Eatonville native Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has always said playing football is not about the money.
His love of the game has always driven him and he proved that last week when he accepted a one-year, $3.5 million contract offer to sign with the Chicago Bears, far less money than he could have received elsewhere.
“It was definitely hard to turn down the money, but the only thing God has always harped is, ‘Don’t love the money.’ It’s just another part of my journey and I’m excited about it,” Clinton-Dix said. “A lot of teams were interested and it was just about making the right decision. It wasn’t about the money. … I just had to look at the situation.
“Chicago is on the rise and has a thriving defense in a great system with Coach [Matt] Nagy, and I wanted to feel part of something special. … I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I was signing a long-term deal but then end up not being happy. You know me. I love football. I do it for fun and being able to get paid to do it is a blessing.”
Clinton-Dix, a former Orlando Dr. Phillips and Alabama star, signed for only about $400,000 more than he made after being traded from the Green Bay Packers to the Washington Redskins in October.
He was one of the top free-agent safeties in a loaded safety class, and his good friend and former Crimson Tide teammate Landon Collins actually took his place by signing with the Redskins. Another free-agent safety he has always admired and looked up to is veteran Earl Thomas, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
“It was a fun process and just having my name mentioned with those guys, a bunch of All-Pro players … It just showed me I’m in the right position and I just gotta do more,” Clinton-Dix said. “I gotta challenge myself more. If I want to be considered an elite safety, I have to dive into the film work and I have to fall in love with the game even more and just find ways to be better.
“Those guys out there are just extra motivation for me. Just talking to Earl, he has always told me from the first time I met him to, ‘Do the right thing.’ … how humble he was and how thankful he was just gave me my drive.”
In Chicago, Clinton-Dix saw an opportunity to join another former Alabama safety in Eddie Jackson, who was drafted by the Bears in 2017.
“I’m back with Eddie Jackson and I know he loves it in Chicago and I can’t wait to play alongside of him,” Clinton-Dix said. “I had a chance to sign a one-year deal to play with Landon or Eddie Jackson and both of those guys are hella players, but I just thought if I could get back in this system here and in the NFC North and the sky is the limit.”
It has been a busy past few months for Clinton-Dix.
It actually started for the one-time NFL All-Pro safety with the trade to Washington in October. He was in his contract season with the Packers and with six games remaining, Green Bay sent him to Washington.
That was just the beginning of numerous new experiences for the 26-year-old star. When the season ended, he was a free agent for the first time in his five-year NFL career. In January he became a father for the first time. After that, he began looking into his NFL future and listening to contract pitches from teams.
“It was almost like going back to high school and picking a college. With not having a say-so in the NFL draft (2014), this just gave me an opportunity as a free agent to explore different organizations,” Clinton-Dix said. “Coming from Green Bay, a top organization and seeing how things were run there and then to go to Washington to give me a feel for a different organization, I came out knowing exactly what I wanted from an NFL organization … and that is to be successful and have a chance to win a championship.”
Another interesting thing about Clinton-Dix joining the Bears is that he’ll see his former Green Bay teammates twice next season.
“Yeah, I’ll get a chance to play against my former teammates, a great group of guys who I know are very competitive and just love the game, so I’m excited about that,” he said. “I’m excited about it so let’s get it going.”
Clinton-Dix is enjoying helping raise his daughter Dior Alivia Clinton-Dix, who was 6-pounds, 13-ounces at birth.
“She’s doing good. I got a perfect baby. She’s doesn’t make any noise, she’ don’t’ complain … she’s a good baby,” Clinton-Dix said. “It’s a blessing. It just gives me another reason to provide.
“It’s hard to explain the joy that I have when I wake up in the mornings just knowing that I have a child. She’s so precious. She’s sure got her hands wrapped around me. Not a day goes by or any second that flies by that she’s not on my mind.”