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.
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.
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:
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!