From Foster Care to the NFL: Inside Anthony Trucks' Road to ‘American Ninja Warrior'

The Bay Area native will star in the ninth season of the reality competition, which premieres Monday at 8 p.m.

Anthony Trucks was 3 years old when his mother surrendered him to foster care. Shuffled from home to home, the Antioch resident and former NFL pro says he experienced years of mental and physical abuse in the system before being adopted at the age of 14.

“I spent six years years as the bad stinky kid in class, where I literally had teachers pull their hair out in frustration,” Trucks recalls. “Then I would go home to be abused by my first foster dad, who would also beat my foster mom. To say I was in a bad environment and felt minuscule as a person is an understatement.” 

But Trucks, now 33 and a father of three, never gave up. The self-described “stinky kid” in class would go on to earn a scholarship to the University of Oregon, where his football skills impressed NFL big-wigs. He was drafted as a linebacker, playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Washington Redskins, and the Pittsburgh Steelers until an injury robbed him of a chance to continue playing football professionally.

Once again, he found himself at a crossroads. Once again, he refused to give up. Instead, he developed a credo that he repeats to this day whenever he finds himself in an untenable situation: “Trust your hustle.” He carries the verbal cue like a talisman, a constant reminder of his own inner strength. 

“It was a lot of ups and downs. I went through a lot of craziness,” Trucks said. “But it taught me to be strong. ... I know that I won’t allow something to knock me off.” 

He says that determination frequently comes in handy, but it was especially salient when Trucks applied for the ninth season of NBC’s "American Ninja Warrior." The competition show, inspired by the Japanese original “Sasuke,” follows contestants as they attempt to complete rigorous obstacle courses. Videos of epic fails, such as participants falling off the infamous Salmon Ladder, have a tendency to go viral. 

The show, which kicks off 8 p.m. Monday, films in various cities over the course of about three months until only one hopeful is crowned the American Ninja Warrior. Trucks kept details about his progress on the series confidential, but he did describe it as a microcosm for the highs and lows he experienced during his youth. 

“The show is about doing things in the face of difficulties,” he said. “You come over obstacles — literally, that’s what it is — and that’s what my life has been about.” 

The former linebacker has stayed in shape after his tenure with the NFL, eventually opening a gym and embarking on creating a fitness empire — attributes that undoubtedly served him well during the competition. He now runs a consulting business and works as a life coach, often giving motivational speeches about the importance of physical, mental and emotional health.

Fittingly, he dubbed his program “Trust Your Hustle," believing that his message of internalized resiliency and determination is contagious.

Although he is hoping his appearance on "American Ninja Warrior" will help him expand the reach of his message, he says he will be satisfied so long as it resonates with a small audience of three: his children. The highlight of the experience has been showing them that there is another side to their father. 

“To be honest, I'm just hoping to do something for my kids, to show them their dad doing something cool,” Trucks said. “In my mind, kids should have a parent that they can be proud of, like a superhero. ... I want to give them what I didn't have." 

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