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March 13, 2024 23 mins

Today’s guests Rodney and Erika McLeod, Founders of Change Our Future join host Tommi A. Vincent on Radio Row during Super Bowl LVIII  to discuss the balancing act of  Rodney’s NFL career, Erika’s passion to champion empowering youth, married life, becoming new parents, and more.

The McLeod Family are committed to being the change they want to see in the world. A few of Mr. and Mrs. McLeod’s  highlights:

  • Change Our Future is a youth development organization that seeks to remove barriers and labels placed on underserved communities by empowering people through education, advocacy, and awareness.
  • The McLeod’s bring cultural awareness and diverse experiences to ensure that equitable representation is at the forefront for their students in the areas of mentorship, literacy, healthy lifestyles, and community enrichment.
  • Host their Annual Fundraising Event held in Philadelphia, PA – The Sneaker Ball

Host: Tommi A. Vincent  

Guests: Rodney McLeod + Erika McLeod

Produced by: Tommi A. Vincent, Dimitri Golden, and Motion Hue Productions

Music By: Stichiz - Big T. Music / Roj & Twinkie

#upongame

Support the show: https://www.upongame.network/

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Joining us at the table.

Speaker 2 (00:02):
We have Rodney and Erica McLeod, founders of change our future.

Speaker 1 (00:09):
Enjoy our conversation.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
Take a seat, get comfortable because it's time to stay
a while. I am your host, Tommy Vincent, and I
am sitting here with the lovely mister and missus McLeod.

Speaker 1 (00:24):
Yes, Rodney and Erica.

Speaker 2 (00:28):
And I am honored that you all are joining me
here on stale wall, and we get an opportunity to
talk about many things, but most importantly really understanding who
you are and why you do what you do and
how you do what you do. Yes, so let's see, ladies.

Speaker 1 (00:49):
First, you're.

Speaker 2 (00:57):
So Erica one. You're in a relationship with a professional athlete. Yes,
so as someone with that type of experience, many times
I was not even seen. So I see you girls,
Thank you. I see and I just would like.

Speaker 1 (01:19):
To know who you are.

Speaker 3 (01:21):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (01:21):
Now, I think that's an incredible question and a really
great angle, because often you're not seen.

Speaker 1 (01:28):
I think you know.

Speaker 4 (01:30):
I'm Erica Lee by trade, by birth from New York.
I went to University of Virginia. I studied to go
to med school. I decided not to play sport in
college athlete growing up, and I'm still very passionate about
mental health, brain hell, giving back to the youth. I
have a good educational shoulders on my hand head and

(01:54):
I just think he said exactly what it is. It's
often you're overseen and people don't realize a lot of
your strengths until they get you in a room, they
get you to sit down and start talking. And for myself,
it's it's there's so many things I love.

Speaker 1 (02:10):
I love football, I've loved sports growing up.

Speaker 4 (02:12):
I'm Jamaican, I love the beach, I love to dance,
and I really love as cheesy as it is, I
know we have.

Speaker 1 (02:20):
Our foundation, but I love working with the kids.

Speaker 4 (02:22):
Forever I thought I was gonna be a pediatrician because
I was like, I want to work with kids. And
when you finally do some little rotations in that, you
realize you deal with parents more.

Speaker 1 (02:34):
Than you deal with the kid, and this might not
be it.

Speaker 4 (02:38):
So there's so much that you get out of having
a cool experiencing.

Speaker 1 (02:44):
Your husband plays in the NFL.

Speaker 4 (02:47):
But I think one of the really cool strengths that
I've built while he's played and for the amount of
years that he's played, is being a big sister, like
being that role of what was my first experience going
into the league, being a rookie girlfriend, having known rod
longer than some of these women have known their husbands, right,
and just being real and being authentic. And I think

(03:10):
that's one thing that the league will pull from you
and strip from you very easily, you know, especially with
social media. We started without social media being a big thing,
and so to see the transformation, it's like I can
really be made. I can relate to you when you
don't have your TikTok in your face, you know.

Speaker 1 (03:28):
So I think is like a big sister role. It's
like I'm a mentor.

