Christians in the NFL – Lessons Learned from Troy Polamalu- Pittsburgh Steelers

This is the second installment in my series on Christian football players.  Today, I turn the focus on one of my absolute favorite players – Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

I grew up in Canada, and as such, I was always a hockey fan.  I loved the speed of the game, and the constant action.  I am not a big guy by any stretch, but I also like the physical nature of hockey – a well delivered (legal) body check is a thing of beauty.  I now live in the US, and hockey is not as popular here, but NFL football is huge and I like it a lot too.  Troy Polamalu is one of my favorite players because, as I have told some friends, he plays football like a hockey player.  He is a vicious hitter, quick to close in on an opponent and stop their forward progress with a jarring hit.  He is strong, compact and an elite player.

So it is such a contrast to see Polamalu interviewed off the field. He is a such a soft-spoken guy, giving barely a hint of the power and toughness with which he plays the game on the field.  He is a man who is passionate about all aspects of life, from football to family, to his relationship with God.  Check out his testimony from this CBN video. And you can read a story that goes with it here

The things that I really took away from this video are:

1- Humility is important.  He talks about serving his wife and son, serving his teammates and coaches.  This is a great reminder of how as followers of Christ, we are called to serve others – to put their wishes and desires first and consider them ahead of our self.
Unfortunately, so often in sports and in other areas of life, we see people who are told that everything revolves around them and they have come to believe that it is true.  They look out for themselves, getting their stats up so they can get a big contract. They are not being willing to change their roles to help the team.  They live an irresponsible lifestyle that affects their game, and by extension their teammates.  How cool to see a player truly put others first.

2- It isn’t all about football.  There is no doubt that Polamalu is passionate about playing the game of football.  But we hear him say that he desires to live with the same passion for his wife and family, and following God.  I am reminded of Colossians 3.  Two times in this chapter, we are instructed “whatever you do, do it for the Lord.  I know that I tend to remember this when I am doing things that I see as really important like serving at church, and working at my job. But I often stop too soon.  The passage says “in whatever you do, word or deed”…  That means when I am talking to friends, when I am parenting my children, when I am having a bad day and feel frustration and anger begin to come in.  That is when I need to remember that if I am professing faith in God, my words and my deeds need to always reflect God.  It is also a challenge to read the part that says “work at it with all your heart”.  Sometimes it is easier to coast.  Most of the time it is easier to coast.  But that is also not a good representation of God.  So even when it is hard, and I am tired, and I don’t think that what I am doing matters much in the grand scheme of things, I still misrepresent God if I don’t act wholeheartedly.

3- Deal with temptation. Polamalu also reminds me in the interview that resisting temptations seems like it would be easy enough.  Like he says, we don’t go around looking for ways to sin.  It is the little things – the little compromises that we make to the standards that God has.  Those little rationalizations and justifications we make so we feel okay about the decisions that we make and then all of a sudden, we find ourselves in a place where we have crossed over the line and are acting in a way that we know is wrong.  And we can’t even believe that we are doing it, because it “snuck up on us” through little lies and deceptions that Satan has convinced us are fine.  We need to guard against that.  I heard someone say once that the way to guard against deception is to get familiar with truth.  Tellers at a bank don’t study all the differences that counterfeiters may use, they just get so familiar with the real thing that if a fake comes along, they think “Wait, there is something wrong with that”.

As I looked into Polamalu’s story, these thoughts came to me.  Hopefully, as I put my thoughts into words, they challenge us all to serve God whole heartedly and put Him first in all we do.

Christians in the NFL – Lessons Learned from Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals

When I decided to start this blog, I decided to base the name for the blog on my last name.  It is at the same time pretty cool and very challenging to know that my name “Page” means “servant”.  As a follower of Christ, I must check myself constantly to see if I am living up to my name – am I living in service to the King of Kings.  Or am I serving myself and trying to make it all about me.

I am not alone in this struggle.  We all desire recognition, we like our name to be known, and people will go to great lengths to carve out a place for themselves and capture whatever fleeting moments of fame that they can.  
William Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night 
 “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”  
There is a lot of truth in these words. Some people are born with natural gifts that carry them to the top.  Some work hard and overcome great odds to “make it” and some, through a perfect storm of outside circumstances, have fame and renown land on their shoulders.
Ultimately,  we all desire to “make a name for ourselves”.  
Being a Christ-follower does not mean that we stop trying to carve our niche.  There are countless Christian professionals in all walks of life that try and labor as hard as anyone to reach the top of their profession.  The difference is not in the trying, it is in what you learn from the lessons along the way, and the motivations behind the life we live.  What will the legacy of our life be? Will it be a life lived to honor ourselves, or is it a life lived to honor God?

I came across Dallas Morning News story about Andy Dalton, rookie quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals.  He was a stand-out college QB at Texas Christian University, setting records for passing yards, TD’s and wins. He established quite a football legacy.  
I have never spoken with Dalton, but from what I have discovered through reading articles, I expect that the legacy that he is more glad to leave behind is the one that points others to Jesus Christ.  
You see, last spring, right about the time he was going through final preparations for the NFL draft,  he and a group of 10 others sensed a need for TCU students to have a place where they could experience God.  So they began a ministry called “Ignite“.  It would be a place where students could gather together and worship God as one body.  The first meeting was set up for April 5th, at 9:00pm.  400 people showed up, and the numbers have grown since.  Check out the video below to learn more.  

