Family Man- Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders

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Raiders rookie Quarterback Derek Carr

I remember the day my oldest daughter was born.  My wife was in some form of labor for about 30 hours when Aimee finally joined the family.  I remember seeing her being born, cutting her umbilical cord and hearing the doctor say she is healthy, but then something unexpected. “Check her left arm, she hasn’t moved it yet” the doctor said. I remember thinking to myself  “That’s not part of the deal. She needs to be healthy”.  And she is.  Thankfully, there has never been an issue with her arm.

And so I can’t imagine what it would be like to hear that my new born child would require surgery. Derek Carr and his wife Heather welcomed their son, Dallas to their family in August, 2013.  As you can read in this New York Times article , the mood of the Carr family changed quickly from jubilation when he was born to panic and worry when young Dallas would undergo surgery just a few short hours later.  The surgery was to correct some twisting in the intestines.  It was the first of three surgeries Dallas would endure in the first weeks of his life.  As the article shares, Carr had never cared so little about football.

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Derek with wife Heather and son Dallas

Carr and his wife Heather prayed and depended on their strong faith in God to comfort them through this time.  Derek Carr, about to start his senior year at Fresno State University, missed some practice time to be with his young family.  Faith, Family and then Football are his listed priorities, in that order.

Derek explained, “I’m going to be a husband and a father and a brother a lot longer than I’m going to be a quarterback. Someday they’re going to take my jersey away.”

But Carr admits that this list has not always been in this order.  He talks about a time, arriving at FSU as the next football star, where he made choices that didn’t reflect the faith he claimed.  A letter from Heather helped guide him back to living how he knew he should.  Since then, Carr has been a strong leader on the field and off the field, leading bible studies and chapel services for teammates.

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Derek’s brother David was the first overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, making them the second highest drafted brothers in NFL history (behind the Manning brothers)

His senior year at Fresno State was a very successful one.  After an amazing college career (in 3 seasons as a starter, Carr threw 113 TD’s compared to 24 interceptions).  There was a lot of talk about him as the NFL draft approached.  Some teams hesitated at the thought of drafting him, maybe unfairly, because of  Derek’s older brother David.  David also starred at Fresno State and was the first overall pick in the NFL draft in 2002.  But he is largely considered a bust. David set a record for getting sacked in a single season (76 times) – part of the danger in being the starting quarterback for an expansion team.  He started for the Texans for 4 season.  He played in Carolina and was signed as a back-up QB  with the 49ers and 2 stints with the Giants – winning a Super Bowl ring in 2011. David was an important coach and mentor as his younger brother went through the draft process.

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Carr won the starting job in Oakland, and has won twice, despite the Raiders being underdogs every week

Derek was drafted by the Raiders early in the second round.  He went to camp and won the starting job (ironically beating out another former Texans QB Matt Schaub). He has led them to a couple of surprise wins this season (against the 49ers and the Chiefs) and as you can read on his website, his purpose in life and as a football player is to “further (God’s) Kingdom by sharing his faith on and off the field”.

Here are my takeaways from Carr’s story

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Carr’s primary purpose is to grow the Kingdom of God by sharing his faith on and off the field

1-   Coaches Matter - It speaks a lot about the important role a coach plays that Carr called his coach twice – once to announce the birth of his son and once to tell him about the surgery.  He sees his coach as someone he can celebrate with and cry to.  We all have important people of influence in our lives.  I am thankful for the people who have played that role for me.  And I know that God gives us all opportunities to be those people of influence in the lives of other people.  Who are the people you can pour out your heart to?  Who are you there for when the world is falling apart.  God uses his people to draw, comfort and love on people going through hard times. Lets be grateful for those who help us and let’s be ready to do the same for others.

2- God First -  As Derek Carr’s story shows, football is not the most important part of life.  And if it isn’t the most important for the players, it should definitely not be the most important for the fans.  It is easy to get excited when your team is winning or down when your team is losing but in the end, does it really matter.  As Carr says, faith in God and living for His kingdom comes first.  Then family comes next.  The rest of life (job, working out, hobbies, etc) can fight for whatever is left over.  It is a challenge to keep this list of priorities in the right order sometimes, but if we really stop to consider it,  it is the only way that this life makes sense.

