Last time out, I wrote my first Throwback Thursday post of the football season. Today is Modern Monday, but it is going to have a throwback feel to it as well. Today’s post is about Saints rookie Linebacker, Kaden Elliss – the 244th overall pick in last April’s draft. What’s the Throwback angle on that? Kaden is the oldest of former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Luther Elliss. The senior Elliss played 10 seasons in the NFL, all with the Lions except 2004, his final season, which he spent with the Denver Broncos. After he retired, He now serves as defensive line coach at University of Idaho.
At the University of Idaho, Kaden was a four-year starter. He played edge rusher, linebacker and tight end. The Saints picked him in the seventh round of the draft last spring impressed by his football IQ and sense for the game. But even as a great player for University of Idaho, Vandals are not frequently drafted in the NFL. Elliss was not invited to the NFL Combine. So what made Kaden Elliss stand out? Well, his workouts turned heads at the pro days at both University of Idaho, and University of Utah. Elliss was the first Vandal drafted out of Idaho in 7 years. Then there is the previously mentioned NFL pedigree and time spent in NFL locker rooms as a child, hanging out with the likes of Robert Porcher and Barry Sanders. For me, it is how outspoken he is about his faith in God.
This is something he no doubt learned at home – his father, after retirement and at one point filing for bankruptcy, founded a church in Salt Lake City and then spent 2 seasons as chaplain for the Denver Broncos. Luther says “I see a lot of turmoil and struggle that goes on internally for guys on the team and I understand it. It’s a hard life being in the NFL. Even if they have grown up in the church and know Christ, it’s hard to balance being a superstar football player as well as a man of God. Their whole lives have been based on being a football player. This is their identity and a lot of times, when that is taken away they don’t know who they are. They are lost. But if they have placed their hope in Christ, they can know that there’s something so much greater—something that lasts for eternity. Meanwhile, there’s a balance that the players need to find as they ask themselves, “How can I live out my faith while also being a part of the world?” In fact, this is one of the biggest struggles for all people.
This is great perspective gained from going through life as a Christian in the NFL himself, what a great platform to share with others and help them make good decisions about life and faith. Kaden was listening as well. He says “He went bankrupt after playing football, and honestly seeing the way he grew from that and the way he ran to his faith and then his family in that situation made me idolize him more. Obviously growing up, your dad is always your idol, but sometimes as you get older you see maybe he isn’t as great as he is, but I’d say growing up he has showed me that he is that great, and he is an awesome man. I hope to be like him one day.” “He’s really showed me how to choose character through adversity”
About his own faith, he adds “What I really want is to honor Him, my lord and savior Jesus Christ, before every game by the way I play and the passion I bring. At the end of the day, it’s to honor Jesus Christ with the platform he has given me.”
Here is my takeaway from Elliss’ story:
1- Being Like Dad – Kaden Elliss had a pro football player for a dad. As he sees his dreams of an NFL career of his own coming true, he has someone who has been through it as a role model. And he gives his father credit for showing character through the adversity that he has faced. He speaks highly of the lessons that he has learned from watching his dad go through hard things. As a son, I appreciate the lessons that I have learned from my dad. He has helped me recover from mistakes that I have made and has been a model of faith for me to follow and learn from. I am grateful for the example that God has given me in my dad.
2- Being a dad – As mentioned, I learned in my mistakes from my dad. I also have learned as a dad that I am a role model for my 4 daughters. I am far from perfect. I still make lots of mistakes. And I am challenged from the story of Luther Elliss to own my mistakes. To not hide from them, not blame others for my poor choices or play the victim when circumstances beyond my control make things difficult for me or my family. Instead, like Kaden Elliss saw in his dad, I want my kids to see a strong Godly character that shows at all times, even in the face of adversity. I pray that I will lean on God at all times, and that whether at the pinnacle of a great moment or in the valley of hardship, that my eyes will always look to God and my mouth will always speak of how amazing He is.