Scuba diving – and the incredible underwater world beneath the surface – does wonders for the mind, body and soul. We believe diving has the power to change lives, and this holds true no matter whether you’re a beginner, novice or professional. With the 2023 American football season kicking off soon, we caught up with three NFL players who shared how scuba diving and being in the PADI community have helped them win, on and off the field.
Their reasons for going beneath the surface vary, as do what keeps them diving. For example, injuries led linebacker Kenneth Murray and offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby to the water. The former began swimming to rehabilitate and soon set his sights on scuba diving. He fell in love with how the sport allows him to #LiveUnfiltered. In contrast, Crosby took to the underwater world to calm his mind and soul after losing football. The peace and calm of diving allowed and continues to allow him to find himself again. The story is a bit different for defensive end Khalid Kareem; he has always been drawn to the water. A life-long ocean-lover, he feels compelled to dive, explore and help marine life beneath the surface. He knows his future lies with conservation, and he is doing everything possible now — including learning to dive — to have the most impact with his actions.
Becoming a PADI Pro to “Live Unfiltered” with Kenneth Murray
The NFL veteran is entering his fourth season in the league and his fourth as a Los Angeles Charger. In April 2022, an offseason surgery on his left ankle left Murray in need of rehabilitation. His surgeon suggested swimming to strengthen the ligaments in his ankle because it was the only form of working out or cardio he could safely do. Murray said, “I did that every day for two months straight and got really proficient at swimming. It became my thing throughout my season and my third year [in the League] …. I just fell in love with the water from there.”
Going into 2023, he wanted to dive deeper – literally – and added scuba diving to his 2023 vision board. Despite being nervous about being underwater and in the open ocean, he quickly fell in love with the sport. He added, “I knew I loved it the first day we did the confined water pool portion. I was stoked. The next week, I had all my own stuff. I thought, ‘Yo, this is for me.’”
Murray is currently nearing 100 dives, and his favorite dive destination right now is Catalina Island, California, with its kelp forests, giant sea bass and dive park. He’s also dove in Kauai, Hawaii and loved it. Being underwater and in water, generally, leaves Murray feeling at peace. Moreover, it’s an escape from the day-to-day, he said.
Keeping the Adventure Going
“I think diving is just a getaway for me,” he elaborated. “I compare it to being an astronaut but not necessarily going into space. It’s going to a place humans aren’t supposed to be: underwater. It’s going down there, like to another planet.”
The adventure continues when you’re diving, he explained, because, “It’s just you and what you’re breathing and the fish that are swimming around.” Murray added, “There are no other distractions. It’s a true, unfiltered life because there’s nothing else distracting you.”
Helping Conserve the Oceans with Khalid Kareem
Long before Khalid Kareem became a pro-NFL football player, he was fascinated by the ocean and passionate about conservation. He remembers doing every school project possible on sharks, whales, dolphins or other marine life. He said, “You know, I’ve always had a love for the water…. It’s kind of an under-appreciated area. We see lots of ‘Don’t cut down the rainforest’ and ‘Save the trees’ – which is good, but there’s a lot of damage to the oceans that isn’t seen.”
Knowing that many may be afraid of water or not know how to swim, Kareem wants to use his platforms, now and in the future, to advocate for our oceans and the marine life that lives there. He added, “If we don’t have the oceans, it’s going to be a tough time for us to survive on our own. I want to help the animals out there, so we can all live a better life together.”
Diving to Help Marine Life
The fourth-year league professional, a defensive end with the Cincinnati Bengals (2020 – 2022), the Indianapolis Colts (2022 – 2023) and the Chicago Bears (2023 – current) learned to dive to further these hopes and goals. He said, “Diving always seemed so interesting and freeing. I wanted to see marine life, so I had to learn to dive to see them.”
He got his dive certification in 2020 in Pensacola, Florida, and he has gone on to dive in Hawaii, Bimini, the Bahamas and Catalina Island, California. He loved it so much, he’s added continued education courses, including the PADI Manta Ray Night Diver and Diver Propulsion Vehicle specialty certifications, to his repertoire. He’s also volunteered with Bimini Shark Lab, community mangrove protection efforts and popular ocean conservation measures.
From the Line of Scrimmage to the Frontlines of Conservation
Kareem concluded, “I want to focus on [ocean] conservation – anywhere I can be of use or use my platform. That’s where I see myself when I’m done playing or while I’m playing even. When I’m done, I want to be on the frontline, collecting data and tissue samples and really making my impact felt. I truly want to leave the planet a better place than I found it.”
Diving into a Flow State with Tyrell Crosby
“My first time breathing underwater – mind you it was in a recreational center pool – immediately opened up my eyes to a whole new experience,” said Tyrell Crosby.
An offensive tackle with the Detroit Lions (2018 – 2022) and a new PADI diver as of January 2023, Crosby has dipped below the surface about 40 times. His favorite dive took place in St. Thomas on a reef called French Cap Caye. What keeps him coming back – and what many people cite as their favorite part of diving – are the mental health benefits.
A Good Reminder
Crosby explained: “In December 2021, I had to get a spine fusion, which ended my football career…. When you are at your highest highs and something such as a career-ending injury happens, you can lose yourself – which is what happened to me. So, when I challenged myself to learn to dive, to face many of my fears head-on, it lifted my spirits so much and reminded me that when I put my mind into something I can do it.”
The pro described playing football and diving in similar terms – as a sort of escape or mental flow state. He said, “Often, during away games, the crowd could be as loud as possible, but for me, it seemed silent, and everything felt like it was going in slow motion. I knew how to read linebackers and corners who were blitzing, and I could interpret the stance of a defensive lineman to understand where he’s trying to go. When I’m diving, especially ocean diving, I experience a similar feeling.”
“Zen in the Chaos”
Both allow him to “detach…from reality for a brief moment in time” and being underwater, he will see sharks or eels and similarly try to read their behavior to gauge their intent while also managing other tasks. “I find it peaceful as it is exhilarating,” he said.
In this way, diving has helped Crosby fill the void left by football – a game he’s played since he was eight years old. He concluded, “It reminds me of a game of football, where there is so much going on around you, yet there’s a state of zen in the chaos.”