Expecting to Win – Sam Bradford – Minnesota Vikings

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Vikings QB Sam Bradford

Week for comes to an end tonight, and while many predicted that the Minnesota Vikings would be very competitive this season and in the mix for a solid playoff run, some of those thoughts started to waiver when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a season ending injury. But the Vikings made a quick deal to get quarterback Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles. Bradford was set for his second season with the Philadelphia Eagles but the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz this off-season and Bradford, all of a sudden, was being pointed to the bench. Bradford has struggled stay on the field since he was drafted first overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 2010 draft. He had come to the NFL with an impressive resume. He was the Heisman as a sophomore in 2008 as well as a slew of other impressive awards. He continued to have success as a rookie, winning the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year award. But then, injuries cut 2 of the next 3 seasons short and eventually led to the Rams moving on without him.

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Bradford’s 2 TD performance in his debut led the Vikings to a win against the Packers in week 2.

As you can read in this article from CBN.com, it was not the first time that Bradford struggled to find his place. As a freshman at Oklahoma, Bradford was on the bench. This was very unfamiliar to him because as he says “Every sport I’d ever played in, I’d always played. I never sat the bench. And, I kind of turned my back on the Lord. I was like, ‘Why are you doing this to me? Why are you putting me in this situation?”  But even though he was struggling with his place, he continued to go to FCA, following the faith that had begun in him as a middle schooler.  A leader in the OU FCA group challenged him in his relationship with God. He shares a lesson he learned from that experience. He says “When I second-guessed Him, I thought He was going in the totally wrong direction. I mean, He knew exactly what He was doing; He had a plan for me. He’s had a plan my whole life. For me to not trust him, it was just ridiculous. So I think to be patient and persevere through hard times when you’re really not sure what God’s doing – that’s something that I’ve learned. You’ve got to learn to trust Him and know that He knows what He’s doing.”  Bradford did get his chance and made the most of it as he starred for the Sooners and won the Heisman Trophy in 2008.  You can hear him discuss his faith in God and the role it plays in his life in these videos from I AM Second

and from Sharing the Victory

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Bradford’s shoulders have known expectations his whole career. Now the Vikings are hoping he will carry them to a title.

Now he is getting a chance to join the Vikings and so far, the reviews have been very positive. There is hope and excitement here in the Twin Cities and despite further injury issues (running back and Offensive Line). Tonight, as the Vikings take on the Giants, we will see if Bradford can lead the Vikings to a 4-0 start.

Here are my takeaways from Bradford’s story.

1- God is with me – Bradford has gone through injury, free agency and trade (2 times). There has been a lot to go through but Bradford says that God’s presence is enough to carry him through the challenges. You can read more about his mindset and the gratitude he feels for the opportunities that he has received in this article from the Christian Post. He know that God is with Him sees spending time with God as very important. He says “To have a relationship with the Lord, and to be able to spend time with Him every week, it’s something that really just lets me get away from everything else. When I’m with Him … I stop thinking about football. I stop thinking about any other problems that are going on in my life.

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Bradford has had a lot of success in his career starting in college.

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But he knows without God, he would never be where he is today. He considers following God the most important part of his life

2- Expect to win –  The expectation when a team drafts a quarterback #1 overall is that the team will start winning with the new QB in place and that success will stick around for a while. Bradford has had success – Rookie of the Year is a pretty legit award, but with injuries to Bradford and other key players with the Rams meant that the wins didn’t come. And so time ran out with the Rams. He didn’t meet expectations, even though the issues were not all of his doing. But Bradford is playing football and living life for God who has already secured the most important victory for us – Victory over Satan, death and sin. Knowing that God has already secured the victory for all who choose to follow Him. That is a truly amazing truth that we can trust and take comfort in.

3- Middle School Ministry – Bradford says in this article from Sharing the Victory that he started attending a middle school ministry at a friends church. This connects with me because I am a firm believer that while it is possible to come to faith in God at any age, many people are making up their minds about what is going to be important in their life while they are in middle school. I love working with kids in the 10-15 range and sharing the truth about the bible. Do you  have any middle schoolers in your life? Be honest and open about your faith in God and let Him speak through you to draw their hearts.

