Anthony Trucks is a standout American Ninja Warrior competitor. We’re sure all you Ninja fans are going, “Huh?” But Anthony Trucks is one of the very, very few NFL players who can say they’ve cleared a course.
Those are some pretty nice bragging rights, but if you speak with Anthony, the best part of American Ninja Warrior was the opportunity to share his story and inspire others, which is why he spoke with us recently.
Anthony has a new book out called “Identity Shift.” What does that mean? Anthony shared, “Who we see ourselves to be is not who we actually are. We are who we decide we want to become and who we work to become. It’s no different with me and approaching Ninja Warrior. I wanted to become that person and do those things and lo and behold, I hit a buzzer on the show. I think the concept the book brings forth is not just the fact that you can, but it also shows you how.”
Anthony was placed into foster care at three years old. Growing up, he knew the odds were stacked against him. After years of feeling adrift, Anthony was adopted by an all-white family at the age of 14. That’s when he began a pattern of setting a goal, facing an obstacle, finding a way through the obstacle, and getting to his goals. That drive allowed him to reach the NFL and that drive turned him into a Ninja Warrior.
Anthony’s Ninja stats include three seasons on the show. In season nine, he hit the buzzer on the Qualifying course. In seasons 10 and 11, he was able to advance to the Semifinals, but didn’t make the National Finals.
We asked Anthony about his time on Ninja Warrior and how that plays into the message he wants to share with the world.
Responses lightly edited for length and clarity.
Why go on to American Ninja Warrior after the NFL?
“It wasn’t something I pursued in the beginning. My wife actually, without my knowledge, submitted an application. She saw something in me that I didn’t see in me. Most of the guys on the show, they’re not very big humans. Rock climbers, people that are really agile. I’m a 6’2”, 230 lb linebacker from the NFL. Ninja Warrior was not on the radar for me.
But when I actually saw what it was, it really intrigued me. I’ve always been a person that realizes that life has a lot of really cool things pop up that you can do, but then we mess up the plan. We mess up the opportunity out of fear or feeling like it’s not really for us. I kind of switched that off and I said, ‘I’m going to see what I’m capable of.’
My first time on the obstacles, on the course, I hit a buzzer.”
Did you have a chance to prepare for the course?
“I had seven hours of preparation. Alan Connealy and Brian Kretsch live in my area and they have a gym they work out of and Alan owns it. The day I got the call for season nine, I found out what the local gym was, Apex Movement. I went there that night and got the rundown. I spent all of seven hours in totality trying to figure this stuff out before I got on the actual course.”
How would you sum up those three seasons of Ninja Warrior?
“Bittersweet. It’s great to have been able to go as far as I did. It was a great accomplishment. But I’m always the guy who likes the next level.
The sweet was really sweet. It was great to be able to have my family see me do this thing. It was great to be able to identify as something more than people had seen before, as just this NFL guy. To be able to actually say, ‘Hey! I can hang from my hands and swing from bar to bar.’
It was great to be able to show the world a little more of me as a human behind the scenes and inspire a lot of people. I got a ton of messages and calls from people who saw my personal story and related to it. They hadn’t seen someone like them, we’ll call it, who’d gone through foster care, actually be able to accomplish some cool things. So it was really, really enjoyable. One of the better moments, for sure, of my life.”
What was the hardest moment from those three seasons?
“I think the hardest moment was the last season. It was the one where I trained and was like ‘I’m going to get to Vegas. I’m gonna get there.’ I remember I was going through the Doorknob Drop and the Flying Shelf Grab. I was like, ‘I’m going to get through this. I’m going to get up this wall. I’m going to get to the Salmon Ladder. This is going to be the year I get to Vegas.’ On the absolute last spinning shelf, I grabbed too far in one hand and it spun. I remember falling and thinking, ‘Man, I’ve gotten so so close the last two years! It just slipped through my fingers.’
That’s the one that sticks in my head. I’m not good at having things linger, having not accomplished them well. It’s a Cadillac problem. It’s a problem, but compared to life, of living in a world that has other problems besides mine, it’s a small blip. But that’s the one that sticks with me. I was absolutely so close to finally getting to the National Finals.”
So what do you do with those feelings after it’s all said and done?
“You can feel like you’re less than. You can feel like you don’t matter. Or you can say, ‘Hey, at the end of the day this is just what life had for me. I should appreciate and celebrate all the great things I did do.’ So for me, it’s always that mentality. I go, ‘What can I learn from this so that next time, or next opportunity like this, I pretty much capitalize on it and not let the feelings from the past trickle in and ruin the next one.’ I look at it as a positive thing. A seed that can be planted to grow something great in the future.”
What surprised you the most about your time on Ninja Warrior?
“The community of people. You figure, a bunch of people out there hanging around, they’re all going to be super competitive. All ‘I gotta win.’ But it was the complete opposite. It’s a completely welcoming environment of people. Super happy. All grateful. I think it’s because everyone realizes it’s not you against them. It’s you against you and the things in life. It’s you and whatever you can do. I love seeing people celebrate each other. If someone went down, someone would tell them what they went down on and how they could do better. People were helping each other and we don’t see that anywhere. In sports, most of the time, or in the real world.
Did you find a cross-over between the mentality of an NFL player and the mentality of a Ninja Warrior?
“In football, the NFL, you go out there and play sports, it’s inevitable that you mess something up. Just like the obstacles on Ninja Warrior. You make a mistake. In football, you miss a tackle. It’s inevitable.
My coaches used to call it like a computer chip. Take the chip out and put a new one in. Think of the next play. Ninja Warrior is very similar. If you’re going to succeed there, if you fell somewhere or messed up in the past, you can’t bring that into a new run. You have to look at it as a fresh start. That was the congruence for me. That’s also every single day of life. You have a bad day of life, you don’t carry it to the next day. Take the chip out, put a new one in and get back to work.”
What’s harder? Hitting a Ninja Warrior buzzer or writing a book?
“It’s funny, playing football, you’d think, ‘Oh, it’s just hanging by my hands.’ I would come off those obstacles and be breathing as hard as running, as multiple sprints. It surprised me that you can get that tired in a two-minute span! Ninja Warrior is a little more tiring than writing a book. The book is mentally draining. Ninja Warrior is mentally and physically draining.”
Anthony wasn’t on seasons 12 or 13 of American Ninja Warrior, and that was on purpose. He chose not to apply. Don’t count Anthony out just yet, though. “But my wife says you need to go back and do it again,” he told us.
Anthony’s book, “Identity Shift,” is available now for purchase.