Speaker 4 (03:31):
I'm going to give it to you straight, but I'm
also not going to be the harsh critic behind a
screen that's coming after your passions and goals. So the
league has brought out that side of me of really,
you know, tagging along, bringing a friend along, pulling people
through the ropes. I just I love to help somebody
take the next step. So who am I? I'm a

(03:53):
boss from.

Speaker 1 (03:58):
You put a boat about to give it real? Now
that's me. I love it. Yeah, I love it so Rodney.

Speaker 2 (04:11):
Oftentimes, when people see a professional athlete that's all they see.
And clearly one you got a boss on your right
hand side here, Yeah, but clearly just based off of
you know, the work that you all are doing, and

(04:31):
you all can get into that.

Speaker 1 (04:35):
There's so much more to you as a person. So
who are you?

Speaker 3 (04:42):
I'm Rodney Anthony McLeod Jr. Product of the d M V.

Speaker 5 (04:47):
Proud native of PG County specifically, and I think that
speaks to just black excellence when you think of PG County,
and so I wear that with a with a badger honor.

Speaker 3 (05:06):
I try to every time I.

Speaker 5 (05:08):
Walk outside my home. I'm understanding of who I'm representing.
I'm representing my family that I care deeply about.

Speaker 3 (05:19):
A family man. Uh love my all. My siblings eight
eight of them.

Speaker 1 (05:27):
Where you were at in the mix.

Speaker 5 (05:29):
I'm fourth from the oldest step brothers and step sisters too,
and then I have the five that I grew up
with and I was the oldest of that pack.

Speaker 3 (05:39):
So there came a great responsibility.

Speaker 5 (05:42):
I think that's where I gained a lot of my
leadership qualities early on.

Speaker 3 (05:48):
It's just do practice. I viewed myself as a hard worker.

Speaker 5 (05:56):
I credit a lot of what I've been able to
this throughout my life. How I arrived here is because
of just my work ethic has nothing to do with
my my talents, but everything else in between. My mom said,
the way that I that I show up, I show

(06:18):
up and try.

Speaker 3 (06:20):
To be the best version of myself.

Speaker 5 (06:21):
And I think all of those things kind of help
amount to you know, who I am somebody that I
might appear as an extrovert. I'm very introverted where I
like to be very reserved and cool, calm and collective.

Speaker 1 (06:39):
That from you, okay, from cancer.

Speaker 5 (06:43):
Yeah, yeah, but other than you, like no, Rod, like
he's he's lively this, I'm like, that's not That's not
really me. You know, She'll tell you, man, I I
love my wife dearly, I love I love traveled world.

Speaker 3 (07:00):
Of course, I love my sports.

Speaker 5 (07:03):
And at the end of the day, like, yeah, I
mean that makes up me. I feel like just since
I've been in the league, I've always tried to ensure
that I was seen as more than an athlete, right, And.

Speaker 2 (07:20):
What you're to do to do that, because that is
a challenge for some people being able to separate, like
how can I be great at the level of greatness
required to maintain yourself in the NFL.

Speaker 1 (07:34):
How can I do that and something else?

Speaker 5 (07:37):
It's very difficult because, as Eric has said, you can't
lose yourself in this sport, whether you're a player or
your significant other, just because of everything that comes with it.
And I think one thing I've always tried to do
is keep a steady foundation around me, because it's always

(07:58):
a constant reminder of where I've come from and who
I am. Right Like, She'll tell you that I have
the same high school friends, very tight knit group, whether
it was high school, college, like, the circle is tight
and we all are very like minded, and so that
in itself just helps me always, like I said, a

(08:21):
reminder of who I am, where I come from, and
not allow me to drift and be swayed into a
different direction, because everybody has different motives and agendas, you know,
when you get to this level.

Speaker 3 (08:35):
But at the end of the day, like the helmet is.

Speaker 5 (08:38):
What we glorify, but I always try to make sure
that I normalize.

Speaker 3 (08:42):
What we glorify.

