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Football coach Jake Zweig

A Few Minutes With Jake Zweig

Illinois football's director of man development Jake Zweig spends a few minutes with Vince Lara of the College of Applied Health Sciences to talk about the Chez Veterans Center's Traumatic Brain Injury event at Carle's Pollard Auditorium on Nov. 1.

Click here to see the full transcript.

VINCE LARA: This is Vince Lara at the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois. Today I spent a few minutes with Jake Zweig, Navy SEAL turned coach on the Illini football team. He talks about dealing with a traumatic brain injury. All right. So talking with Jake Zweig, former Navy SEAL who's now on the Illini football coaching staff. I'm not sure whether to call you Coach or Lieutenant to be honest.

JAKE ZWEIG: Nah, Lieutenant, no, no, no. Lieutenant, that's a long time ago, man.

VINCE LARA: All right, we'll stick with Coach.

JAKE ZWEIG: Coach.

VINCE LARA: Just stick with Coach. But it's safe to say you've had an interesting life and that's-- what-- let's talk a little bit about that. Like, what led from Navy SEAL to football?

JAKE ZWEIG: So it's really interesting, you know. Unfortunately I got out in May of 2001 and so September 11th hit, you know, September 11, obviously, 2001. And I got a phone call to kind of come back in. And I was really upset because I'd had a bunch of kind of really negative things happen to me in the SEAL teams and I wasn't real happy. But it really came back to I didn't have any mentorship.

So I decided to go to business school. I got into Michigan and I got into Dartmouth. And I decided to go to Michigan because I thought it would be better. Ended up going with one of my guys from college. So I went to business school.

So business school, I wanted to go to Wall Street. That's all I wanted to do. Went to Wall Street, hated it, it was good. I was in Charlotte, but I hated the idea that I'd have to go to New York City. I didn't want to live in the city. So I took a consulting job in DC doing kind of IT migrations slash security change management for the State Department and I hated every day. Like, every day I hated it.

So in the first six months, one of their corporate kind of ethos was you had to work towards your life goals. My life goals have been the same since college if you ask my roommates. You know, I wanted to win the national championship as a head football coach and I wanted to be the congressman of the sixth district in Washington. However, now I'm gonna be a US senator in the state that I win the national championship because it'll just be a little bit easier.

JAKE ZWEIG: So long story short, the first six months I didn't get my bonus. I didn't get a bonus and they said, if you start working on this goal of coaching we'll pay you your bonus next quarter. So I was like, oh.

I started working on it, I was trying to get in a bunch of places. And then I had a buddy that was an assistant basketball coach at the Naval Academy. And he just said, listen, Jake, you're really good at doing really hard things. He's like, figure out a way to get in.

And so my answer was just to go to every Maryland practice for 18 months. So for all of '04 season, all of '05 spring, and then all of the '05 season I was on the sidelines at practice. I paid $200 to be a gold member of their alumni club. That allowed me practice access, unlimited. And so I paid, I went, went to practice every day. And then right at the beginning of '05 they gave me a GA job. So I guess it would've been the end of '03, all of '04, and then the beginning of '05 they gave me a GA job.

So I walked away from mid-six figures and took $7,000 a year. Really haven't been happier since. You know, I mean, haven't been happier. Like, my wife will say-- like, I got an opportunity the other day to go to corporate America. She looked at me and laughed and she was like, you're not gonna be happy.

And I said, that's a lot of money. She said, yeah, we've been down that road, you know. We've been married-- I've been with her since 2002. So been together for a long time. She knows me, what drives me. So I found myself in coaching man, I haven't looked back since. It's been awesome.

VINCE LARA: That's amazing. Now, you'll be talking at the TBI event. So the reason we're talking with Jake is that he's going to be talking at the Traumatic Brain Injury event November 1 at Carle and you'll be speaking about your experiences with traumatic brain injury. Tell me a little bit about what happened.

JAKE ZWEIG: So, you know, it's interesting. You know, you play college football, you're gonna go to sleep. All right? I tell everybody that. Like, you know, I had a couple huge kinda TBI events in college. I was asleep for like, three minutes one day in practice. Not a good look, right?