Preparing for Battle – Eric Berry – Kansas City Chiefs

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Chiefs safety Eric Berry

Football is unlike the other major North American Sport in that each team basically spends a full week preparing for the next game.  That allows them to draw up specific game plans for their next opponent, study film of their previous games and their opponents, too looking for ways to improve their chances of winning.  And football is a battle each week.  It is a very physical game and as such, part of the preparation for the next game is recovering from the last game.

Eric Berry has been in his share of football battles.  He played Division I football for Tennessee where twice he was named a unanimous All-American.  He was the 2008 SEC defensive player of the year.  He won awards and titles all through college and was the number 5 overall pick by the Chiefs in 2010.  He has lived up to the promise he showed in college as a pro, too.  He is a three-time pro-bowler,  and was named a first team All-Pro in 2013.  Now in his fourth seasons, he has 8 career interceptions, three of which he has returned for Touchdowns.

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Berry has 8 career INT, 3 for TD. He must now battle a new opponent – Lymphoma

But after 6 games this season, Eric Berry began preparing for a new battle – one he was not planning to face.  During a game against the Raiders, he complained about a pain in his chest.  A mass was discovered and a few days later, the diagnosis came back.  Berry has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  It was discovered in early stages, so there is a lot of optimism that doctors will be able to deal with this form of blood cancer.

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Berry knows that in the tough days that lie ahead, his faith in God will help him through.

As you can read in this article, Berry is optimistic about his chances and is trusting God to guide him through this new battle.  He says “At first I was in shock with the diagnosis on Saturday and did not even want to miss a game, but I understand that right now I have to concentrate on a new opponent. I have great confidence in the doctors and the plan they are going to put in place for me to win this fight. I believe that I am in God’s hands and I have great peace in that.”

He continues, saying “God has more than prepared me for it. For everyone sharing similar struggles, I’m praying for you and keep fighting!” I’m hoping that the doctors are able to get all the cancer taken care of and see Berry return to the Chiefs as soon as possible.  

Here are my takeaways from Berry’s story:

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Berry’s All-Pro career is on hold for now. I hope he will be able to come back soon.

 

1- Our Plans in God’s Hands – Likely nowhere on Berry’s radar was the thought that he may lost part of a season to battling cancer.  The diagnosis was shocking for him.  But his response was great.  Trusting that he is in God’s hands and that God will carry out His plan. Beyond that, though, it brought Berry to an awareness of others who are battling the same thing he is now facing.  I know that God works this way in our lives too.  We face hard things, challenges and trials.  As we battle through them, or when we come out on the other side, our awareness and sensitivity grows and when we learn of others that are going through something similar we see that God used our experiences to equip us to help others.  I love that Berry shares that he is praying for other people that are facing similar struggles.  What struggles are you going through?  How have you seen God working in your situation?  How can you use that experience to share God’s presence and comfort with those who need to hear it.

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Chiefs are selling these shirts to raise money for Lymphoma research

2- Preparing for a different battle – Berry is accustomed to preparing for the battle of life in the NFL.  Now he must fight a new fight, this time against cancer.  Our life is a battle, too.  God has a very real enemy that wants to destroy us and keep us from following Him.  The challenges that Satan sends our way can blindside us.  Maybe what we are going through is more than we can handle.  But God offers us equipment to fight the battles of this life.   Ephesians 6.10-18 is a passage that discusses the “Armor of God”  Through the various pieces of this armor, we are ready to face anything.  God offers Salvation, righteousness, truth, peace, the very word of God and faith to help us in this fight.  But we get to choose if we put this armor on or we try to battle our way through life without it.  I’d choose putting the armor on over going in to battle without it.  God equips us, helps us, fights for us and – the best news of all – is victorious.  Joining Him in the fight and accepting the armor He provides leads us to be victorious with Him.  Suit up and let’s go!

 

Created for Greatness – Delano Howell – Indianapolis Colts

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Colts Safety Delano Howell

Today, we will shed the spotlight on Indianapolis Colts defensive back Delano Howell.  He played college football for Stanford.

Delano Howell came to Stanford to play offense.  He had dreams of being a running back at the top level of professional football.  As you can read in this article with Mercury News, Stanford coach (at the time) Jim Harbaugh switched Howell to safety in a retooling of the secondary.  Howell resisted at first, but his competitive nature took the challenge head on and he flourished.  This season, Howell battled for a starting position on the Colts defense.