Speaker 5 (08:44):
You decided, I decide, you know, I didn't necessarily asks
to be in this position, but I try to bring
normalcy to this game, this fame, and I believe that's
what has allowed me to you know, b who I
am be Rodney McLoud Julia Like no matter what you

(09:05):
never say, I changed never.

Speaker 1 (09:08):
So we had Troy and I have been married in
thirty years.

Speaker 3 (09:13):
Our congratulations yeah yeah.

Speaker 2 (09:16):
And our entire time Troy played for fifteen years. We
decided what our family culture was want to be. So
an example, when Tuesdays Troy had off from the NFL,
but we had like family business stuff that we were
working on, and so every Tuesday he was folk, he

(09:38):
would go to work, so he wasn't off, and he
definitely wasn't a guy who trained all the time and
he hated lifting weight.

Speaker 1 (09:46):
So some of the things that are required God's hand
was just orange Toy's life. I just want to tell
you he has a tremendous work ethic.

Speaker 2 (09:54):
But he also recognized, like you, I need to decide
what's going to be glorified in our life as a family.

Speaker 1 (10:00):
You made those decisions on how we would move and home.

Speaker 2 (10:04):
Do you all together, have y'all established your non negotiables
and how you're going to govern your household?

Speaker 1 (10:11):
And I'm going to start with you. Yeah, I think so.

Speaker 4 (10:15):
Rodney and I went to college together and then we've
been together since. We're coming up on five years of marriage.
We waited for everything. We waited to start dating, we
waited to get married.

Speaker 2 (10:26):
We were engaged to start dating.

Speaker 1 (10:31):
What does that mean?

Speaker 4 (10:32):
We So I met him my first year of college,
his second year of college, and we didn't start dating
until my third year, his fourth year. But ch'all was
feeling each other, but it was never like we're going
one hundred percent.

Speaker 1 (10:45):
Put the stamp on it.

Speaker 2 (10:46):
Okay, okay, it's a blessing because you came around that.

Speaker 3 (10:58):
I was working.

Speaker 6 (10:58):
I was working with school right and I lost if
I was dating a football athletes when I was trying
to go to med school.

Speaker 4 (11:09):
And it was literally the game came out when we
were in college, y'all, Yes, season.

Speaker 3 (11:17):
Season one was but that's.

Speaker 4 (11:20):
Me, Melanie, I'm med school and no. But it was
something that like we pride ourselves on that we really
wasn't you know in the moment, you know, Beyonce coming
out with her love album and I'm like.

Speaker 1 (11:35):
I'm in love, but I know we're getting married and
you're so caught up. But you look back at it now.

Speaker 4 (11:40):
And I'm like, we've built an incredible friendship. Things that
we can go back on and we can joke with
one another. We have pain points, we have funny moments,
but it's we've established already how important our friendship was
between the two of us, that when we finally got engaged,
it was like, Okay, now we can sending a cycle

(12:01):
of what's really important to keep dating that with the
football schedule being completely nuts, we're.

Speaker 1 (12:08):
Like Fridays or date night. People come in town.

Speaker 4 (12:11):
It's like, ah, god, you know, we have our date
night on Friday. It's important for us to step out
and go together. We've spoken about kids for years and
we're finally expecting.

Speaker 1 (12:20):
Now congratulations, thank you.

Speaker 4 (12:23):
So now we are having a lot of those conversations
of Tuesdays. I mean, Rodney and his playbook are best
friends and they're always hand in hand at home, but
we talk about like what is Tuesday look for us?

Speaker 1 (12:36):
And Tuesday's our foundation days.

Speaker 4 (12:38):
So I say it's my misery day because we stack
every meeting.

Speaker 1 (12:42):
Possible on Tuesdays.

Speaker 4 (12:44):
To make sure at least we're tackling things together while
we can. And then throughout the week it's you know,
how can I hop on? Can Rodney hop on? But
the biggest transition now is thinking of children and bringing
children into our home, things that we've had so much
fun with. You know, I can get up and travel
and go to games and pick up and do whatever.

(13:05):
We have a child, you're playing in the league, How
do you manage watching film, spending time with your family?
Do we do game nights on Friday years from now?
Right where our date nights are now? Maybe game nights
with kids?

