Fly High – Tyler Lockett – WR – Seattle Seahawks


Seattle Seahawks wide receiver and return specialist Tyler Lockett

Dick Fosbury changed the high jump forever.

In the early 1960’s a high school student changed the face of a sport forever. Dick Fosbury was struggling to clear the high jump bar as a tall 16 year old at Medford High School in Portland Oregon. He began experimenting with different jump techniques and landings since the rules of what was acceptable were fairly broad.

That experimenting birthed the technique that is now used world-wide. It is called the “Fosbury Flop”. And it lead him to World Records and Olympic Gold. Boldness is defined as “willingness to take risks and act innovatively; confidence or courage.” Fosbury demonstrated each of these traits in developing the “flop”. And his boldness changed the way high jumpers jumped.

Lockett has 10 career TDs – 1 rushing, 2 returns and 7 receiving.

As I read the articles I will share about Tyler Lockett for this post, his boldness is what stands out to me. We will see some of the bold stands he is takings in his football career and also in his Christian faith. More to come on that in a little bit, first, some background about Lockett.

Seattle drafted Lockett in the third round of the 2015 draft. He had an outstanding 4 year career at Kansas State where he was used as a receiver and return specialist. He was a two-time Big 12 Special Teams player of the year, a two-time All American and the 2011 Big 12 Offensive Rookie of the Year.  With Seattle, he was named to the 2015 All-Rookie team (at three different positions) and named to the 2016 Pro Bowl. In 2016, Lockett suffered a season ending injury when he broke his leg making a catch against the Arizona Cardinals.

In general, football requires confidence and courage – a certain amount of boldness is necessary to strap on the pads and run full speed across a field where others are trying to take you down. By Lockett’s boldness goes beyond the football field. As you can read in this article from Seattlepi.com. He is bold about his faith, sharing it via spoken word at team meetings at training camp in 2016 and now, for all to see. This is not the first time that I have written about a player’s musical endeavors (Justin Forsett, Quintin Demps and Jonathan Stewart come to mind immediately)  Here is “Fly High” – a sample of his spoken word.

Lockett, celebrating a TD, has vowed to remain a virgin until he is married.

He also has taken a bold stand in talking about some of the temptations that many face, but that seem even more overt when fame and fortune are added to the equation. Here is an article from Sports Spectrum where Lockett discusses how he is waiting until he is married before having sex.  He says I open up to my teammates about it, they all know I’m a virgin,”…”They don’t really trip. I like to talk about things that not too many people really talk about or go down in a discussion… I just want to be able to show that you can be successful and represent God at the same time…Some people wonder because I’m a Christian in the locker room: ‘How do you do that? How do you deal with that?’ It’s not something that you balance. Everybody is human. They act like everybody else is evil, and it’s not like that.”

Also, check out this brief feature done on Lockett by a Seattle TV station about his faith and participation in a church service in the Seattle Area.

Here are my takeaways from Lockett’s story:

1-  Which Lie Doesn’t Matter– I am often encouraged when I read stories like Lockett’s. The openness that he has about his faith and the stand he is making on sex. I appreciate that he is so strong in his faith, and so bold that he doesn’t care what others may say. As Christians, in today’s world, these kinds of stands are difficult to make. It seems that all beliefs and faiths are acceptable to the world at large except Christianity. To me, that is a confirmation that Jesus IS the way, the truth and the life. You see the other faiths all seem to get along and coexist. I think that it is because it doesn’t matter to Satan which of his lies you believe, just that you are not following the one true God. Jesus said in John 16.33 that in this world, we WILL have trouble, but that He wins in the end and He invites us to share in that victory. So when you are facing hardship, ridicule or mockery for your faith, take comfort in that. You are under attack because you pose a threat to the prince of this world. He is not controlling you and he wants to. Stay strong in your faith and lean on your Savior for help.

Lockett is a top-level punt and kick returner.. He encourages everyone to “Fly High” and pursue the dreams God puts in their hearts.

