Life in the NFL can be difficult. Life for many players beyond their time in the NFL is even more difficult as they search for other endeavors beyond those on the football field.
For former Steelers’ safety Robert Golden, who served as the team’s special teams captain from 2014 to 2016, life beyond the NFL was never a question. In fact, Golden was so prepared for the other things he wanted to do, he chose to walk away from the NFL in the middle of training camp in order to pursue his life‘s meaning.
Golden was undrafted out of the University of Arizona in 2012 and signed with the Steelers following the draft. Working to just make the team is rookie year, Golden described the moment to BTSC’s Dave Schofield and Tony Defeo in a recent interview where he got the call that he had made the team.
“I was actually at the team hotel and they were telling us that the final roster should be made by four o’clock,” Golden explained. “So it was about 3:45. My phone hadn’t rang and I’m like, ‘okay, we’re getting close.’ Around 3:50 my phone rang with a 412 area code. I was like ‘oh, no, there getting me.’ But it was actually a call from the player development rep. At the time it was Ray Jackson. He just wanted to sneak and tell me that, ‘Rob, you made the team.’ I was just so excited. I gave my parents a call. They were the first ones that I called and they were so happy for me. But I just knew I needed the opportunity to be able to showcase my talents and was just thankful that the Steelers were able to give me that opportunity. I was thankful for the time that I was able to be there and the relationships that I was able to establish while being in that locker room.”
Golden went on to play six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he started 12 games at safety. While Golden added a valuable depth piece to the Steelers defense, it was his special teams contributions which allowed him to forge a career in the NFL.
While playing in the NFL, Golden always had his hometown of Fresno, California, as an area where he wanted to give back. Golden describes the vision he had both as a player and beyond when it came to serving his community.
“Throughout my NFL career, one of the things I always wanted to do was come back to my hometown which is Fresno, California, and be a source of inspiration or motivation for children that are growing up in similar areas as myself. I grew up in a very rough neighborhood and underserved area of Fresno, California. I just kind of wanted to be an inspiration to those children and let them know that if they took care of their academics and dream big that things can happen for them. So throughout my time I put on different camps, different health and fitness classes for parents, different anti-bullying programs for children. I always was involved with children back in my hometown.”
Once Golden left the Steelers in 2018, things in regards to his NFL career began to change. Signing with the Kansas City Chiefs, Golden requested his release part way through training camp.
“When I left the Steelers and went with the Kansas City Chiefs, I can honestly say there’s no place like Steelers’ Nation,” Golden confessed. “There’s no place like the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and with that organization you feel like you’re at home, you feel like you’re welcome and things of that nature. Not to say that I wasn’t welcome in Kansas City, but it was just a different vibe. And one of the things that I always had a bigger heart for was to be able to be a source of inspiration for children. At that time, I knew that my heart wasn’t really in love with the game as it once was and I just felt that it was time for me to do something different and that’s when I asked the Kansas City Chiefs for my release to pretty much come back home and start this school.”
The school Golden is referring to is the Golden Charter Academy which he founded in his hometown of Fresno. Gordon went on to explain more about his school and how it serves the Fresno community.
“I’m looking forward to opening our doors in August of this year. It will be our first year, but Golden Charter Academy is the first T-K through 8 environmental zoo school in the nation. We have a partnership with the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and we’re looking forward to giving our children a hands-on learning experience to give them exposure to a life that they would not have had they not went to the Golden Charter Academy.”
At the age of 30, Robert Gordon has already been out of the NFL for three seasons. Knowing that he could have physically been able to extend his career in the NFL, Golden knew it was time for him to start the next chapter of his life. Because of this, the Golden Charter Academy is set open at a temporary location this fall and serve grades TK through 3rd grade and will be expanding each year as classes grow to the next grade. The school is also has plans for a permanent building close to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
For more information about the Golden Charter Academy, visit their website at goldencharteracademy.org.
The interview with Robert Golden with BTSC’s Dave Schofield and Tony Defeo can be heard in the player below: