Disappointment – Giorgio Tavecchio – K – Oakland Raiders

Raiders kicker Giorgio Tavecchio

Today, I get to shine the Living Up to My Name spotlight on Giorgio Tavecchio. He has had a long, winding road to the NFL where he made his regular season debut this year with the Oakland Raiders.

Born in Milan, Italy in 1990, he moved at a young age to America. He recounts in this article from raiders.com, that his family moved around quite a bit when he was growing up.  He was the kicker for his high school football team and loved it so much that he turned down a scholarship at UC Davis to walk-on as kicker at UC Berkley. He played with the Golden Bears for 4 seasons, finishing 5th on their all-time scoring list.

Tavecchio looks in disbelief at the missed field goal that would make him the target of anger and even hatred from Cal fans.

During his junior year, he and the Bears had a chance to upset No.1 ranked Oregon. He lined up a 24- yard Field Goal in the fourth quarter to take the lead and hammered it through the uprights. But he had taken a short step before the snap and was penalized for a false start. The ball was moved back 5 yards – still a makable 29 yard attempt. But he missed it to the right. Oregon held on to win the game.  Giorgio was blamed. The disappointment of a miss like this could have been enormous. But for Tavecchio, as you can read in this article from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, Tevecchio turned it into a “chance to grow.”He got hateful messages on his Facebook page. He chose to pray for those who clicked “send.“” Disappointment didn’t get the best of him. 

After many seasons of not making the regular season roster, Tavecchio got his chance this season. He hit 4 FG in his debut against the Titans.

And that was probably a good thing as there was more opportunity for disappointment that would come. Tavecchio was not invited showcase his skills at the NFL combine. So it would fall to the Cal pro day to show off his skills. Scouts would come to see all the prospective NFL players at Cal. The Vegas Review Journal recounts the Cal pro day like this “As he warmed up to punctuate the afternoon, rain fell on Berkeley. Scouts flipped up their jacket hoods. They lowered their heads to keep their faces dry. Having seen the top prospects, they left the field and retired to the parking lot…”By the time I was done with my set, maybe 45 minutes later, I had kicked probably 30 field goals, a couple kickoffs,” Tavecchio said. “There was just my team chaplain (Kevin Knox) and a couple teammates.

He was not drafted in the NFL. He went to a tryout for the San Francisco 49ers and earned an invite to training camp. He was cut before the regular season started. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers the next year and the Detroit Lions the following year, and again cut before the season started. The Raiders claimed him a couple days later, but cut him 3 days later. They would sign him in the off-season and cut him before the regular season 3 more times including this season, before bringing him back to replace an injured Sabastian Janikowski. He would finally get his chance. And on opening day this year, he hit 4 Field Goals for the Raiders, 2 of them were over 50 yards – he became the first kicker in NFL history to hit 2 50-yard-or-longer kicks in his debut. Now 8 games into his career (He plays his ninth game this evening), he is 10 of 12 in FGs and 19 of 20 in PAT. It has been a process, but Giorgio has arrived as an NFL kicker.

“When we depend on God we will never be disappointed” Tevecchio said.

Tavecchio talked about praying for the haters that sent him messages when he was in college. Part of the reason that he has been able to go through all the steps in this journey is that he has a great mindset when it comes to facing disappointment. Check out his story from Beyond the Ultimate.  He says “One of the things I’ve really embraced is dependence on God. That takes the pressure off me. Whatever happens on the field is going to happen. But if I trust in God, I will never be disappointed. What I’ve learned has made me into a better person, and I have drawn closer to God. My purpose here is not just football. I have the confidence that He can get me through things as long as I don’t trust in my own capabilities.” 

Here are my takeaways from Tavecchio’s story:

1- Pray for the Haters – In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” We see that lived out in Tavecchio’s story. It is so easy to return anger for anger and hatred for hatred. But that is not the example Jesus lived for us. Instead, he loves and pleads for those who oppose him to turn to Him.  He is not condemning, He is loving. The time for condemnation will come but until it does, He pleads and yearns for all to come to Him and know Him. I’m challenged by this response that Giorgio showed. I know that I get defensive, even if I know that I messed up and it is my fault, I will battle anyone that tries to remind me of that fact. Defensiveness is never the solution. Prayer, humility, love and respect for those who oppose us is much more beneficial and it is what Jesus calls us to.