And so, you know, then you go into the SEAL teams, you're exposed gunfire every day, you know, flash bangs, all of the stuff that they say now is directly related to CTE/TBI. So about three or four years ago I struggled with memory issues, I had some issues going on and I really pushed the panic button.

And now a lot more people are wanting to talk about kind of their issues and what they're dealing with and kind of the overarching stuff that's happening. And so I have no problem telling everybody my problems. So I literally went high order, like, hey, I think I got a problem. You know, I got a chance to go to the Cleveland Clinic to their Functional Medicine department through the Green Beret Foundation.

One of the buddies that was in SEAL training with me didn't make it, ended up being a Green Beret medic, and so he's the liaison between the Green Berets and the Cleveland Clinic. So he hooked me and a buddy up and we slid into the Cleveland Clinic and it was an awesome experience. I lost 70 pounds three years ago now. You know, my sleep went back to normal.

But then they kinda put me on this testosterone and it sucks because I weigh 230 now. I don't need this muscle. I'd much rather weigh 200 but I'm gonna work on getting off of that now. But it triggered me to do a bunch of kind of-- I'll call it alternative medicine stuff but none of it's alternative, right? Like, it's all well-proven. It's just we're in America and we wanna rely on drugs to fix problems.

I'll go back to the adage-- in China there's 1.4 billion people and they don't medicate hardly at all. They're all holistic healing. Let's fix your gut health, let's fix your body. That's mainly where functional medicine comes from. We call it functional medicine in America. We really could call it Chinese medicine.

So I got a bunch of herbs. You know, I'm on turmeric every day, I take a sleep pill which controls my cortisol levels so I got my cortisol levels down. I lost a bunch of weight. But then I was still having really bad problems with snoring. And so I got a sleep apnea machine, I don't know, two months ago and I've been rock solid since.

Now, so some of the other treatments I do. I got a live O2 machine that I built because it's only $200 or $300 hours to build it. Mainly you're paying for the oxygen machine. It has a stationary bike so I do six minutes of oxygen treatment every night before I go to bed.

I take "glucytamine," yeah, glutathione in a spray form and nasal in the morning and at night. I'm gonna recommend like, when I come and talk I'm gonna have a bunch of slides, and one of the things is the Concussion Repair Manual. So we listen to a lot of Ben Greenfield on kinda like, you know, alt healing stuff. And so the Concussion Repair Manual basically tells you how to repair your brain. And I'm here to tell you that my brain is crystal-clear right now.

And it's just-- it's a whole combination. We call it like-- he calls it the soup. You put a bunch of ingredients in the soup and you find out what works for you. So I came off of the oxygen machine for the last two months when I got the CPAP to see if it was truly just sleep-related.

It wasn't 100% sleep-related, like, I don't-- I'm not getting tired all day. I was in chronic sleep deprivation. But, you know, now I'm back on-- I went on the oxygen machine Monday and it's Thursday today. And I'm like, oh yeah. Like, I hit it last night, you know.

So when I come and talk I'm gonna-- I got-- I think I got 15 or 20 minutes. I'm going to burn through kind of my history real quickly and then I'm gonna get into the alt stuff that I'm talking about. Red light therapy has been absolutely incredible for me. You can buy it on Amazon for $67. Every other day you put it on your forehead or you put it on your head. I do head, 15, middle head, 15, back of the neck, 15, and you can feel a difference the next day.

And that's something that, you know, there's over 500 studies-- positive studies. They use red light in Europe, like it's free. So if you come in and you're overweight the first thing they do is give you six weeks of red light on your thyroid to kickstart your thyroid.

And it's been proven to promote healing five times faster. So if you get a muscle injury you put the red light on it. And it's 660/880, so the 880 is deep ultraviolet, penetrates up to nine inches. So if you figure, you know, from here to the bottom of your skull is roughly 10 inches. You're getting all the way to the bottom of your ears sitting on top of your head. Back of your neck, it's going all the way to the front, you know, so you're getting your whole brain.

VINCE LARA: So--

JAKE ZWEIG: Yeah, go ahead.

VINCE LARA: Oh, I was gonna say, now, the event is about veterans, right, I mean--

JAKE ZWEIG: 100%.

VINCE LARA: --like, with TBI. But they're-- TBI is a pretty common injury, including football players. So this is your-- you know, your avenue now. What does the training staff do to kind of mitigate head injuries?

