by Cesca Janece Waterfield
His name may mean “thinking man” in Hindi, but Dhani Jones is a man of many talents. He’s an environmental activist who’s worked for the Climate Change Project and the United Nations World Food Program. He enjoys painting, writing poetry, photography and playing saxophone. And after becoming recognized for wearing unique bow ties, he started his own men’s accessories company, Five Star Ties.
Part of a career Navy family, Dhani grew up in Japan, California and Maryland, where he was inducted into his school’s Hall of Fame for his success in football, wrestling and track. He attended University of Michigan and earned All-Big Ten honors during each of his three seasons as a starter. For the past eight years, he’s played for the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints before going to the Cincinnati Bengals.
People Magazine named Dhani one of the “Hottest Bachelors of 2005.” He’s appeared on “The Colbert Report,” “Carson Daly Show” and on several ESPN programs. Dhani’s new show premiered this week, “Dhani Tackles the Globe.” The first season shows Dhani in Thailand, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Cambodia, New Zealand, Russia and more. It airs Mondays at 9 pm on Travel Channel.
Dhani, tell us about your new show.
I travel to different parts of the world, and utilize competitive sports to interact with people and play at the highest level possible. Everyone is committed to the sport, to competition and excellence. This is a new way of learning about culture and people through sports.
Were any of the sports new to you?
All of them were brand new. I’d definitely heard of rugby and things like that, but I’d never really paid attention to many of the sports I participated in. That’s part of the show; exposing [viewers] to a new sport, new culture and people. There were places that I had never been and places that I’d been but hadn’t delved into.
Do you think competitive sports are a common ground for people from different cultures?
I think absolutely. In my travels, there may have been some difficult interaction with people I came in contact with. But then all of a sudden the competitors and coach see my commitment and drive and there’s a newfound respect and I’m accepted. There are ups and downs, good times and bad times, but everything works itself out because of the level of the competition.
What do you do when you’re not traveling the world?
I write a tremendous amount of poetry. I’m a photographer. I love the outdoors. I’m always cycling, surfing, swimming, running, just working out. I have a day job in professional football, so I’m working out trying to compete. I want my team to go to Super Bowl. I want my team to go to Pro Bowl. I take different pieces of all the sports I play on Dhani Tackles the Globe and I manifest that and put that toward the game of football so I can be a better athlete. Every time I get back [to California], I’m like, okay where are we going next? I’m motivated to go any place. The world is a wonderful place, and I encourage anybody to travel. I encourage people to get their passport and venture outside of their comfort zone.
Many women will want to know: Are you seeing anyone?
I’m seeing the world! My girlfriend is the planet. And my continent is my friend. That’s how I like to answer that.
You were in the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha Inc. They’ve had an impact here by doing a lot of work with youth. What was your fraternity experience like?
A fraternity helps establish yourself within a close knit community and support yourself mentally, spiritually, and academically, especially if you’re into [the fraternity’s] beliefs of oneness. When I was in Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and I played football, where the fraternity may not communicate with the football team, now because one of their players was a member, there was a level of communication. It was bringing people together. That’s the same thing I’m trying to communicate with Dhani Tackles the Globe. Here’s a man who’s travelling the world who’s trying to bring together individuals on a sports basis so they can communicate where they might not have done that before.
What is your most memorable moment in football?
The last game of my senior year, we went to a big championship and we lost. It was a feeling of always wanting to do more. We lost, but we fought so hard to get to that point. We just fell a little bit short. It’s the same thing in life. Sometimes you work very hard for things, and you may not get there. But it just motivates you. I say, carpe diem, sieze the day. Whether you win or lose, you still gain a lot of from the experience.
Were you named after someone in your family?
My father waited a few days to name me because he wanted to see who I was going to be. My name means “thinking man.” I don’t know if I would have been a thinking man if I’d been named something else, or if I became a thinking man because he named me Dhani. I am a thinker, and I’m very proud of that.
What are your goals for the future?
To continue to travel is something that I’m passionate for. I’m looking to make a success of the show, to be a success on the football field. I’m looking to do more shows, maybe in the talk show area. I have adventure goals: to scale one of the most difficult peaks in the world, or live on somebody’s boat as a deckhand – humbling myself as I enter the world of business and opportunity.
What’s the word according to Dhani?
Go get a passport. Get on a plane and get out of the country and see the world. Travel and learn about new cultures. It’s one thing to know about who you are and the people who surround you. But it’s a different experience to learn about people you’ve never met. It can allow you to see, really, what’s going on.