Leveraging your Position – John Offerdahl – Miami Dolphins

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Former Dolphins Linebacker John Offerdahl

Throwback Thursday time this week brings us to the Miami Dolphins. John Offerdahl is the subject of the post. Offerdahl was drafted in the second round of the 1986 draft (#52 0verall). He would play 8 years in the NFL, all with the Dolphins and is listed at in this columns at phins.com as one of the top players in team history. (He is #25)

Five times he was named to the Pro Bowl including in his rookie season when he started at Inside Linebacker. He also won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1986. He retired in 1994 after injuries reduced his time on the field the three previous years. He is a member of the Dolphins Ring of Honor.

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Offerdahl hosts a yearly event called the “Gridiron Grill-Off” food festival. This year will be the 7th annual Grill-Off.

Since the end of his playing days, Offerdahl has moved into the world of food. This November he will host the 7th annual Gridiron Grill-Off Food and Wine Festival . The event raises funds for many charities in Florida that work provide homes for children in crisis, scholarships to students interested in culinary and hospitality careers, and food banks around the USA. Offerdahl’s passion for food has come along since his retirement and can be seen in his chain of fast-casual restaurants called Offerdahl’s Cafe Grill.  But where did the desire to mesh food and charity together come from? When Offerdahl attended a Lifework Leadership class hosted by the National Christian Foundation, he was challenged to consider his significance and purpose in life. He asked himself “What is my significance, and how can I leverage what I do for eternal gain?”

In this article by the Sun-Sentinel, Offerdahl recounts his relationship with another charity – Sheridan house. where he played in a fund raising flag-football game and how it connected with his heart’s purpose. He says “They are serving the community in awesome ways, … and I believe in the values. They have very strong Christian values.” He continues saying “I guess you would say I am a very strong Bible-believing Christian, And I was looking for a ministry built on … Jesus Christ. While I was playing football [for Sheridan House], it turned into something more.”

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Offerdahl, a five time Pro Bowl selection, was added to the Dolphins Ring of Honor in 2013

This article from Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale shares more about how Offerdahl came to faith in God. The Blog post reads “Growing up in Wisconsin with four older sisters and playing the French horn, John says, “I knew I needed God.” A stand-out football player at Western Michigan, John’s relationship with Christ deepened after he was drafted by the Dolphins and became a part of Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) with fellow Dolphin Norm Evans. Early in my career I realized that although God had blessed me with certain gifts, I was just a ‘regular Joe’ in need of His grace and wisdom. In the business world, in my philanthropy, and in my daily life, I’m always looking for the balance between my faith and my environment.”

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Offerdahl now has a chain of fast-casual cafes in Florida.

So being in a place where Offerdahl can connect faith, family football and food is a place where Offerdahl knows he was created to be. The article continues by saying “Foster care children and homeless families are close to God’s heart—and mine,” John says. “To bring together my top priorities in one event that leverages football, families, and food is incredible. This is where it all comes together for me

My takeaways from Offendahl’s story:

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Offerdahl is using his skills in football and food to share his faith with others.

1- Leveraging – The article from Calvary lists a definition of leveraging as “an individual’s power of influence to accomplish an outcome” Offerdahl is using his leverage as a gifted food guy and former pro football player to help people in need and to share God’s love in his community and around the world. Ephesians 3.20 says “… Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” That verse chokes me up. I want to be used, I want to have a purpose but I am so flawed and weak. But that doesn’t matter. God is writing my story and making me part of His greater story. He is able to use us and our story and all the parts that make us who we are to impact the lives of people around us. I have a pretty good imagination and to think that He goes far beyond my imagination is an exciting thought. I love being a part of what God is doing. I pray that He continues to use my story and life as the leverage to help others know Him more.

2- Regular Joe – Because I am just a regular guy, no different or better than anyone else. I need forgiveness, grace and God’s love to change me. But now, having experienced that, I want to let others feel the joy and freedom that I have felt in knowing God’s forgiveness. Offerdahl talks about the same thing. It is true for all of us. How has God worked in your life? How have you experienced God’s offerings to deal with your failures and shortcomings. Now is the time to share your stories with other Regular Joes so they can meet the God who changes lives face to face. Let’s impact our world!

