While Rico Gathers sat out the 2017 season dealing with the lingering effects of a concussion, the Dallas Cowboys tight end relied on his other passion to keep himself going.
"The music is really what kept me sane through the whole process," Gathers said. "Being able to find that creative side and something to do outside of just football."
Outside of football, Gathers, who goes by "Rickaveli" when he raps, began working on music when Baylor University provided its football players with a laptop. After sitting in on a Waco music production studio session, his interest in the craft became a self-taught obsession — now with more than 100 songs written and produced for his own label, Rickadonna Records.
"You really have to be a real 'G' to be able to use ProTools," Gathers said. "I self-taught me, I self-taught myself how to do that. Nobody was there to teach me. I had to make my own mistakes and regroup."
"For him to be doing everything on his own, I'd have to give it at least an eight out of 10, we still have room to grow," said Gathers' friend, Go DJ Thrilla. "We've still got to get there."
"Of course, and it's the same on the field," Gathers said. "We haven't made it yet, but y'all see what's happening. It's there."
And while Gathers' work ethic is there without question, his music is not without potential controversy, with most of Rickaveli's songs featuring names and lyrics that could be seen as offensive, especially as the NFL is trying to improve its self-image.
"This is my artistic expression," Gathers said. "Go get those who are actually out there doing that stuff. Because, what I'm saying really doesn't pertain to nobody. Unless you want to make it a big deal. If y'all want to blow my music up and come crash down on it and have me get 500,000 plays, please do. I don't mind that."
He doesn't mind, because he dreams of success both the football field and as the hip hop star. And when asked which he prefers to be known most for, he replied:
"Rico the mogul, the go-getter, the guy who did it all."