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Howell picked up a blocked punt and eluded the kicker en route to his first NFL touchdown

Raised in a family where Christian values and hard work were instilled by his father who immigrated from Barbados, Howell dreamed of an NFL career, but worked hard in school so he would have a backup plan to turn to if football didn’t work out.  He knows that anything that may come his way is a result of following God’s plan.  As you can read in this interview from colts.com, he says  “ I want to glorify God.  In everything I do, I want to honor Him.  My heart and intentions are underneath His will.  I was created for a purpose.  If I were to live and do something else other than what I was created for, then that would not be right for me.

The interviewers next question has to do with confidence versus arrogance.  Howell answers by saying ” I think God created all of us for greatness.  He gives us desires and passions as well as talents (…) As long as we’re focusing our energy to glorify Him, it’s going to point us to our destiny(…)  It was a goal of mine to reach the NFL and glorify Him.  If that didn’t happen, it would have been okay, because that wasn’t His plan for me.

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Powell, not drafted by any NFL team – congratulated on his TD by teammates

Howell was signed by the Buffalo Bills as a free agent.  He then signed with the Colts in November 2012.  He has climbed the depth chart to the point where he was looked to as a starter before an injury ended his season.  His play has had some highlights, like a 61 yard blocked field goal return touchdown that you can see here

Here are my takeaways from Howell’s story

1- Created for Greatness –  The Bible and history are both full of ordinary people being used by God for extraordinary things. It is nothing that happens in our own strength, but only with God at work in and through us.  It is a hard line to walk.  When things go badly for us, we are quick to pass blame on to God, but when we are successful, it is much easier to talk about how we were able to be successful.  The key to our success is exactly what Delano Howell talked about in the interview I referenced.  He said “ (faith) is the priority in my life.  I want to glorify God.  In everything I do, I want to honor Him.  My heart and intentions are underneath His will.”   To live life following God’s will, whatever that may be, is the definition of success I will strive for.

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Howell was a likely starter for the Colts this season until an injury sidelined him. Still, he is trusting God will lead his life come what may.

2- Willing to Change – Part of following God and living out His will for you life means being willing to change course as needed.  For Howell, it meant changing from offense to defense.  In my life, it means career path.  My dream was to be a sportscaster.  But that changed when I felt God lead another direction.  That direction has changed a few times since as well – puppeteer, missionary, children’s pastor are a few of the jobs I’ve considered.  Now I direct an after school program where I get to share Bible stories and tell students about God’s love and plan for their lives.  And I really enjoy it. Each time I felt my direction change, I resisted, thinking I had the best plan in place, but after going the way God leads me – sometimes kicking and screaming – I learn again that it is the best way to go. What is God calling you to do?  Are you willing to follow that path, even if it isn’t what you had in mind.  I promise you that it will be the best thing you can do!

Storms of Life – Jay Prosch – Houston Texans

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Houston Texans Rookie Fullback Jay Prosch

My wife and I spent the first 2 years of our married life as missionaries with Christian Outreach International.  One of the locations we were sent was New Orleans, to help with recovery after Hurricane Katrina.  Before we went, though, one of our colleagues, who had been working with the recovery in Alabama put together a video of hurricane damage set to the Casting Crowns song “Praise you in this Storm” and while the visuals were harsh and impossible to completely grasp what people had been through, the truth of the song’s lyric was evident.  God never ceases being worthy of our praise – even when life brings unimaginable hardship.

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Prosch blocking for Tre Mason (#21) to rush for a big gain

Jay Prosch was in college at Illinois in the fall of 2010 when the call came.  His mother Iris, had been diagnosed with Brain Cancer.  Prosch would try to find a college closer to his home in Alabama, so he could be closer to his mom.  As Illinois was the only division one school that offered him a football scholarship, that likely meant playing at a lower level of college ball.  But unexpectedly, Auburn called and offered Prosch a place to play.  And Prosch would go on to play an important role in the Auburn rushing attack.  In his college career he is credited with 25 touchdown resulting blocks.

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Prosch has something like this tattooed on his arm – part of a tribute to his mom.

