By Aaron Torres, FOXSports.com
As an NFL linebacker, Will Witherspoon has spent most of the past decade trying to avoid the oncoming rush of lead-blocking fullbacks and pulling guards. Yet it’s nothing compared to how Witherspoon spends his offseasons, where as the owner and proprietor of Shire Gate Farm in Owensboro, MO, he’s got to be on the look-out for 1,000 pound bulls charging full-speed at him.
“You’ve heard of a cow jumping over the moon,” Witherspoon said recently in a phone interview with FOX Sports. “Wait until you see one jumping over a five and a half foot fence. When you get cows in heat, bulls are crazy. They’re either jumping over (fences), or through it.”
Witherspoon originally purchased Shire Gate in 2007 as a place to board his horses, but his vision for the property has become much larger over the last six years. It is now a sustainable farm, which according to Witherspoon is home to over 140 head of cattle, 84 chickens, 22 sheep, 13 dogs, seven horses, two goats and two cats. The property is managed year-round by his father and a full-time farm manager, while a local farm man occasionally chips in a helping hand as well.
When Witherspoon is on the property he is a hands-on farmer himself, and as his knowledge of the industry has grown, so too has his passion to improve it. Through the years Witherspoon has become an advocate for healthy farming practices, and in 2012 met with Congress to try and push through legislation to eliminate the practice of injecting cattle with antibiotics. All of Witherspoon’s livestock are grass-fed, yet it’s the antibiotic-injected cattle which end up in your local grocery store.
“People need to realize what they’re putting into their bodies,” Witherspoon said.
Yet despite the serious nature of Witherspoon’s advocacy, he still makes time to have fun on his 800-acre property. Witherspoon has hosted a number of former and current NFL teammates on the farm, including one memorable visit from an imposing- and anxious- former All-Pro defensive tackle.
“The first guy who ever came out was La’Roi Glover,” Witherspoon said of his ex-teammate, who visited Shire Gate to ride horses with his wife a few years back. “His first question was, ‘You got a horse that can hold me?’ La’Roi is like 300 lbs.”
That’s a question that most NFL athletes don’t get from visiting teammates, but then again there’s no such thing as a “normal” day in the life of a farmer. To further that point, after spending nearly an hour on the phone with Fox Sports, Witherspoon had to go when another call came in from his “sausage maker.” It’s safe to assume that’s not a call many NFL linebackers have had to take this off-season.
Still, farming seems to suit Witherspoon well, and it’s a lifestyle he doesn’t plan on giving up any time soon.
“It’s simple living down here,” he said. “It’s a good life.”
Except when a bull in heat comes charging at you.