2- Fly High –  Lockett’s spoken word poem was great. It is really encouraging as well, that when times get hard, God is with us. He wants to use us, and the things – good and bad – that happen in our life, to point others to Him.  He says “You ain’t gotta be rich just to be happy, you could still be broke. If you’re lost, but still alive, then you can still find hope. But don’t live to survive, you got to learn how to fly…”  With God on our side, the possibilities are endless. God can use us in many ways, He can lead us on incredible adventures beyond our wildest imaginations, and He will collect us in our moments of brokenness and help us soar again. What is your dream? What amazing adventure lies ahead of you on the path He has laid out? Step out boldly and Fly High!

Leadership – Brett Hundley – QB – Green Bay Packers


Packers QB Brett Hundley makes his first career start against the New Orleans Saints earlier this season

It is time for the “necessary evil”. My annual blog post about a member of the Green Bay Packers. And having just spent a wonderful holiday with my Vikings-loving in-laws, I know that this will be a touchy one, but it helps that the Vikings are rolling and the Packers are struggling this year, largely due to Aaron Rodgers being out with an injury (sustained against the Vikings). You see when he came out of the game, his replacement was Brett Hundley, in his 3rd season out of UCLA.

And while Hundley has struggled a little in the NFL, so far, he has 2 TD passes and 7 interceptions and the Packers have gone 1-3 in his 4 starts, but he has an opportunity to learn the NFL game on the fly.  He will have a chance to grow in his leadership at this level. And leadership is a word that defined Hundley over and over again at UCLA.  Starting with this article about leadership from Brian Dodd, we read 7 leadership lessons learned from Hundley. Here are the 7 marks a leadership:

Hundley was a 3 year starter at UCLA, and was known for his leadership

A great leader…

  • Asks Great Questions 
  • Deals With High Expectations 
  • Never Takes Shortcuts 
  • Changes The Organization’s Culture 
  • Puts In The Proper Amount Of Preparation 
  • Develops Great Intelligence 
  • Offers Solutions

Not a bad list considering the teacher was a college freshman. It speaks volumes about the natural leadership skills that Hundley has, and while leadership skills don’t necessarily translate to Hall of Fame credentials, it is a good set of skills to carry through this life.

Hundley is 1-3 in his starts this year. He is hoping to keep the Packers season hopes alive

Another key piece to Hundley’s leadership is his faith in God. You can read in this excerpt from the book Playing with Purpose by Mike Yorkey, Hundley as a freshman, met with UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin (who was also a Green Bay draft pick) for Bible study and prayer. Word about these meetings spread and “by the middle of the season, more than twenty players met regularly for prayer and Bible Study.”

He also knows that leadership is something that only comes through God’s help. Another example of his leadership mindset can be found in this article from the LA Times.  Here we read about how Hundley, when named the starter at UCLA, set up a conference call to his home church so he could ask the congregation for prayer.  He said “I wanted them to pray for humility and health… I know this can all be gone in an instant.”

He knows that health issues can derail promise. He has seen it with his sister. He says “I play for her… I play because her seizures stopped her from running track, and she was faster than anything. Sometimes I think she can live vicariously through me.”  

Here are my takeaways from Hundley’s story:

Hundley is the starting QB in Green bay after Rodgers (12) was injured earlier this year.

1 – Being a leader – Leadership is one of those funny words that we hear at conferences and read about in books. What makes a great leader? The list above contains some great pieces when we consider effective leadership. It makes sense for a team quarterback to be a leader, but in some ways, we all get asked to lead in some capacity. Where is God asking you to show leadership? Which of the areas mentioned above are you strongest in? Where do you need the most work? For me, I can tend to look for shortcuts, but only when I think I have found one do I realize that I need to make sure I put in the proper preparation. Shortcuts don’t seem to pay off for me. But mostly, I’ve learned that the key to effective leadership is humility. I like that Hundley asked for prayer that he would stay healthy AND humble. My prayer is that God would continually remind me of His work in and around my life and that I would also learn to remain humble,  remembering that all that I have and all that I am able to accomplish is only done through His grace and leadership.