But success on the field was marred by tragedy off the field.  His mother passed away after the 2012 season opener.  As you can read in this story from USA today, Prosch lost his mother and the team struggled to a 3-9 season.   Prosch says “Overall it was probably the worst year of my life just in general.  I do look to football as an escape, kind of my way out of things – almost like a peace, even though it’s not a peaceful sport. But last year was such a terrible year and our team was falling apart, it was like disaster everywhere. It was rough” He was in the midst of the storm. But it was during this time that Auburn team Chaplain Chette Williams reminded Jay “Life’s not about learning how to get through the storm but learning to dance in the rain,”   Prosch now has that saying tattooed by an Iris (his mom’s name) on his right biceps.

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The Texans drafted Prosch (45) in the 6th round last May

He also credits his faith in God and time spent in prayer with his 3 sisters for helping him through the tough season and beyond.  They also shared Bible verses through texts, working through their grief together.

The Texans drafted Prosch in the 6th round of the 2014 draft.

Here are my takeaways from Prosch’s story.

1- Dance in the Rain –  As I read that saying shared with Prosch by his college chaplain, it reminded me of the Casting Crowns song I talked about in the opening paragraph.  Here is a video of the song:

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Prosch is living his NFL dreams with the Texans

My time spent in New Orleans is marked by the strength of faith of the believers I met.  People who had lost all of their material possessions, trinkets and memory souvenirs, but for many that I spoke to, their faith in God was unwavering.  I have never had my home wiped out in disaster.  My parents are both still living and in reasonably good health.  I am challenged by those who have suffered deep loss.  They continue to trust God and find their hope in Him.  I know that each day my belief in God and awareness of his faithful provision of all I need grows.  I pray that in the face of tragedy and loss, I will dance in the rain of the storm I am facing, knowing that He is with me and will carry me through.

2- Connecting with God – Many times in my life, I have gone through periods where my prayer life has been almost non-existent.  I may offer up a feeble help when I find myself in a near-impossible situation, but as the ship is righted, I fall into old habits of not talking to God.  So then I must ask myself what is the status of my relationship with God.  It is very difficult to have a relationship with someone that I do not talk to.  In Prosch’s story, I see the comfort that he received from spending time praying with his sisters.  I see the encouragement that came through bible verses.  I am again convicted that prayer and reading God’s word are vital to this life that I live.  Especially since it is a gift from Him.  Everything is a gift from Him and I wish to use it for His purposes.  Taking time to connect with Him will help me understand what some of those purposes may be.

Put God First – Tyson Alualu – Jacksonville Jaguars

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Jaguars Defensive Lineman Tyson Alualu

To celebrate the Jacksonville Jaguars second victory of the season last Sunday, I will turn the focus of my blog to a member of the Jaguars defense.  Defensive End Tyson Alualu was drafted #10 overall by the Jaguars in the 2010 draft.  And his journey from his native Hawaii to the NFL is a remarkable one.  Among the challenges that he and his 8 siblings faced was a father who was in and out of prison frequently during their younger years.  As you can read in this story from ESPN, drug charges, gang activity and other legal issues made life challenging for the Alualu family.  But in 1994, when Tyson was about 7 years old, his father Ta’avao upon release from prison, vowed never to return to prison. He began to turn his life around.  One of the changes he made was to turn to God to help, and begin to take his family to church.  Ta’avao, who is now a pastor, instilled in his children the motto “God First” Alualu wore those words on his eye black while playing at UC Berkeley.

Check out this video of Alualu speaking at a middle school FCA Huddle.

One of my favorite parts of Tyson’s story is on draft day, when he realized the size of the contract that he would eventually sign.  This article from NFL.com shares that Alualu had big plans for his signing bonus. “I’m going to use it to help my family, my parents and also the community,” Alualu said Tuesday. “Building a church is important for me so that others can have the opportunity to worship God”.  

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At UC Berkeley, Alualu’s wore his motto on his eye black. “God 1st”

Here are my takeaways from Alualu’s story

1- God First - Tyson Alualu knows that there will be ups and downs, challenges and victories as a pro athlete.  There will also be much of the same in life.  But with his “God first” motto and mentality, he is confident that everything will work out for the best.  I love what it says in Matthew 6.33.  It says “seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well”.  We all have worries.  Earlier in Matthew 6 Jesus is talking about clothing and food.  But we all get tripped up by worry.  Maybe it is financial concerns, maybe it is making a tough decision like what career to pursue or who you should date.  The answer to all these concerns is in this passage.  Put God first, make serving Him and living for Him the most important – and He will take care of all the details.  He will provide for our needs, He will place us where He wants us.  What does it mean to put Him first?  It means listening when we know He is leading us a certain way.  It means pursuing a relationship with Him with everything that we have.  It means, as Alualu says in the video above, knowing that “I don’t deserve anything I’ve got”   Anything that we have is because He has provided it.  What other logical choice is there?  God First!!