2- Dealing with Disappointment – Tavecchio has had lots of opportunity to deal with disappointment. Missing a clutch kick that could have led to an upset, no one watching him at his pro day, not getting drafted, getting signed and cut over and over again (6 times!) It would be easy to battle against disappointment. But if we are truly trusting God and His plan, then when things don’t go the best way WE can see, it invites us to trust in God and depend on Him to work it out for us. And when He does, we start to see the depth of his plan and can have confidence that He will lead us through. Let’s let trust trump disappointment.

Do Not Fear – Jared Abbrederis – Detroit Lions WR

Lions WR Jared Abbrederis

It is construction season here in Minnesota. Yes, construction begins as soon as the snow leaves and they can get to work, but this time of year, it seems like things amp up a bit as the crews try to scramble to get as much in as possible. The result is that the routes we take to get where we are going are often slower than we want to travel and occasionally lead us in a completely different direction then we want to go. It is the story of our commute, but it is also the story of our life. Things don’t often go the most direct route. There seems to be times of waiting, unexpected detours and even the occasional fender-bender. The difference between our life (if we know Christ) and our commute is that with Jesus, when we finally get to where we are going, we see that the route we took makes the most sense and turned out to be the perfect path and timing. I don’t ever feel that way about construction traffic.

Abbrederis played college football as a walk-on at Wisconsin

Jared Abbrederis has had a long journey in football. He had success in High School as you can read in this article from whatchristianswanttoknow.com, but it didn’t translate into recruiters beating down his door to play at the college level. At Wisconsin, he went from walk-on quarterback to a top wide receiver in the Big Ten. He owns a few receiving and return records for the Badgers. He was impressive enough in college that the Green Bay Packers chose him in the 5th round of the 2014 draft. He played in 15 regular season and 2 post season games with the Packers before an injury led to his release from the team. The Lions signed him in January and he has been active for 4 games with them so far, hauling in 3 catches.

For Abbrederis, setting out on the new adventure of college was where he truly made the decision to live his life for Christ. You can read his story in his own words in this article from Beyond the Ultimate.  And in this article from the Milwaukee Journey-Sentinel, his first semester at college is described like this.

His first semester in Madison — a campus with a sterling party reputation — Abbrederis said he made decisions he regrets. Nothing too vile. He didn’t spend any nights in jail. Still, Abbrederis admits he was heading in the wrong direction. He partied too much, hung “with the wrong crowds” and felt “empty.” A huge part of someone’s life is your freshman year of college,” he said. “You leave your parents. You leave your community that you had and grow up yourself. … If I didn’t go through that, I don’t think I’d be as strong as I am today.

Here are my takeaways from Abbrederis’ story

1- Do something about it! – Abbrederis shared that he knew he was making some bad choices and was not happy with how college was going so (from the first linked article) “The second semester Jared decided to reach out. He began to participate in college age ministries through Blackhawk Church in Middleton. He also got involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Athletes in Action (AIA), and Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU). He was going somewhere almost every night.  This participation was the beginning that brought new life to his walk with the Lord.”

He saw the issues that were arising and he took action. When we chose to follow God, he allows His Spirit to come and live in us. Part of what the Holy Spirit does is put that voice inside us that triggers when we are making bad decisions. What do we do when we hear that voice suggest that we make a different choice? I know that I can be pretty good at blocking out the voice and carrying on down the path I choose. And often that leads me to a place I don’t want to go. I’m challenged by this part of Jared’s story to take action and listen to the Holy Spirit guide me away from danger and bad choices.

Abbrederis believes God led him to Detroit.

