was the only one I kept in touch with, told me Jay Glazer, in California, had spent years working with war veterans and athletes, many of these men and women have also struggled to apply their skills from the battlefield and playing field. In 2015 Oren agreed to be the first retired football player to participate in an innovative retreat for combat veteran’s based on Posttraumatic Growth, called PATHH, created by Boulder Crest Retreat and spent four days in Virginia. A couple of weeks later, Oren traveled to California and spent two days at Jay’s Los Angeles gym, and participated in the group circle. “Jay was in the process of creating a safe place to connect retired professional athletes and veterans. The guys in the group felt a good sense of relief sharing their experiences and just listening to the others: “We went through different things, some had injuries, and feeling a sense of loss of our identity. As a former professional athlete, people tend to see you in a certain way and don’t really respect your daily struggles, but MVP is different.”

Oren went back to Dallas but kept in touch with the people he met at the retreat and MVP. Back in September 2017 he answered the call from MVP to deploy to Houston after Hurricane Harvey to aid in rescue and clean up efforts. Though Oren is still in pain and now faces more surgery for his shoulder, hip and ankle: “My whole right side will be bionic!” He has a new lease on life. Now he is expressing his anxiety in poetry upholding MVP’s mantra to serve others: “ I write poems for my kids so they know my story and to pass down some hard-earned wisdom to them.”  

Big Man’s Poems

I’m scared to tell you, My Babies, scared to weigh you down with the ache of hurtful experiences that have played a contributing factor in the making of the father you call Big Man. 

I’m not worried about what you’ll think of me, you are my sonsand my daughter and you need to know your father. I’m fearful of any hate it may place in your hearts.

Holding hate in your heart, even if it’s in reaction to purposeful harm, transforms the soul. It will keep you from truly enjoying the great gift of Life. But you need to know… 

So I’ll write you poems and put it with Love. 

“I want to move away from ‘hurt’ and help underserved youth.” He is in the process of forming a non-profit that will expose them to opportunities, help them deal with the things in their life and show them the possibilities for their future.” 

“He has always been pretty resilient,” said his dad after the lung crisis. “During his junior year in high schoolhe kept playing even after suffering from a hip pointer injury—Oren was going to play.” When colleges didn’t want him—Oren was going to play. When trainers underestimated his abilities—Oren was going to play. When a career-ending knee injury put him on the injured reserve list—Oren still wanted to play. 

Always underestimated, but never giving up—now he doesn’t need to play—he wants to serve!