The popular former Eagle has just published his memoir.
When Jon Dorenbos speaks of new chapters in his life, it’s not a figure of speech. That’s because the 39-year-old retired long-snapper-turned-professional magican/motivational speaker has just had his book, Life Is Magic: My Inspiring Journey from Tragedy to Self-Discovery published by Simon and Schuster. Co-written with veteran Philadelphia journalist Larry Platt, the autobiography covers his stranger-than-fiction life story that includes the murder of his mother by his father in 1992 (when he was 12), his finding healing in learning and performing magic, his 14-season NFL career, his top-three finish on America’s Got Talent and his current careers as a professional entertainer and motivational speaker.
Bettors Insider recently spoke to Dorenbos, who headlines two shows Saturday at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
You've been telling your story publicly for a number of years now. Did that make it easier to write the book or is it still difficult to relive things?
Every time I tell it I’m reliving it, but at the same time, every time I tell it and relive it, it's a humbling experience and it makes me very appreciative of where I'm at now.
When I tell it, people come up to me and tell me their story and they say that I've inspired them to either find forgiveness or move on from something in their life. That's an extremely gratifying thing. That's a really cool thing. They tell me that that's the magic in life: “I can share my story. I can be vulnerable, and people can relate.”
And if you can make somebody's day better or if they can come and be entertained and inspired at the same time, that's a really cool feeling.
You're still relatively young. Why did you feel that this was the time to write the book?
I think people are going to read it and be like, “Wow! He's, pretty young, but yet he's been through a lot. It shows… to me age is just a number, that you can accomplish a lot [regardless of age]. You can do a lot, you can feel a lot.”
Hopefully it inspires them to kind of light a little fire and maybe motivate them to do things that maybe they just weren't doing or maybe open their eyes to a profession that they had been hesitant to pursue. Hey, take a chance on yourself…and go live!
So, are you a motivational speaker who also performs magic or are you a magician who also does motivational speaking?
Both. When I do the corporate [speeches], I would say I'm a speaker. When I do theater shows, I'd say I'm a magician. There's a time and a place for both and it's really cool that I have the ability to do that. I have the ability to have my show play in the corporate-keynote space. And then it also plays in a theater space. That's a really cool thing.
Walk us through a theater show.
My corporate keynote speech is 60 minutes from the 90, if that makes sense. So I literally just take out parts of my theater show and use it when I do the speaking.
I try and make my show where you might get choked up, you might cry a little bit, you're going to laugh and you're going to reflect and you're going to leave feeling better about yourself than you did when you came in.
In the theater show, you've got a couple of more guys; you’ve got a couple more bells and whistles; you’ve got a couple of bigger tricks. But the theme of the show, the mood of the show, the energy of the show, I think, is the same.
What's your favorite kind of magic, the big illusions or closeup?
There’s a time and a place for the big stuff. There's a time and a place for the closeup stuff. There's a time and a place for the ballad, if you will, and there's a time and a place for the high energy trick where you're throwing stuff around and making a mess. I like it all. The right trick at the right time is my favorite. As a fan of magic, I literally love it all. And even if I'm not really into a magician’s style, I still love watching it. There are magicians—I won’t mention who—I would never want to be [because] it's not my style. But I'll be the guy in the audience giving them standing ovations, just loving every bit of it.
Who are some of your favorite magicians?
Did football help you prepare for a show business career?
I was in a pretty cutthroat business in the NFL for a long time, and I think that really trained me, that really prepared me for this cutthroat business. It taught me how to be a process, because there's a process to having success. There's a process of execution. It's practice. It's preparation. It's little things: Be on time; work hard, work smart; treat people right.
These things that I learned in sports have correlated over to this business. And when you play pro sports, if you mess up, you get blown up on ESPN or on radio, whatever, in front of millions. So you develop a tough skin, which I think has helped me in this career to be able to take constructive criticism, to be able to take change.
You've already accomplished so much. What’s next?
I've been talking with [film producer] Mike Tollin about a movie based on the book, which would be an exciting project.
And I'm doing some projects with Ellen DeGeneres. We've done a game show that'll air [online]. I love the entertainment business–movies, TV hosting, anything. I'm a guy who really enjoys performing, being on stage and interacting with an audience. That's where I'm happiest.
So, who would you like to see play Jon Dorenbos on the silver screen?We've been going back and forth. We've [talked about] Chris Pratt, Shia LaBeouf, Miles Teller. None of them are aware of it yet, but they will be.
Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City; 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday; $75 and $65; for tickets, click here.