Following the Plan – Luke McCown – New Orleans Saints

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Saints Backup Quarterback Luke McCown

So, this football season, I will be doing Throwback Thursday posts each week about a historical player from a team that will be playing in the Thursday night game  and on “Modern Mondays”, I will write about a current player on one of the teams that will be playing in the Monday Night game. This week, that means that I get to launch my Modern Monday series with a member of my favorite team the New Orleans Saints.  Today, we will look into the story of Luke McCown, backup quarterback for the Saints.

McCown was drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 draft by the Cleveland Browns (the team that his older brother Josh currently plays for). In his 13 NFL seasons, he has played for  5 teams and has started 10 games. But life as a career backup has been okay for Luke – he seems to take his role playfully as you can see in the Verizon wireless ads that he appeared in last season.

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McCown and Saints starting QB Drew Brees they are Saints both in New Orleans and in matters of Faith in God.

Luke has shown a sense of humor in being a backup, but he is serious about his faith in God. He and his wife Katy have 6 kids and have instilled in them the importance of knowing God. They homeschool so they can be together as a family during the football season which . In this article from In Magazine He says “They need to know the Bible is true and the most important thing they need to do is obey God.” He adds that  “Watching truth come to life in their minds … is something hard to describe.  I love being their teacher and an example to my sons and the knight in shining armor or hero, to my daughters.”

He also sees an importance in protecting time with his family. He says “The hardest part of being in the spotlight is learning to say no.  I love to give of my time and myself.  I feel like that’s why God put me in this position.  But, he made me a husband and father first, so I’ve had to learn when and how to say no to some things”

One way to learn about the importance of family is through crisis. Check out this video to hear about McCown’s faith sustaining him and his wife when one of their sons, Elijah, had some health concerns at at age of 4 months.

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McCown, in his 13th NFL season has played with 5 NFL teams.

They diagnosed Elijah with a tumor and scheduled a surgery to remove it from his head. The tumor was not cancerous and he has made a full recovery, but in that situation, McCown said that football didn’t matter, starting or being a back-up didn’t matter. His son was going to be okay and that was far and away more important than anything that McCown could accomplish or experience on the field.  McCown continues to play the important role of backup for the Saints. If anything happens to Drew Brees (Read the post I wrote about him here), McCown is next man up. And hearing his story and reading what his wife is up to in her speaking ministry, they are an easy family to cheer for.

You can also check out McCown’s faith story and the importance God plays in his life in this video from Idol’s Aside Ministries

Here are my takeaways from McCown’s story

1- God Directs our Steps – The second video shares a bible verse.  Proverbs 16.9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  McCown considers himself a planner and we all like to maintain some kind of control over our lives and the way things happen. However, it is an important lesson to learn that we have very little control. God is in control and has a way to use the things that life brings along to put us where He wants us to be. I know that I have experienced this over and over in my life and I would bet that you have too. The only plan that we can safely make is to plan to trust God and follow Him. Doing that will help us face the highs and lows of life.

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Luke and Katy McCown make family time a priority.

2- Family First –  In many of the stories that I have shared on these pages, there have been sacrifices made and plans changed by injury, by trade, by slump, by age or by necessity, and there is an importance to being flexible and willing to change with the things that happen (see above where we trust God to direct our steps). You often hear professional athletes talking about their priority list – faith, family, football.  This can be a bold statement when made by someone under the scrutiny of the public eye. We see McCown talking about that though when his son was sick. The struggle to order our priorities correctly is something that we all must face. I need to choose to put my family ahead of my work. Many days there are lots of things on my to do list. I have a choice – set my family aside and keep plugging away on my work checklist, or chose to leave a few items on that list and make time for my family. In my life, I strive to keep God first and then I want to make my wife and daughters next on my importance list. Some days this is easier than others. How about you? What does your priority list look like? Is this reflected in the time you spend at each item on the list? Ask God for help! He will gladly help you keep your priorities in the right order.