2 – Context is important. I have been learning this over and over again as I study the Bible. I read a passage that contains verses that I have known for much of my life, but to read the whole story of what is happening sometimes magnifies the lessons even more. That is the case for the featured Bible verse in this post tonight. It is a verse that Abbrederis started writing on his arms in High School and continues to reference now as a pro. The verse is Joshua 1.9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Moses has just been replaced as the leader of the Jews who left Egyptian slavery to go to the Promised Land. Along the way, there have been stumbles by the people, miracles showing God’s power and hard lessons to learn. Joshua takes over as leader, and is preparing to enter the Promised Land. There could be many things to be fearful of. “Will the people listen to Joshua and follow? Will they be ready to trust God? Will they be ready for the battles that may be ahead as they take the land from others? But God’s promise is amazing. “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God leads us all on a journey to His Promised life. There will be lots of things that could bring fear and discouragement – it is a constant battle to fight. But He is with us, He will not leave us. Wherever we go, He is there. We can trust in Him and in that promise that He will work things our for our best. Hard times lie ahead, but with God as our guide, we can face those hard times with confidence knowing that He is with us, and He has a promise that He is keeping to lead us to the place He has designed for us. Let’s Go!!

Undersized but Confident – Case Keenum -QB- Minnesota Vikings

Case Keenum – QB for the Minnesota Vikings

I am a New Orleans Saints fan living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. The Vikings first game of the 2017 season was against my beloved Saints and I heard a lot of reasons why the Vikings would beat the Saints in the opener. And many of the things Vikings fans said came true. The Saints defense was not very good, the Vikings were a team on the rise. In that opening game, Sam Bradford (who I blogged about last season) led the Vikings offense to a comfortable victory over the Saints. So comfortable in fact, that hope began to rise that this could be a special season for the Vikings.

Keenum’s time at Houston was prolific. He is the all time NCAA leader in yards, TDs and completions.

Then it was announced that Sam Bradford would not play in week 2 against the Steelers. Instead, Case Keenum – an undrafted quarterback in his 5th season out of University of Houston where he was the most prolific passer in college football history. He also sustained a torn ACL which is likely why he went undrafted. You can read about that injury and how his faith in God grew through the injury and recovery process in this article from foxsports. Throughout his rehab, he would often pray for God’s help and end his prayer with “I’m going to trust in what Your plan is for me“.

And while the path he took was not the one he would have dreamed up, God did lead him, not just to make it to the NFL but to become a starting NFL quarterback. Over the course of his 5 seasons -he has started 27 games for 3 different franchises. He has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions and despite being smaller than the prototypical NFL quarterback, he keeps getting a crack at leading a team – often due to injury or ineffectiveness of those ahead of him on the depth chart.

Keenum’s accuracy and mobility lead him to a career day against Tampa earlier this season

And with Bradford ailing, the high hopes for the Vikings season landed on Case Keenum. As you can read in this article from Sports Spectrum, he has turned in a couple of solid performances (and a couple that were not as strong). He had the best game of his career 2 week ago against the Buccaneers and came in at half time to lead the Vikings to a come from behind win against the Bears on Monday night.

Over the course of his career, he was signed as a free agent, waived, signed to the practice squad and traded.  He has been a starter, backup and even third string quarterback. He knows that if he were to base the importance of his life on the game of football, he could feel pretty low. He says “You just realize that football is fickle; it’s not going to be there all the time. Just getting my priorities straight and knowing the true reason I play the game, and that’s to give glory to God. That’s something I take pride in. It’s why I do what I do.

His faith in God and its connection to sport comes from his father who, according to this article from lubbockonline is a regional Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) director.  He also has a couple of sisters and a wife that also work for FCA. His dad, who is also a football coach had plenty of Christian Athletes around Case when he was growing up and helped him understand the importance of good character.

Here are my takeaways from Keenum’s story:

Keenum lead a come from behind win over the Bears last Monday night.

