Jorvorskie Lane does not have to remind himself how precarious a football career can be. Nor does he have to search for motivation to remain on his current track. All he has to do is look at his children.
"My [4-year-old] son understood," the Miami Dolphins fullback said. "He heard in daycare that I was a football player but I had nothing to show for it but [Texas] A&M. The first thing he said when I made the Dolphins was, 'My daddy got a job.'
"Man, I grew up without a father. That means a lot to be able to provide for my kids."
Lane had jobs before hooking up with the Dolphins this past summer. But hauling furniture was not what he had in mind as a college junior averaging 4.6 yards per carry at running back. But one year later, Mike Sherman had replaced Dennis Franchione as Aggies head coach, and a frustrated Lane found himself at fullback, his numbers and draft status falling fast.
I always thought deep down I was good enough, and it gave me more fuel seeing guys I played against in college and high school in the NFL. I knew if they could do it, I could do it.” -- Jorvorskie Lane
After watching friends' and teammates' names called but not his own, he had a stint in the Indoor Football League. At one point, there was a call from the Rams.
"They kept telling him they'd call him back in a month or so, that they'd give him a workout, and I stayed on him about that," said his wife, Chan Lane. "I'd tell him, 'You need to reach out to them. You need to let them know you really want that job.' When they didn't call back, that got him down a lot. That upset him pretty badly."
Needing to support his family, the father of a 6-year-old, 5-year-old and 4-year-old took a job delivering furniture.
"I don't think he was OK with that at all, and it made me sad because all I ever knew of him was playing football," Chan said.
"I started questioning myself at that point, whether I could even play football anymore," Lane said. "I continued to watch on TV, I went back to Aggies games, but it was not what I wanted to do with my life & and I really beat myself up."
As Lane's self-esteem suffered, his weight reflected it. On the day of his 25th birthday, Lane weighed 304 pounds, roughly 50 pounds heavier than he was in college.
"I'm naturally big," he said. "In seventh grade, I weighed 204 pounds. I did the normal things everybody else would do, but my eating habits weren't good, and I blamed myself for that, too."
But that day, he said, his mindset changed.
"I just asked myself, 'Is this really what I want to do?'" Lane said. "I just decided that I really wanted [to play again], and once I made up my mind, things changed. Making the decision was hard. But once I made up my mind, it was easy. I put everything aside; I put my friends on hold. I put a lot of things on hold to get where I wanted to be."
Lane took up running and mixed-martial-arts training and adopted a healthier diet, cutting out the late-night snacks he had made a habit.
"I relied a lot on my wife," he said. "Without her, I don't think I would've gotten through it. She kept me motivated and always told me, 'I know you can do it. Just be patient. Just work on it.'
"A few other people in my immediate family cared. But other than that a lot of people wrote me off, and that was motivation, too."
One of those supportive family members was his half brother, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.
"I talked to him all the time about it, and he kept me motivated," Lane said. "He'd say 'The game is not hard. It's the same as what we've been doing since we were kids.' I always thought deep down I was good enough, and it gave me more fuel seeing guys I played against in college and high school in the NFL. I knew if they could do it, I could do it."
Chan remembered that 25th birthday as the turning point for a man who "can't be told this or that; he has to learn for himself."
"He wasn't too happy on that day," she said. "I don't know what it was, if it was his age, if he just felt, 'OK, it's time grow up and get serious.'"
Whatever the impetus was, Lane whittled himself down to 270 over the next few months, at which point he heard Sherman, who had just been named offensive coordinator for the Dolphins, might be in the market for a fullback. After some back-and-forth with general manager Jeff Ireland, the Dolphins spelled it out: They would give him a workout, but if he came in heavier than 268, he shouldn't bother.
"Without [Sherman], I wouldn't be here right now," Lane said. "It means a lot that they believe in me. Trust is a big thing in this league."
Lane repaid that trust by scoring two rushing touchdowns the first four weeks of the season, emerging early on as the starting fullback, a position he has grown to appreciate.
"Hey, they can put me at right guard right now and I'd be happy to hit somebody," he said.
Sherman sounded recently like he has no regrets over giving Lane a second chance.
"He's done a real good job," Sherman said. "He came in ready to play, lost his weight, catching the ball real well, great balance. He's never been a blocker in his previous offenses, but he's had to learn how to do that at 260 pounds. He's getting better every single day."
For the Lanes, it's all still a bit of a blur. "We pinch ourselves quite often, at least once or twice a week," Chan said.
But the memory of one certain day is still clear.
"We were in Texas," she said, "and Jorvorskie had been in Miami at camp since June, and my [youngest] son kept asking, 'When is my daddy coming home?' I told him, 'We don't want him to come home. Keep praying he'll be able to get a job and take care of us.'
"I was at work [at the children's preschool] the day he found out he made the team."
"I did it," Lane texted.
"Are you serious?" his wife replied.
"I peeked out the door and told my boss and she said, 'You can scream.' So I ran straight to my son's classroom and yelled, 'Your daddy made it.' It looked like he might break down and cry, and we just held each other. It was pretty emotional. &
"Everybody he saw after that, he said the same thing: 'My daddy got a job.'"