Life on the Line – John Hannah G New England Patriots

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Patriots Hall Of Fame Offensive Lineman John Hannah

Last season, I started doing some throwback Thursday posts on historical NFL players. I really enjoyed looking into the stories of these players and how God used them and has been using them since the end of their careers. It is time to start the same series for this year and I will since New England is hosting tonights game, it seemed like a good place to start for the throwback Thursday series.

So tonight, we look at one of the greatest members in Patriots history (#2 on a bleacher report list). His list of accolades are impressive. In his 13 year career, he was a 10 time All-Pro, 9 time Pro-Bowl-er, 4 time Offensive Lineman of the Year.  He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, as well as the All-Decade team for the 70s and 80s.  He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991 and has had his #73 jersey retired by the Patriots. In all, it is a very impressive list of accomplishments, one that would make anyone proud. However, as you can read in this article from sbNation.com when reflecting on his accomplished career, he says he would have changed one thing. “I’m glad I played… The difference is why I played football. That’s the key. The motivation was basically to glorify myself. I wish I had played realizing that I wanted to give the glory to God.

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Hannah wrote about his play and his coming to faith in God in his book “Offensive Conduct”

Hannah shares his thoughts and stories from his career in a book he co-wrote. Offensive Conduct : My Life on the Line.  According to Amazon, the book talks about Hannah “Reflecting on how his mind-set proved detrimental beyond his playing days—leading to the breakup of his first marriage, his estrangement from his children, and an egomaniacal approach in the business world, and he shares how he ultimately found God.

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Hannah was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991

At the close of his Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech, Hannah said “One other person that I can’t leave out that I met when I was playing football and that was my God and my Savior. And I want to make sure I haven’t forgot any of his benefits because he pardons all my wrongs, he heals are my diseases, he crowns my life with loving kindness and compassion, he satisfies my desires with good things and my strength is always renewed. Yes I thank God for football, for giving me the talent to play the greatest game that was ever created. I want to thank God for all the people who he has brought into my life and the lessons they taught. I want to thank God for a family which really understands the meaning of the family and tries to live their lives accordingly.

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Hannah’s college teammate John Croyle started the Big Oak Ranch in Alabama. Hannah helped Croyle start this ministry 42 years ago.

Also, check out this story of the Big Oak Ranch and how these amazing ranches for boys and girls got their start when John Croyle, a former Alabama football player, felt called by God to start these ranches but he needed some financial help to get it off the ground. Along came a college teammate, John Hannah, who gave Croyle his first NFL signing bonus to help fund the start of the ranch. Now, 42 years later, Big Oak Ranch has expanded to 3 facilities and has helped “meet the needs of hundreds of children by giving them a solid, Christian home and a chance to fulfill God’s plan for their lives.”

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After his career, Hannah has said that his one regret was playing for himself and not to glorify God

Here are my takeaways from Hannah’s story:

1- Life on the Line – This is a great phrase with double meaning. John Hannah is a hall of famer because of his life on the offensive line for the Patriots. But despite the accolades, he says he wished he had played for a different reason. He wanted to put his life on the line in living for God. That is what he is doing now, sharing his story with fans and kids and the importance of keeping God first. How about you?  Are you willing to put your life on the line for God?  Are you willing to make him the most important part of your life and share the story of what He is doing in your life every chance you get? I know that I feel challenged to live my life on the line for Him.

2-Why God? – Why should we live for God? I love the list that Hannah mentioned in his enshrinement speech. He said “he pardons all my wrongs, he heals are my diseases, he crowns my life with loving kindness and compassion, he satisfies my desires with good things and my strength is always renewed.   Have you experienced God in these ways? If so, he is worthy of our worship and adoration. If you have not, invite him into the deepest, darkest pain and hurt that you experience in your life and see how He comes through for you. He will! He will satisfy all desires and will renew your strength.

A Timing Thing – Ian Desmond – Texas Rangers

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Rangers OF Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond is one of the last remnants of a by-gone era that was an important part of my sporting world. He is one of few remaining players connected to the Montreal Expos. He was drafted in 2004, and moved with the team to Washington D.C. and worked his way through the system, making his debut in September 2009. He had a great start to his career, with 6 hits and 4 rbi in his first 2 games. He would finish with a .280 average, 4 home runs and 12 rbi in 21 games.

