Before he transitioned to acting, John David Washington was a professional football player

By Georgia Slater
May 29, 2020 11:55 AM
Advertisement
Allen Berezovsky/Getty

John David Washington is reflecting on how his father Denzel Washington's words both on and off-screen acted as motivators in his life.

The athlete-turned-actor appears on the summer cover of Esquirewhere he opens up about how some of his father's most famous on-screen speeches became words of inspiration for him in real-life.

Before he took on an acting career, John David, now 35, was all about football.

The former professional athlete told Esquire that he started to play the sport at the end of elementary school and was quickly attracted to the idea of becoming his own person, independent from his Hollywood star father.

While he tried to keep things separate, John David said he still recalls hearing some of his dad's scripted speeches come through his head as motivation.

Elsa/Getty

Denzel coached several of John David's football teams, and on one occasion his father used a familiar speech as a side-line pep talk during one of John David's middle school games.

John David knew he had heard the speech before, recognizing it from his father's monologue from the 1992 historical drama Malcolm X.

While John David was only eight years old when the film came out, it forever stuck out in his mind as the movie that shot his dad into stardom, he told the outlet.

Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

John David graduated from Morehouse College, where his record-breaking D2 college football career led to a brief stint playing in the NFL.

He played for the St. Louis Rams in the 2006-07 season and for the American team Rhein Fire in NFL Europa. When he gave up football for acting, he got his major breakthrough, ironically, by playing football star Ricky Jerret on HBO’s Ballers.

In 2018, Denzel told PEOPLE that he was "glad" his son's NFL career was over because of the many injuries it caused.

“He’s had I don’t know how many concussions, a broken collar bone, a torn up knee and Achilles [tendon],” Denzel, 65, said.

WATCH: Denzel Washington Dedicates Life Achievement Award to His Wife: 'I Wouldn't Survive' Without Her

Denzel went on to say that he’s proud that his eldest son has made his own way in Hollywood — which in addition to Ballers includes a role in Spike Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman — without relying on any major help from his dad.

“That’s my son, I love my boy and I’m just happy he’s his own man, he’s independent,” said Denzel. “He’s really good at what he does, and the fact that he’s been fighting to make his own mark, he didn’t want any help from me, I didn’t help him get onto Ballers or anything like that."

He added, "The only way I helped him get into Ballers was introducing him to football as a kid, so maybe that helped. But I’m just proud of he and all my children (John David, Katia, 32, twins Olivia and Malcolm, 29). My wife did a great job, they are good kids. Humble, hard-working, not afraid of hard work, that’s all you can ask for."