1- Confidence –  I titled my post “Undersized but confident”. Confidence is an interesting thing. It is necessary for anyone looking to make it as a pro athlete or really, in any field. There will be plenty of others doubting your ability, you don’t need to be one of them. But there is a line that you don’t want to cross going past confidence to arrogance. It is important to maintain a level of humility.  Humility is often easily found. It comes from things not going according to our plan. For Keenum, it would have been easy to tell everyone “I am the all time NCAA leader is passing yards, completions and touchdowns! It would be really good for you to have me on your team” but instead of being able to rest on those credentials, get drafted early and have a starting job handed to you, Keenum injures his knee. He goes undrafted, he sits on a practice squad, gets cut, gets traded.  His confidence is not in his own ability or in the game of football. It is in God’s plan for his life. That is something that we can strive for too. Because so much of life is beyond our control. The only thing that we CAN have confidence in is Jesus the Savior and God’s perfect plan for our life.

2- Unlikely leader– At every stop in his NFL career, Keenum has come in as the back-up plan – in some cases the third or even fourth option. And yet, at each step along the way, he has become the starter – the man with the dreams of his team and their fan base in his hands. This season is no different, and with Sam Bradford’s knee issue proving to be unpredictable and Teddy Bridgewater not quite ready to return from his own knee injury, again it is Keenum who is guiding the Viking Longboat through the season, trying to improve on last year’s 8-8 record and with the ultimate dream of playing in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. And while there is a lot in the way of that ultimate dream, Keenum has shown the ability to take leadership when given the chance.  The Bible is also full of people who were not the first thought when it came to a leader rising up, and yet they did rise up and lead effectively. I think of Moses, Gideon, and even Paul. People who battled doubt, had rough edges and still God used them to lead. What leadership is He calling you to take? Trust in His plan and lead well!

Faith at Super Bowl LI

Well, the Big Game is almost upon us. The media days are done, the game plans in place and the half-time show rehearsed. The commercials are ready to entertain and amaze us and the spectacle of Super Bowl Sunday has arrived. 12 hours from now, we will likely know the winner, the MVP, the funniest commercial and the buzz around the half-time extravaganza. For many of the players involved, playing in the Super Bowl is a dream come true. Some have realized that dream over and over again – the Patriots are making their 7th appearance over the past 15 years.

I have written blog posts about some of the players who will appear in the game.  If you are interested in checkin those out, here is the list – simply click on their names.

From the Patriots…

Devin McCourty, Marcus Cannon, Matthew Slater, Duron Harmon and Nate Solder at Super Bowl XLIX and Slater again from Super Bowl XLVI

From the Falcons…

Jacob Tamme (injured this time around)

And CBN does a great job each season of sharing stories and quotes from several of the Christian players on both teams. Here is their feature for Super Bowl 51. This year’s video features: from the Falcons: rb Davonte Freeman; DT Grady Jarrett; LB Vic Beasley; WR Taylor Gabriel; G Ben Garland

from the Patriots: G Nate Solder; S Devin McCourty; DB Duron Harmon; DE Rob Ninkovich; WR Matthew Slater

I will be sharing a couple more stories about players involved in the Super Bowl tomorrow on my facebook page  so be sure to check those stories out, too.

As for the game itself – well, it is a tough one. I know a lot have people I have talked to are hoping for the upset and that the Falcons can pull it out.  For some reason, I am not with them though. I think the Patriots will raise the trophy at the end of the Night. let’s say 27-21 Patriots. Enjoy the game everyone!

 

Modern Monday Season Finale – Tress Way (P) Washington Redskins, Matt Barkley (QB) Chicago Bears, Zach Zenner (RB) Detroit Lions and Quintin Demps (DB) Houston Texans

Bears QB Matt Barkley catches a TD pass in a wild final weekend of the NFL season.

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:

Redskins 3rd year Punter Tress Way

Tress Way – P – Washington Redskins

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.

Injuries provided an opportunity for Matt Barkley to get some time as the Bears QB this season

Matt Barkley QB Chicago Bears

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 is also outspoken about his faith in God. Even in high school, he talked about the importance of Jesus in his life. Check out the I am second video he did while he was QB at USC.

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.

Lions RB Zach Zenner scores his first career TD.

Zach Zenner – RB Detroit Lions

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.

Quintin Demps – DB – Houston Texans

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:

Quintin Demps celebrates a defensive TD

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?