As I have said many times on these electronic pages, I live in the Twin Cities. Over the past year, there has been a lot of attention as far as football goes, to the job of the place kicker. Blair Walsh, who had been carrying out the duties for the Vikings for the past 5 seasons lost his job earlier this year due to several missed field goals and extra points. The most glaring miss was in the playoffs last season against the Seattle Seahawks. If he made the kick, Vikings pull off the upset and end Seattle’s season, but as the joke goes, “Everything went right in that game for the Vikings, except the kick – it went left”. Walsh missed a short field goal and the sad bitterness of another season-ending-too-quickly settled in the Twin Cities metro. And when Walsh struggled at the start of this season, the patience was short. He was released and replaced by Kai Forbath.
Inconsistency is death to a place kicker. But there is more to a “simple” field goal than kicking the ball between the yellow uprights set up on the back line of the end zone. It takes leg power, foot angle, aim and precision to kick a funny shaped ball that far in general, but let’s remember the other pieces that need to be in place for a successful kick to happen. A good snap, caught by the holder who then gets the ball in place, at the right angle, with the laces away from the kicker. It is a complex chain of events made to look simple and expected to be successful each time.
Today, we look at a player whose job it is to start that whole process. Meet Baltimore Ravens Long Snapper Morgan Cox. Cox is in his 7th NFL season all spent with the Ravens. He was signed, undrafted after playing college ball for Tennessee and in 2013, was a member of the Super Bowl Champion Ravens team. Last year, Cox played in his first Pro Bowl.
Cox understands the thankless role that he plays as a long-snapper. In this article from the Baptist Press, Cox says “I know that I’m doing my job if nobody really knows my name. You kind of have to have the personality for that — being OK with staying in the background and watching your kicker succeed and being happy for him.” In this interview with cover32.com, Cox talks about the highs and lows that life brings. The key to dealing with those highs and lows is consistency. He says “And for me it crosses over so easily. At my position, consistency is so key, and I try to cross that over as a principle of life, just being consistent when I go through things.”
In both of the above articles he shares the importance God plays in helping him stay consistent and cheering on his teammates.
Here are my takeaways from Cox’ story:
1- Consistency is the key – The definition of consistency according to wordcentral.com is “sticking with one way of thinking or acting“. This means striving to do the same thing the same way each time. That is important for a long snapper. The snaps he gives need to be in the same place at the same time with the same rotation, etc. It needs to be predictable so that the holder and the kicker can carry out their duties. To be successful, consistency is important. He says as much for life off the field, and it hold true for us as well. To be successful in living for Christ and pointing others toward Him, consistency is also important. Consistently connecting with God through reading and studying his word. Consistency in depending on Him to guide us through life. I know that I struggle to stay consistent in these things, but when I do find a measure of consistency, the connection I feel with God is much stronger. And I also want to be clear that God is always consistent. Any breaks comes from my end of the relationship. Which leads to my next takeaway
2- Nowhere to hide – When all goes well for a long-snapper, no one knows his name or gives him much thought. When the long-snapper messes up, everyone knows it and is ready to tear him apart for his failures. There is nowhere to hide. There is no way to cover up the mistake. The same is true for our sin. No matter how hard we try to cover it up, or how much we convince ourselves that we are hiding it well, our sin is on display for God to see, maybe others, too. But all that matters is that God, who sees our sinfulness and our shame still loves us, still values us and still offers us forgiveness. And while there is nowhere to hide, there is a place where rest and restoration can occur. In the loving arms of the Jesus who took our place and paid our price. So let’s stop trying to hide, acknowledge that we are responsible for our mess ups and gladly embrace the gift of life and forgiveness that He offers. What a joy to consider! What a treasure that can be ours!
3- Cheering others on – The articles talk about the thankless job that Cox does for the Ravens. He talks about the joy he gets in seeing others (his punter or kicker) being successful. He knows that if he does his job, it sets others up to be successful. This is a good lesson to take with us in our Christian life, too. We can cheer others on, we can do whatever it takes to set them up for success. By this I mean we can point others to God and to the work that He may be calling them to do. And as they accept Him and the role He has for them, we can cheer them on and encourage them in following Him.