JAKE ZWEIG: So over here, you know, we have the whole concussion protocol, which is awesome. You know, when I played like, I want to sleep for three minutes on a Tuesday. I played on Saturday. Now, I don't know if I had a concussion but I know I had a huge event. And you know, if you're unconscious for more than 30 minutes, you're out.

And now they have-- you know, we have the machines that test you, so your reaction time and all of that stuff, so you really can't fake whether you're doing better. You know the old adage, how many fingers am I holding up? It's always two, right? That doesn't fly anymore.

So we have a bunch of protocol over here. We're very cautious with it, as everybody is in the country right now. On top of that we're teaching a bunch of different techniques for tackling so that we're not, you know, getting our head in there. It's just a healthier time, you know, and then a much more aware time in the sport.

VINCE LARA: For sure. Now, why is an event like this important from your standpoint?

JAKE ZWEIG: You know, it's interesting. You just came in here and when you came in here I was talking to a veteran, and a veteran struggling with a bunch of different stuff, one of which is depression. And so one of the other avenues I want to talk about is like, I go to Al-Anon. Like, I go to a meeting that really helps me be grounded in my depression and my anxiety. I don't know why it works, it just does. You put it on top of that everything else I'm doing.

But here's a guy who served. And a lot of people are prideful and they're embarrassed that they're having problems. And for whatever reason in my life when I have a problem I go on broadcast, right? Like, I got no problem being like, yo! I can't read and write! I need help passing this SAT. Can someone come in here and help me, please? Right?

And I don't know whether that's my mom, kind of how she raised me, like, don't be-- don't hide your problems. We're a big hide-your-problems society in America. So you got all these vets out there that are hiding their problems and like, the suicide rate jumped to 31%. We're at 31%. It used to be 22%. Then it was 27%, now it's at 31%. Why?

Well, we've been chewing people up for the last 19 years and it's not gonna to stop. And I tell everybody, everybody handles it differently, but mainly it's his break point. What I learned at the Cleveland Clinic, there's a break point at 42. Your HGH levels and your lungs' ability to process oxygen drop below your body's ability to repair its brain every day.

And so at that threshold micro-problems start manifesting themselves. And the further you get away from 42 the more those problems become apparent. So I asked the guy that was sitting in here with us and I said, hey, how old are you? He's like, 44. I said, when did you really start having problems? He was like, three years ago.

VINCE LARA: Wow.

JAKE ZWEIG: Right? Which is right about the break point which I learned at the Cleveland Clinic. Because I asked her, why am I having problems now? Like, I was-- she's like, look, 42. I'm 47 now, right, and I started-- it was four years ago, five years ago when I started. I really noticed it probably six, seven years ago but it wasn't bad enough to be like, ah, what's going on?

So that's one of the big things that, you know, you kinda look at for the veterans. And what I want to do is I want to get out all this other stuff we're doing. Because when you go to the VA hospital they're not gonna help you. They're gonna try to prescribe you drugs, they're gonna try to prescribe you all this other stuff.

And I think something as simple as just a red light treatment, you do the red light treatment, shoot, every other day, probably half of the vets out there will feel 10 times better. And so for a $67 little light pad that has an automatic on and off switch, literally you might be able to fix all your problems.

VINCE LARA: Well, what do you want people-- what do you hope that people take away from this event?

JAKE ZWEIG: You know, it's interesting. Like, I want them, you know, we're having an event but now it's 2019. I'm gonna video, you guys are gonna video it, I'm putting all my stuff out there because of the more goodness I share with the world, the more goodness I'll get back.

And I want the vets-- like, I got a bunch of vets that I've had to hammer. I had to do an intervention in early July for a guy that we had that went off the reservation a little bit. And now, you know, doing a lot better. Get him some help, hey, man, here's some things, you know? And that's what happens, right?

Like, we all gotta be here for each other when we all have had a bunch of unique experiences which make us really different than the general population. And so because of that we could talk to each other. A lot of times we don't listen other people. You don't understand what I went through. Well, actually, I do understand. Let me help you out.

VINCE LARA: My thanks to Jake Zweig. This has been "A Few Minutes With."

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