Football is constantly challenging those that compete on the field, and for Oklahoma State linebacker Chad Whitener, overcoming that adversity is what motivates him to play the game.
"The great thing about this sport is that it reveals what type of man you are," Whitener said. "This game really teaches you to handle adverse situations and that's the best part about football for me - all of the life lessons it teaches you when you're playing.
"I love playing the game, but it's not really the love that gets you through. It's more about your character and who you are."
The lessons learned on the gridiron are just one part of the game that Whitener fell in love with at a young age. The Mansfield, Texas, native also embraces the comradery among teammates that football creates, and to this day he still stays in touch with the friends he first took the field with in sixth grade.
"We all have old pictures and stuff and we all talk about how goofy we looked back then," Whitener said. "It's fun getting to talk to all of my buddies from back then and see where they're at now and have something to look back on and be able to reminisce about."
Whitener's family had no history of the sport prior to him strapping on shoulder pads for the first time, but when Whitener decided that football was his passion, his family went all-in with him as well.
"My parents have always been very supportive of everything I've done," Whitener said. "When I dove into football, they went in head-first with me as well. They've only ever missed one game in the entire time I've played football and that was only because their flight got cancelled."
Whitener's family has always been supportive of his passion, even when it was simply a way to get him out of the house as a kid. But the game of football began to take on new meaning as he realized how the game was shaping him.
"My dad and my grandpa never played football, but it was just something that I saw and wanted to do," Whitener said. "I started playing when I was in sixth grade and just fell in love with it. It has made me a tougher person and a better communicator and has helped me realize what I need to do to get where I want to be in the game.
"You get to learn so much about being a leader and things like that, and all of it translates over into the real world."
Whitener hopes he'll be able to continue learning life lessons from the game of football in the National Football League, but says he ultimately wants to be able to retire on his own terms and then someday open his own financial services business.