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Austin Ekeler is Playing the Long Game

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The Chargers running back discusses his football mindset, looking back at one of the proudest moments of his career, and a new philosophy he picked up along the way.

In a discussion with Boardroom published earlier this month about his Twitch show “Ekeler Dome,” his Eksperience app, and trying to limit short-term pleasures in favor of more meaningful long-term gains, Los Angeles Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler said he doesn’t live purely in the moment when it comes to football.

“The enjoyment is the longevity of how hard it is,” the 27-year-old Ekeler told Boardroom. “The lifespan of this thing that is extremely difficult. There’s nothing better in the NFL to me than that. The journey of how hard it is.”

The journey eclipses even the biggest single games, like rushing for 173 yards in an Oct. 9 win over Cleveland or a 12-reception performance two weeks later in a loss to Seattle.

“That doesn’t bring me as much joy as the grind of the entire season, getting back and trying to do it again, trying to continue to push forward,” Ekeler said. “The only thing that really stands out when I think of the NFL is it’s really hard, it’s a long grind, and it beats you up mentally and physically. And that’s the best part.”

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While Ekeler tries to push forward in everything he does on and off the field, there also has to be time to take a step back, get emotional, and take pride in accomplishments and progress.

Even though the Chargers lost on the road to the 49ers on Nov. 13, Ekeler was able to remember back to the first time he ever stepped foot in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. It was the final preseason game of his 2017 rookie season. An undrafted free agent out of Western Colorado, Ekeler really had no business still being on the team, fighting and clawing to defy the odds and make the 53-man roster for opening day.

“I wasn’t even trying to get into the NFL,” he said. “They ended up giving me an opportunity and I put everything into it. And that was the last opportunity I had before cuts were made. And we just played there again. So it brought back those memories. Six years ago, I was in that locker room trying to make it to where I am now. It was pretty special to me.”

Ekeler runs with the ball against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Nov. 13. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

He remembered the stadium and locker room in Santa Clara vividly, knowing that he came from a place where he wasn’t supposed to be to being a well-paid starting NFL running back.

“I was just so aware in the moment and when you look back it’s like, ‘Wow, like you’ve made so much progress,’” Ekeler said. “I’m so proud of myself and I’m so proud of my younger self for giving me this opportunity today.”

A mindset Ekeler recently heard that really resonated with him is being cognizant that your future self is always going to look back on your current self. Ekeler has been asking himself: “Are you proud about what’s going on right now?” It’s a question he uses to stay on track, on task, and focused.

“If you had a sheet over your life and at any moment and someone pulled back the sheets to look at it,” he said, “would you be proud of yourself or would you be like ‘don’t look?’ That one stuck with me.”

As Austin Ekeler and the Chargers take on the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football in Week 16 in their quest to lock down an AFC wild-card spot, know that he’s always taking joy in the daily grind.

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