2- Following God attracts people – Hundley, newly named starter at UCLA, connected with another older student for prayer and bible study.  Word spread and the group grew and grew.  It wasn’t a conscious effort to evangelize the team, it wasn’t a church outreach, it was simply a couple guys, knowing the importance God needed to hold in their lives and in their football careers that met to challenge each other and grow in God. And people were drawn to that. How can you allow God into your daily and weekly life? What are some ways where you can be genuine in your desire to know God better? Are you willing to give God that place of importance in your daily world and be open to sharing God with others.

What Can We Do? – Trey Burton – TE – Philadelphia Eagles


Philadelphia Eagles TE Trey Burton celebrates a TD against the Broncos earlier this season.

When I was a young boy, I hated public speaking.  It terrified me. Every year, we would have to do a speech in English class and every year, I dreaded the thought of getting up in front of my class and speaking. When I briefly considered a career as a broadcaster, fear of public speaking seemed debilitating. And while God had different plans for me – I didn’t ever become a broadcaster, He did work on my fear by putting me in front of groups of people, often. In fact, after years of teaching Sunday School, speaking at Summer Camps and even leading staff meetings, I find that what used to make me uncomfortable now energizes me. When God challenges our comfort zones, He also shows up to help us.

Burton, QB Carson Wentz and the Eagles have the best record in the NFL through 10 weeks. They also share a bond of faith in God

Trey Burton doesn’t like public speaking either. But as a pro football player, he has a natural audience that are ready to listen to what he has to say. You can read about his public speaking thoughts in this article he wrote for the increase. But he knows that he has been given an opportunity to point to God’s work in his life.  He says “I’m not the best public speaker. In fact, I don’t like doing it at all, but I know I have to. With the platform God’s given me, I would be doing a disservice to the Kingdom if I did not proactively speak out about my faith.  I truly believe that I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in if it wasn’t for Jesus. I’m not the most talented football player, and I’m not the fastest or strongest. In fact, I can come up with a whole list of reasons why I shouldn’t be in my fourth year in the NFL but here I am. And I will not waste this opportunity.”

Burton was an undrafted free- agent signed after the 2014 draft after a college career at Florida that saw him play many positions. In his first season, he played mostly Special Teams, scoring a touchdown on a blocked punt.  His use on offense has grown each season since. He has 2 touchdown receptions already this season.

“Pastor” Burton baptizes teammate Marcus Johnson at a Hotel pool in Carolina while teammates pray and celebrate.

Off the field, he has shown leadership skills.  This article from ESPN calls Burton the team pastor.  He has baptized teammates in each of the past 2 seasons.  He also has been active in social justice issues.  Check out this Sports Spectrum story that talks about how the Eagles and Redskins used their opening week game to raise awareness and funds for International Justice Mission. He says “I have a heart for the victims of sex trafficking; I want to see justice become a reality for each and every one of them. I can’t fathom why or how individuals are being assaulted daily, forced to do things against their will. We need to continue creating awareness and coordinating events to make sure this is put to an end.”

Burton and wife Ysenia know that God’s plans for them go beyond the football field. They want to use their place to share His love with teammates and fans.

He knows that God has led his family to Philadelphia. He writes in this article for the increaseBefore this season (2016) began my wife Yesenia and I started talking and praying together about what God wanted from us this year. We prayed consistently, knowing that we have a much more important purpose in life than just football. Our faith in Christ means more to us than any type of success I may have on the field, so we wanted to commit my career and love for the game completely over to the Lord, to be used for His Kingdom…We knew that God had brought us to Philadelphia for a reason…we know God has a purpose for us here. So as we prayed this prayer, I remember God clearly telling me that every person on the Eagles would know Him this year—not that everyone would necessarily accept Him into their heart, but they would at least know who He is.

