The Season is over and as the playoff scenarios fall into place and we all begin to digest the results of the season and the varying level of success that our favorite team had, it is time for me to be finish up my season by sharing some short stories of players that I wanted to share during the regular season. Here we go:
Tress Way has been the Washington Redskins punter for the past 3 seasons
What caught my attention about Way’s story, which you can read here in this FCA article. Tress was ready to give up on the NFL dreams that he had when the Chicago Bears cut him after his training camp tryout. Bears kicker Robbie Gould encouraged him to keep at it and he would get his chance. He was invited to come back to Chicago the following year and try out again. And again he was cut, but this time, Washington had noticed his skills and came calling. Way earned the Redskins job and rewarded them with the top punting yard average in the NFL that season. The next year, they named him a special team captain and before this season, he signed a five year contract extension. Way was very active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) through high school and college. He has since returned to the FCA world as a speaker, sharing how his faith and life go together in the NFL and challenging the FCA attendees to be genuine in their faith. He said “I knew what I was supposed to do, what I was supposed to say, how to act, but I was just faking it. I was that guy who could walk up and be the center of attention and make everybody laugh, and I didn’t know how to be all about God and still do that.”
Here is a clip that includes Way challenging the group at Southern Nazarene University.
Matt Barkley is in his 4th season in the NFL. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles as their 3rd string QB for his first 2 seasons (amounting to 4 appearances and 50 pass attempts – 0 TDs 4 INT). He was traded to Arizona and stayed on their roster for a full season, but did not appear in a game. He signed with the Bears before this season started and when injuries took out the 2 quarterbacks ahead of him, he was thrust into action. He played in 6 games, starting 5. He threw for 8 TDs and caught another one on a trick play. The Bears underachieved this season so it will be interesting to keep a watch on the changes they make this off season.
Barkley speaks candidly about the disarray that USC was going through when he was there. They had been sanctioned for policy violations, their coach left and went to the NFL. People wondered why he stayed there. But in the midst of all he was going through, he has seen the importance of prayer.
It is easy to come across stories of NHL players from the Twin Cities of Minnesota where I live. This is after all the self proclaimed “State of Hockey”. Stories of locals who play in the NFL are more rare, but there are a few. In fact, I’ve blogged about local boys James Laurinitis, and Matt Birk. Add Zach Zenner to that list now, too. Zenner is from Eagan, MN. He played college ball at the South Dakota State where he ran himself into the Jackrabbits record books. You can read about his accomplishments in this article from Life 96.5’s web site. His coach said about him “Zach walks hand-in-hand with the Lord, not saying he is Zach’s lead blocker, but Zach’s relationship he has with his Savior and how he shares it, makes him so important to the FCA here on campus.” Also in that article there are some sound bytes where Zenner talks about how he came to a relationship with God and the role it plays for him now. And while the Lions are rivals of the hometown Vikings, I hope that Zenner and the Lions have a successful run in the playoffs this year. He is pretty easy to cheer for.
I enjoy writing this blog. It is a chance for me to be encouraged in these stories as I see God at work in amazing ways and in difficult circumstances. It also allows me to reflect on whatever it is that is going on in my life and see what God is teaching me through both my life and the articles that I am sharing. For Quintin Demps, when it comes time to process what is happening in his life, he often turns to writing lyrics. In fact, his interest in music has grown beyond simple a means of processing. As you can read in this Christian Post article he has founded his own record label and hopes to offer music that shows another side to life – A life that is centered on living for God and following His purposes. Read more in this Q&A session.
Here is Demps sharing his testimony at Piedmont Church
And how is his music? I found this song of his and I think it is amazing. Check it out for yourself:
My takeaways from these stories:
1- No Struggle No Progress – I really find this to be an honest representation of the battle we all go through in this life. We follow God and expect things to go smooth. When they don’t , when we stumble we look for someone to blame and more often than not, that blame falls to God. What I really appreciate about this song is the authenticity of the search, and the hope that comes when that search reveals that Christ is real and has held true to the promise that He will not leave us to figure things out on our own. And the more we go through, the more we realize that we need to depend on Him alone, the closer we get and the stronger our faith becomes. No struggle No progress? I get it! This is my story too.
2- Set yourself up for success – We all have our own path from God that we need to follow and as we do, we will see many times when we feel alone, but God is with us, and He also often allows us to have others around us that are going through similar life struggles that can encourage us or that we can encourage. Zenner, Demps and Way all shared the important role that FCA and bible studies played in their life. Not that going to FCA, or Bible study or church saves you – it is only believing that Jesus died and rose again for you because you needed Him to – that is the only thing that saves you. But surrounding ourselves with others that are on a journey to the same destination seems like a better choice than trying to go it alone.
3- Recognize your Blessings – In each of these stories, the players are motivated to persevere through hard times, cuts, releases, trades, waives. They all know that all they have in their NFL career is because God has opened doors for them and guided their steps. That recognition makes it easier for them to point to Him as their provider and motivation for life. What blessings are evident in your life? What struggle or hardship resulted in these blessings being part of your life? Where do blessings come from? How can you share them with others so they see the amazing God you serve and the perfect plan He has for you?