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…his play to be an act of worship to God

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With his “God first” motto, Alualu considers…

2- Play is Worship - I wrote about this in my post on Chase Headley this summer,  but Alualu talks about it as well.  God always deserves our best, and so when we offer our best, at whatever we are doing, and our sole purpose is to glorify God through our actions, then everything we will do will be an act of worship to our King.  What is your job?  What are your interests and talents?  What does a week in your life look like?  Do you see ways that when you put God first, everything you do, work, play, rest, can be an act of worship to God.  Worship is so much more than a brief activity on a Sunday morning in a church building.  Worship is part of our every day life.  But if God is not first in our life, then our worship is wasted on things that are not Him.  He ALONE is worthy of our worship.  This fall, I am in BSF and we are studying the life of Moses.  One of the interesting (and convicting) verses for me in this week’s lesson is Exodus 34.8.  Moses has just heard from God who God is and how He declares He will act.  And verse 8 says “Immediately, Moses knelt, bowing with his face touching the ground.”    The teaching leader asked “do we react similarly when we learn something about who God is?  I know that I am guilty of taking God for granted and not truly considering what a privilege it is to know Him.  My prayer is that I will continually be deeply moved as Moses was, when I am confronted by the power and glory of the one True God.

A Life in Balance – Marcus Lattimore – San Francisco 49ers

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Former 49ers draft pick Marcus Lattimore

When I first heard the story of Marcus Lattimore, and heard God speak to me through it, I knew that when the time was right, I would write a post about him, sharing the lessons God had taught me through the Lattimore story.  Then, Lattimore announced his retirement.  And while my posts are seldom about retired players, there have been exceptions (Alvin Davis, Brian Bosworth, Dave Dravecky and Gary Carter come to mind) Marcus Lattimore retired from football midway though this his second season.  I’m going to make an exception again.

Lattimore was a star in college.  He was highly recruited and played as a true freshman.  In just his second game, he rushed for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns.  That was just the beginning of a season that would see him win the NCAA Freshman of the Year award. He was in the midst of an incredible Sophomore season when a knee injury ended his season.  But in the video below, Lattimore shares how just a week after this injury, he chose to live his life for  God. (Check it out, especially from 2:30-5:00)

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Lattimore was a record setting running back for the Gamecocks before injuries stopped him in consecutive seasons

The Saturday after his injury, he was at a school playing and hanging out with 3rd and 4th graders. Near the end of the event, a young girl asked him how he balances football, academics and his relationship with God.  He answered her questions with something that sounded right, but he wrestled with this question for the rest of the day.  The next day, Lattimore went to church and surrendered his life to God. Lattimore worked hard and rehabbed his injured knee.  He was back for the start of the next season where again, he was again was putting up great numbers.  Then, in October in the game against Tennessee, Marcus suffered a severe knee injury damaging his ACL, MCL and PCL according to some sources.  Lattimore had it repaired and again began the rehabbing process.  He declared for the NFL draft anyway, and the 49ers drafted him in the 4th round.

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Lattimore, despite the serious knee injury was drafted in the 4th round by the 49ers in 2013

After more than a season of trying to get his knee ready and cleared for NFL play, Lattimore chose to retire from the NFL having never played a down in the pre-season or regular season.  As you can read in the statement issued with his retirement , while sad to be leaving football, is looking forward to what God has planned for him.  I am confident that God will use Marcus to tell others about how amazing God really is. Here are my takeaways from Lattimore’s story. 1- A life of balance –  The question Lattimore was asked by the young girl at the school was- “How do you balance everything?”  What a great question for all of us to ponder.  God wants to be more important than anything else in our life.  We are so easily distracted.  We get caught up in our lives and the things we give importance to.  It can be very easy to set God aside or drop Him down on our priority list.  How important is God to you? Let’s ask Him daily to help you keep Him most important, where He should be.  And as a side note, how great is it that this question comes from a 9 0r 10 year old.  God uses people of all ages to challenge others and draw them to Himself.  I love working with kids and I love how their honesty can help bring us closer to God.