Here are my takeaways from Burton’s story:

1- What can I do? – Often, when faced with the reality of a global issue like human trafficking, we can feel helpless. We find ourselves asking “what can we do?” But that question can be another way too. Not throwing up our hands, defeated saying “What can I do – I’m just one person”. It can also be asked as a call to action – I know the problem exists, and I can’t go back to unknowing it, so what can I do? How can I be part of finding solutions and changing these heartbreaking stories? This issue and question ring close to home for me. My wife is the founder and director of a non-profit that is helping people answer that very question. “What can we do?” Check out Stories Foundation to see what she is doing and what you can do to help out.

Burton (center) with Tyler Ertz and Carson Wentz pray following a game earlier this season.

2- Get Uncomfortable –  I cannot be reminded about this enough.  I have learned that when following God, life will not be comfortable, it will not be easy, it will in fact be so hard that the only way to survive and make it through is to depend on God’s presence and guidance. But following God doesn’t set us up for comfort. Abram, Noah, Joseph, Moses, The Israelites, David, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, The disciples, Mary and Joseph – each of them and countless more in the Bible turned down comfort and ease for challenge and hardship – not by choice, but as a result of the choice to put God first. The examples continue beyond the Bible too, In my own life, the easy, comfortable choice was not the way God was leading me. It is hard to give up that control and trust God’s plan – but it is the best plan to follow. Always!! Burton talked about it, and I agree. Burton says “I believe God calls us to get out of our comfort zone for a reason. It’s during these moments when God truly shows up to work powerfully and miraculously through us to expand His Kingdom. And in these circumstances we have the privilege of experiencing the powerful work of His Holy Spirit within us. Get out of your comfort zone today and experience the power of God at work in and through you.”

Enemy


In my most recent athlete post, I share the story of Giorgio Tavecchio. Part of his story included a missed field goal. The miss happened after he had made the field goal, but had committed a penalty so it didn’t count. Those missing points would have been enough for his team to win the game, and without them, they lost.

He shared that he received a lot of hateful messages on his Facebook page. His response? Pray for each of those who sent him the message. This was a great representation of todays “tangible truth”.  In Matthew 5, there is a wealth of teaching for us to wrap our heads around, and in verse 44, Jesus says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I looked up the definition of persecute and here is what I found. “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; relentless subjection to annoyance or suffering”  That goes against our instincts and in many cases, our sense of justice. We were wronged, we were hurt, we should be able to hold their actions against them.

But one time, a few years ago, as I read this passage something shocking dawned on me. Sometimes, I am the enemy. Sometimes my words are injurious, my actions harassing, or at least relentlessly annoying. I am the youngest of 3 brothers, I am sure they would support me in this claim.

There is a well known verse later in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7.12). It says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them”. In Luke’s account of this passage, (chapter 6.27-31) they all come together. When I am mean, oppressive, hurtful to others- when I am their enemy, how would I want them to treat me?  Do I want them to hate me back, carry a grudge and wish mean, harmful things to happen to me? Or do I want them to love me, pray for me, go against what I deserve from them and be shown grace? Definitely option number 2. So with that in mind, how then should I treat those that are oppressing, hurting or insulting me? With love, grace, prayer and forgiveness.

And if we need an example of what that looks like, consider what Paul wrote in Romans 5.8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We were enemies of God. We were against Him, living in outright rebellion. That is when he went to the cross so we could be shown love and forgiveness.  In Psalm 103.12, we read that the Lord has taken our sins “farther than the East is from the West”.  Why East and West instead of North and South? well, there is a North and South Pole. There is a finite distance between those two points. There is a point that you can reach where you are as North as you can go.  No point like that exists when you look at East and West. If I were to get in an airplane and fly east until I reached the end, I would never get there. I can always go East. It is an immeasurable distance and God says our sins are taken away farther than that! He loved his enemies. He showed love, grace and forgiveness to the very ones that were sentencing him to death. (I’m not picking on the Jews in Israel at this moment, I’m talking about every sinner that has ever lived!) And He calls us to do the same, to show undeserved love and grace to those who oppress us. And when we see what that looks like modeled in our own forgiveness, we are challenged to do the same. God please help us to lean on your presence in our life to carry this out!

 

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.