Speaker 1 (13:22):
No? No, I know, I know. I'm like, we still
need a date night. So it's not Friday, it's Saturday now, right.

Speaker 4 (13:30):
You have to think about when they're old enough, it's
going to be their sports and their activities and how
do you balance everything. So we've spoken about it, and
vacation will bring you there and we talk about you know,
what is so important for us, And of course our
backgrounds have helped a lot, and I'm like, well, I
want to make sure our kid is involved in everything

(13:50):
under the sun. We're so supportive of them and letting
them be individuals.

Speaker 1 (13:56):
But like we're.

Speaker 4 (13:57):
Pretty fly and we're not we're young, you know, like
we want to sell We still want to feel like
a young couple again and not lose our friendship.

Speaker 1 (14:05):
So I think in building our household.

Speaker 4 (14:07):
After all of that, Ze said, building our household is
how do we remain friends and love, show our children
that love exists, show them what hustle and grind looks like.
So like building through our foundation, it's like showing what giving.

Speaker 1 (14:25):
Back looks like.

Speaker 4 (14:26):
So that's a really important thing we're thinking of, like
establishing in our household. But one of the biggest things
I'd say of all that is creating healthy boundaries. Okay,
I think that's a very hard thing to do, especially
in this league, with a lot of demands from family
and friends to pull you in different directions.

Speaker 1 (14:44):
It's establishing our peace.

Speaker 4 (14:46):
And once he retires, it's like we need to get
our peace back. We've been living in chaos and uneven
schedules and building one day for meetings and finding a
cadence now that we can actually thrive and feel comfortable,
so we don't lose our Friday day nights and maybe
it's or maybe it's not a Wednesday day night. Only
have those, you know, family game nights. So one I

(15:09):
want to just tell you all that you're doing a
lot of what other people aren't.

Speaker 2 (15:14):
So I want I want you to be able to
see I want you to see that. Yeah, the fact
that you are are establishing a guideline for how.

Speaker 1 (15:24):
You're governing your life. You're creating your playbook for your family.

Speaker 3 (15:28):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (15:28):
Right, And I want to take a page out of
Rodney's playbook when he talked about you decide what you
are are going to glorify. The same holds true for
your family. You decide what this is going to look
like for you all. Now that doesn't mean things are
going to be like it was, because it won't. You're

(15:49):
going to have a whole nother little human that you're
going to be responsible for. But you get to decide
what that looks like. My encouragement to you is this,
create space to love each other and maintain space to
love yourselves.

Speaker 3 (16:09):
Yes.

Speaker 2 (16:10):
So there's three lanes here that you all have to
travel because your craft is important to you or whatever
else that is, and then things that are important to you.
And then you got the baby, and then you got
each other. So it's important that you do that in Erica.
I'm telling you this directly as someone who spent a

(16:35):
great deal of my adult life as a mother and
a white who spent time building and making sure everyone
was successful.

Speaker 1 (16:45):
Yes, all the practices, all the games, all of those things.

Speaker 2 (16:48):
Yes, And I neglected to pour and keep and I
hit a wall and I had about a depression. Didn't
even know I was in a danger zone. One day,
I just couldn't it out the bed. Wow, because I'm
so invested in loving. I love hard and I want
it's your sign everybody to be successful that I care about.

(17:11):
And so you know, you tell how you talking about
this baby and now you're done.

Speaker 1 (17:16):
Took the baby to the day. Now you're not having
a day. You're playing game night girl. No, because y'all do.

Speaker 2 (17:24):
Something different for each other than you and the baby going.
It's their different relationship. You're gonna love that baby, but
he the baby can't.

Speaker 1 (17:32):
Give you what Rodney can do. Yes, it's true.

Speaker 2 (17:35):
So y'all need to establish that stuff now what a
baby is developing.

Speaker 1 (17:40):
Make your game plan.

Speaker 3 (17:42):
Yeah, I'm listening.

Speaker 1 (17:48):
Your game plan.