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After putting in lots of hard work and rehab, Lattimore retired from football in November

2- God’s plan is not always our plan - Often, I write about athletes who have been on the brink of being out of the game they love and then miraculously, they are able to continue on in their careers and the glorify God though the opportunities provided them by their success.  But what about when God doesn’t restore them to their dreams?  What about when their injuries force them to retire?  That’s the case for Lattimore. When he was hurt, he’s quoted as saying “I felt like God was just testing my faith. I got through it and I’ve still got the love for God that I had. That’ll never change“.  He is choosing to trust in God’s plan, even when it doesn’t line up with his own. He says that he still has the love for God that he had.  His love is helping him trust God to be in control of what is next.  As you can see on his web-site, Lattimore has started a foundation that strives to help young people with life skills, education, character, health and wellness with an emphasis on Christian Values.  I trust that God has great things still in store for Lattimore and that Marcus will be a great influence and Kingdom Builder for years to come.

Held to a Higher Standard – O’Brien Schofield – Seattle Seahawks

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Seahawks LB/DE O’Brien Schofield

This past Sunday, there was a key NFC West matchup between defending Champs (Seattle Seahawks) and the team with the best record in the NFL (Arizona Cardinals). One player in the game is connected to both franchises.  O’Brien Schofield was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, but after 3 seasons and several coaching changes, he was released from the Cardinals just before preseason games started in 2013.  Claimed on waivers by the Seattle Seahawks, he battled through the rest of pre-season.  He wound up making the team and winning a Super Bowl ring with them last season.  For Schofield, it was a dream come true and a highlight in a journey that had its share of heartbreak and bumps in the road.

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Schofield went from relative unknown to All-Conference at Wisconsin

This article tells of his time at Wisconsin where over the course of 5 seasons he went from relative unknown, fighting for playing time to All-conference defensive lineman.  He also faced deep tragedy with the death of his brother, who drowned while attempting to rescue some friends at a beach.  O’Brien struggled to focus on football and his playing time suffered.  It was during this time that his faith in God grew stronger.  He was given a chance to play more because of injuries ahead of him on the depth chart.  He played well, and hope for the next season grew.  One of his coaches worked on motivating Schofield.  He asked him “Do you want to be held to a very high standard? Do you want to be great? … If the answer is yes, well then I’m going to hold that bar higher than it’s ever been held“.  Schofield said yes, and began to work hard to hone his skills and his play blossomed.  

It appeared that Schofield would be drafted in the first or second round.  Then another bump.  He tore his ACL at a practice session for the Senior Bowl.  His draft stock took a hit, some draft predictions wondering if he would be drafted at all.  Arizona picked him and 5 seasons later, he is a Super Bowl Champion.

As you can see in this video, he is well loved in Arizona.

(if you are interested in seeing him share his story at the church, here is the link to that  - it is about 2 hours long and full of great stuff)

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Schofield is part of the Seahawks stellar defense

As a free agent this past off-season, it looked like he would sign a 2 year contract with the New York Giants, but a failed physical voided the deal and O’Brien signed again with the Seahawks on a one year deal.  Another bump in the road and another door opened.  So far this season, he has played in each of the Seahawks games and is excited for a chance at another ring.  And he is grateful for any chance God gives him.

Here are my takeaways from Schofield’s story.

1- Held to a Higher Standard - O’Brien Schofield was asked by his college coach if he wanted to be held to a very high standard.  As a Christian, I strive to live my life the way God has called me to.  That means keeping a higher standard on the how I live my life.  We can often get caught up in judging other people for their behavior, people who have not chosen to live for God.  First of all, judging the actions of others is not our place.  God is the judge and He is better at it than us anyway.  Plus, the truth is that unless someone has chosen to live for God, they have no reason to live by the standards He requires.  The other truth is that we will always fall short of the standard God requires.  We are all sinners in need of grace and forgiveness.  Falling short of God’s standard does not mean the end for us.  Let’s focus on God’s goodness in loving and forgiving us and not get caught up in seeing how far others fall short of God’s standard.

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Schofield went from pre-season cut to Super Bowl Champ last season.

