Before Terry Crews took over Hollywood, he was an NFL linebacker who says he was ready to die on the field -- same mind-set as NY Jets rookie Jamal Adams.  

But things have changed.

"I wanted to die on the field when I was playing ... but not anymore," Crews tells TMZ Sports

Of course, Crews became a massive star AFTER his 5 year NFL career -- starring in huge movies ("The Expendables"), huge TV shows ("Brooklyn Nine-Nine") and big ad campaigns (Old Spice, anyone?) 

The message? There's MUCH more to life than football -- and he's living proof. 

Crews also shared his message with a mother and her football playing son outside of Craig's -- advising the kid to be a kicker because it's safer.

The kid's mom asked Terry if he would let his son play football with all of the CTE concerns -- you gotta hear Crews' answer.

As for Adams, the Jets safety told the media this week, "If I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field."