Speaker 2 (17:50):
But I I want y'all to just I know you
all have to go, So I want to just give
you an opportunity to share your foundation and what you're doing.
I know what involves children, what you've talked about, your passion,
and clearly it's important to you as wealth y'all doing
it together on Tuesday with all these back to back meets.

Speaker 5 (18:09):
Man, I'm telling you, but in the in the midst
of all of that change our futures slogan kids First.
That's where the passion lives for Erica and I is
is in our pouring into our next generation, ensuring that
when we, you know, decide to leave and move on,

(18:31):
that our communities are in the hands of someone that
we can entrust in, believe in, we have great confidence in.
And so we find ourselves being those liaisons, right like
being that bridge to be able to eliminate these barriers

(18:54):
and these labels that have been placed on children of
color like Eric, not like all of us in here.
And so we've made a commitment to be able to
puarant to them, provide resources, opportunities, exposure, access, all the
things that unfortunately aren't necessarily afforded to our communities. And

(19:20):
we do that in the areas of mentorship, leadership, and
also through education.

Speaker 3 (19:26):
So we have a lot.

Speaker 5 (19:27):
Of things going on, but we recognize the statistics the
black young man rate graduating in high school at fifty
eight percent.

Speaker 3 (19:38):
There's a representation of only five percent.

Speaker 5 (19:42):
Of black mails in college, So how do we increase
those numbers?

Speaker 3 (19:49):
What are they like?

Speaker 5 (19:50):
How do we change these stereotypes and generational curses that
have been positioned, you know, on us?

Speaker 3 (19:58):
And so we found they've been.

Speaker 5 (20:00):
Very curating way to do that in ways that we
feel have had great impact. We've done a lot since
existence being existed in twenty twenty and done a lot,
so looking forward to doing more for our communities and
trying to just continue to make a word a better place.

Speaker 1 (20:21):
So where can people go to support the work that
you all are doing?

Speaker 4 (20:24):
Yeah, if you got to change our future dot org,
I guess just looking camera change our Future dot org
or change our Future fund on Instagram to find out
more about us, find out how you can volunteer, donate, support,
partner with us. I think what's really awesome too that
we can tie together is Rod and I often see
each other in our own life as underdogs. We have

(20:47):
an underdog story between the two of us. So something
we really push out to our kids is there's a
power in your story and you never know who will
hear your story and it will make a greater impact
on your life. So it's it's be authentically yourself, be
open and genuine to the next person, but also don't

(21:08):
be afraid, so feel that confidence to tell the next
person you know you've got it.

Speaker 1 (21:13):
Your goal isn't that big.

Speaker 4 (21:15):
I know what you need to get there, or I
know someone that can help pull you there.

Speaker 1 (21:19):
And I think for us that's huge because it has
helped us along the way.

Speaker 4 (21:25):
You know, Rod's an un drafted free agent, but going
on year thirteen.

Speaker 1 (21:31):
And right stop that up right to the od.

Speaker 4 (21:38):
But then, I mean when you ask me who I am,
often what people don't know is I had a concussion
and it was a life changing experience for me in
my story, which has fueled me to say a lot
of the things that I say, or my motives of
making sure I don't get stuck because I hit that wall.

(21:58):
But I hit that wall after injury. And now it's
really I'm climbing the ladder and you know where my
a ledge is there where I just need someone now
to just push me over the ledge. Yes, And I
say that to say, sometimes you just need someone to
help you over that hump, and don't be afraid to
ask for help. So but change our future. We're doing

(22:20):
that for the youth right in Philly or wherever he plays.
So we don't want more cities to continue to visit,
but it is great to touch another city, meet new kids,
and see some of the hardships that they're facing so
that we can relate to.

Speaker 1 (22:34):
Them one on one. Well, thank you so.

Speaker 2 (22:37):
Much for coming and sharing and talking and also your transparency.
I think that people are able to excel in life
through truthful conversations. Well, we give people the real, real, yes,
they can take from us and they can use that
to propel themselves forward. So thank you so much for
joining me today, A thank you for having me. Yes,

(23:00):
thank you, stay well, tell me me go on, stay well,
tell me me mhm.
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