2- Victory From Defeat – Schofield went from being cut in the pre-season to winning a Super Bowl ring.  That is an amazing turn around for someone to go through in one season.  Cut from the team and out of a job, Schofield was given another chance.  And it worked out for him as he went on win it all with the Seahawks.  He had another setback when he failed his physical this past off-season.  And while the result was a financial setback, the Seahawks brought him back as they look to defend their title.  What setbacks and closed doors are you facing.  Are you willing to trust God to make something amazing out of it?

 

Be Who you Are – Drew Stanton – Arizona Cardinals

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Cardinals QB Drew Stanton

Let’s think back to the start of the football season.  Here is what we knew about the Arizona Cardinals.  They have a great defense – it even led them in a win in Seattle against the soon to be Super Bowl Champion Seahawks.  But when it came to predictions, little thought was given to the Cardinals making the playoffs because they are in a division with the last 2 representatives in the Super Bowl – Seahawks and 49ers.  Now add  that they would lose their starting quarterback to injury, not once but twice – the second time was season-ending.  The Cardinals were not given much chance of reaching the post season. Profootballtalk had only 1 of their 6 experts pick the Cardinals for the playoffs. And exactly none of them thought the Cardinals would finish with the best record in the NFL.  Now there are still 6 weeks left in the season, but here they are, at the top of the heap, and their backup quarterback, Drew Stanton has performed admirably, despite seeing his first game action since 2010.

Stanton, for his part, is on his 3rd NFL team in his 8 season career.  He was a backup in Indianapolis for one season but saw no action.  He played in 12 games scattered over 4 seasons with the Detroit Lions, who drafted Stanton out of Michigan State in the second round of the 2007 draft.

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Stanton began the season as the backup QB, but with Carson Palmer out, Stanton will be the QB for the rest of the season

So as a fan of great stories (and a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, too) I hope that Stanton continues to make the best of this chance that he is enjoying.  And as you can read in this article from Unashamed athletes, Stanton is quick to give credit to God’s presence in his life to explain his motivation for playing and any success that he knows.

When asked what advice he would give to other Christians looking to be open about their faith.  “Be authentic, be who you are don’t try to be anyone else. If you do that you will be completely fine no matter where you are at”  He continues by crediting Lions chaplain Dave Wilson who challenged him with the question “Do you want God, or do you want God to make your life work?” He answers the question saying “When I was younger, I wanted God to make my life work and at that point in time, I said ‘you know what God, whatever we are going to do, I just want you.  I don’t care what happens with me.  That was a huge turning point for me when I realized that.

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After beating the Lions last Sunday to stand alone with the best record in the NFL, Stanton and the Cardinals set their sights on the defending champs this weekend!

He is using his football ability and his platform to make an impact in the lives of children with special needs through his High 5ive foundation.

Here are my takeaways from Stanton’s story:

1- Be Authentic – As humans, we like to present the front, false as it may be, that we have it all together and that we are doing OK.  We are afraid to show need or weakness, when in reality, in our weakness, does our understanding of God’s strength grow.  He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3.20) In our weakness, he is strong, (2 Corinthians 12. 9-10).  We are so quick to put on our masks and cover what is really going on in us.  We cover it to others and we believe it is covered from God, too.  But when we admit our weakness, we are reminded that we are lost and incapable on our own, but thankfully, we do not have to be on our own.  God offers to be with us through all of our weaknesses and allow His strength to carry us through.  Let’s admit how desperately we need a Savior and let’s embrace His offer of love, grace and forgiveness.

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Stanton playing in his first games since 2010 is leading the Cardinals well in Carson Palmer’s absence.

2- I want God –  Following that thought further and looking at the question that the Detroit Lions chaplain asked, we can also see God as a problem solver, called on in our most desperate time to come to our rescue and save the day.  And He does have the ability to do that.  But more than that, he wants us to want Him and Him alone.  We can so easily fill up on other things and leave God largely out of our lives until we get ourselves into a predicament that is bigger than we can handle.  But I think of the story of Job, who upon losing everything he held dear in his life, worships God anyway.  Are we in that same place.  At the end of the day what is it that we want?  Do we want God to fix our problems but miss out knowing Him, or do we want to know Him in such a way that we understand that He is with us on our best days and our worst?  I want to know Him and let my life reflect His presence.