Dalton was a successful college football player.  Will his skills translate to success in the pros?  Time will tell. I, for one, hope that he is very successful if only for the reason that it will give him opportunities to tell a large audience what God is doing in his life.  In the long run, Dalton’s eyes and heart seem to be focused on the Kingdom of God and sharing the truth about Jesus Christ. May that name always be the name that Dalton seeks to make known above all else!

NHL draft special

I am going to take a brief brake from my series on Christian Baseball players and celebrate the end of the hockey season and the start of the off season.  First of all, congratulations to my favorite team – the Boston Bruins – in winning their first Stanley Cup in my lifetime.  I found the series exciting and the results were my wildest hockey dreams coming true.  Entertaining stuff!

And that ushers in the start of the off season.  When  I was younger, and had greater access to hockey in general (It is, after all one of Canada’s national sports) I would follow the up and coming players with great interest and so when the draft arrived, I would settle in and watch it with deep routed interest, much like what happens with the NFL draft here in the USA.  I knew the players, and had some idea about their game and so I knew who I hoped would go to teams I liked, and what my favorite teams needed to improve. (I studied this a lot because, as mentioned, my favorite team ALWAYS needed to improve – they were never the best until this past season).

Unfortunately, as a grown up, I need to focus attention on other things, and it isn’t as easy to find hockey coverage here in the US, especially the Canadian Junior Leagues – the main feeder of Canadian players to the NHL)
But as the draft approached last weekend, I was watching with great interest where 1 player in particular would wind up.

Rocco Grimaldi

His name is Rocco Grimaldi.  He was drafted by the Florida Panthers, and he is an outspoken Christ follower.  He is very active in social media and is always ready and willing to share his faith and what God is teaching him.
Of the 4 major sports in North America, hockey seems to have fewer people who boldly claim a relationship with God.  So when I learn of Christians in hockey, I appreciate that they are in a vast mission field and I hope and pray that they have plenty of opportunities to speak out about their faith in God to fans, teammates, and whoever else is around to listen.

Read this article from Yahoo Sports for more about Grimaldi and his faith.

Tim Tebow

One of the questions the article asks is “did his faith cause some teams to stay away from him?”  I have heard similar thoughts about Tim Tebow, an outspoken Christ follower who plays quarterback for the NFL’s Denver Broncos.  His new book has just been released and I look forward to reading more about his story.

Tebow’s New Book
But as for being bold in our faith, the temptation may be to stay quiet and keep one’s faith inside.  I know that this is not just a temptation that professional athletes face, but a temptation that we all face.  No one likes to be made fun of. No one likes to be looked at as weird or annoying.  We all like to be liked, and to be popular.  But is that what really matters?  What is more important?  Is having people like us the most  important thing? Is it important even if they don’t consider the God we believe in to be important? Or is it more important to represent our God and stand up for our belief in him, regardless of what others may say or think?

We don’t face much in the way of persecution for our beliefs at this stage of history.  Ridicule seems to be as bad as it gets.  So what should we do?  The Bible also tells us that if we are silent, even the rocks will cry out to the glory of God.  If God’s glory is so evident and powerful that even rocks will cry out, then I think we can be confident that  He’s got our back if we boldly claim faith in him to the masses, whoever they may be.  And whatever they may think.

So welcome to the NHL Rocco.  I am already a fan of yours for what I’ve seen/read/learned about you.

Stay bold and keep the faith!

Draft Day Special – Prince Amukamara

Well, it is draft day in the NFL and it is kind of a funny one.  The NFL is in the midst of a labor issue, and so the feeling around NFL draft day doesn’t bring the same level of excitement that it normally does. It is still grabbing a lot of attention because it is fun to think/talk/debate something in the NFL other than the off-the-field battle that the league and it’s players are fighting through.

One thing I’ll be watching with interest is to see where Prince Amukamara, the excellent DB from the Nebraska Cornhuskers, will be plying his trade at a professional level. He is vocal about his faith, and I am excited to see how God will use him as a pro and with all the opportunities he will have to shine his light at in the pro football world.

Prince Amukamara is an actual prince in the tribal village his family is from in Nigeria.  He is also a child of the King of Kings.
But it is his humility that speaks a lot about his character.  He came to Nebraska expecting to be a running back.  The coaches almost immediately wanted to change his position to defensive back.  It isn’t easy to change all that you have been doing and take on a new position, but he was willing to make the change.  He was willing to accept the coaches desires,  and be coachable to be the best he could be.
There is a lesson in that for us to.  Sometimes it involves being corrected in our behavior, sometimes it is about our unseen potential.  The coach saw something amazing in Prince, and gave him a choice.  He was willing to work hard and make the adjustments for the good of the team and for the opportunity to be the best player he could be.
Read the Nebraska FCA article here.

When God wants to change something in our lives, we have a choice to make.  He may move us into a new situation that we weren’t expecting and it may even be uncomfortable.  What will we do?  Resist it? Walk away from it?  or trust that He has an amazing plan in place, and just needs us to be obedient.  Prince Amukamara faced a decision in college, and he trusted his coaches, changed his position and tonight, he will be a first round draft pick in the NFL.  Don’t miss the fact that he had to work and work to develop into the player he is now, even after the change, but also see that he was willing to trust his coaches and make this change, and it is paying off big time (figuratively, and literally).

Prince,  I am cheering you on as you step into this next stage of life.  Keep being humble, coachable and focussed on the coaching of the King of Kings.