I’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff in my life on and off the football field—but nothing can even come close to watching Nik Wallenda and his sister, Lijana, walk 1,300 feet on a tightrope 25 stories above street level in the heart of New York City. I have a healthy fear of heights and I can’t imagine even looking over the edge of the building, including in a virtual reality game when I knew it wasn’t real. So when my friend Erin Andrews and I hosted the special Highwire Live in Times Square with Nik Wallenda last Sunday, I felt it was an honor to be present at such a once-in-a-lifetime event and something that I will look back at one day and say, “I can’t believe I was a part of that!”
This never-before-attempted, incredibly dangerous trek marked Lijana’s first since the 2017 accident when she, along with four others, tragically fell 30 feet off a tightrope during a rehearsal. Lijana was severely injured and spent the past two years working up to this moment. It’s this commitment to their art and their family’s famous lineage that really takes your breath away before anyone even steps a toe onto that thin wire. I was really blown away by the complex simplicity of the process, too, and how important every last, tiny detail is—it’s truly life or death when you’re talking about a tightrope.
I didn’t know the Wallenda family personally before this, but like so many around the world, I’ve seen their work. That’s what made it even more amazing to get the call to be a part of this live event. And, man, the experience did not disappoint: Erin and I had our eyes on the sky (and our stomachs in knots) as Nik and Lijana—who are seventh-generation members of the famous Wallenda family circus troupe—started at opposite ends of the wire stretched high above Times Square on a rope only three-quarters of an inch thick. We could barely watch as the siblings walked towards each other, met in the middle, crossed over each other, and then … well, you’ll just have to watch the video to find out what happened.