Over the next 6 seasons for the Nationals, Desmond would play in over 130 games each year, three times hitting more than 20 home runs and stealing more than 20 bases. He won 3 Silver Slugger awards as a shortstop and went to an All-Star game. But last off-season, he left Washington and signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers. This year, he again returned the the All-Star game this time as a center fielder.

As you can read in this article from the Nationals website Desmond says his breakout season was due to him choosing to follow God with his life.  He says “I felt like God had more important issues to deal with than my baseball career. [In 2012], I put my faith in him and said, “Hey, get my athletic ability to do whatever you want. Hopefully, I can glorify you.” It has been great. That took a lot of pressure off my shoulders. Going 0-for-4 wasn’t so bad. I realized it was part of the process and this is the way He wanted it to be.”

Texas Rangers' Ian Desmond (20) tosses his bat as he watches hit home run ball in the seventh inning at Globe Life Park on May 15, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won 7-6. (Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS)

Desmond has been a solid 20 hr- 20 sb guy in his MLB career

 

This was a change for Desmond who earlier in his career was all about putting in the work. He didn’t have time for God in his rise to the pros.  You can read about it in this article from Sports Spectrum Desmond said “I filled that void in my heart with baseball and so many other things… On my journey to the major leagues, my Sundays were generally filled with cage work. I had chaplains coming up to my locker asking me if I wanted to attend the chapel, and I always said, ‘No, I don’t have time for that.’ I got my mind set on making it to the major leagues, and when I was at the major league level, I didn’t want to let that dream slip away.” The story continues, highlighting that he began reading his bible and attending chapel services. But an injury threw a wrench in his routine. He thought it important to work on his training and recovery instead of going to chapel. This time, though, he couldn’t go through with it. He says “The chaplain came into my locker, and I said, ‘Tim, I don’t think I can make it today. I have to go get treatment.’ So the chapel started, I went to the training room, and I was overtaken with goose bumps, like, ‘Man, what’s going on?’ I walked back into that chapel room and Tim looked at me, we made eye contact, and that was the moment I knew that God was in control and I didn’t need to get treatment, and He was going to take care of me.

This year, Desmond got to play in the All-Star game. He has joined a Rangers team that is poised to make the playoffs for the second straight season and the 4th time in seven seasons.  I am excited for playoff baseball to get here.

Here are my takeaways from Desmond’s story:

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This season, Desmond played in his first career All-Star game. Looks like he’ll see the post-season, too. He is playing with God as his top priority.

1- No Time for That – Desmond grew up in a Catholic family and knew about God. But when it came to baseball, God went to the back burner. Baseball was most important in Desmond’s life. And when he turned professional, his work on his game and his physical skills became even more consuming – so much so that invitations to chapel services were declined. Eventually, Desmond would chose to follow God and make him the number one priority in his life. What I like about this story is 1- that it is a lot like my story – I grew up attending church but did not really have time on interest in living for Him. But when I came to the decision that I needed to live for Him, He was still there and ready for him. When Desmond decided to put God first and seek Him, God was ready to meet with Ian and help him grow and see God’s goodness.  He offers the same to each of us as well. No matter how often or how strongly we turn away from God and put other things ahead of Him, when we do choose to turn to Him, He is there to meet us and welcome us to Him.

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Desmond is one of a handful of current players connected to the Montreal Expos – My boyhood favorite team.

2- Workout – The Sports Spectrum article also mentions another important lesson. Desmond noted that “spending time on his physical health was vital to recovery, so was the time spent on his spiritual health in prayer and fellowship with his brothers in Christ. Trusting God in the midst of injury is a major step in spiritual maturity.” I once heard a speaker use the analogy that “faith is like a muscle – it only gets strengthened through use. If you don’t use it, it withers away” We are invited to have faith in God. That means trusting Him and His plan even if it goes against our comfort, or our ideas. But God is always faithful and when we exercise trust in Him, our faith will grow and strengthen. Lets put in the work of trusting God and let’s see how He makes all things work out for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8.23)