Christians in the NFL – Lessons Learned from Colt McCoy – Cleveland Browns

This is the third entry in my blog series on Christian Football Players.  Today’s subject – Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.
Colt was a record setting NCAA quarterback, a star in the making, a Heisman Candidate, and according to most prognosticators,  a early draft pick in the NFL.  He lived up to much of the hype, delivering the Texas Longhorns into the Championship game.  I remember watching the game and hoping that the Longhorns would walk away victorious in the game.  Then I saw a hit on McCoy, and next thing I notice, he is being escorted out of the game, off the field and into the dressing room to be evaluated.  That  was all he would play in this game.  His team would lose the championship and McCoy didn’t even get to really play in the game.
Some questions may have begun to creep in. 

Is this really how the season, and his college career was supposed to end?   How serious is his injury?  Will it affect where he is drafted?  Will he be drafted at all?  Will he play at the level he expects to at all anymore? 

Read more of the account and what was going on in his mind at this article that McCoy wrote himself.  I found it at faithinthegame. You can also read about his life in the NFL in this article from Sharing the Victory Magazine

Well, that night didn’t work out like McCoy wished,  I am sure. But he did get drafted and began his career in the NFL.  He even took over the starting job as a rookie, which was not expected, and remains at the top of their depth chart. 

A couple things that came to my mind as I looked at his story in the articles above. 

1- Faith grows through trials – I know this isn’t a deep thought, but when partnered with the idea that life is going to be hard and that “in everything you do, do as unto the Lord” that I shared in my last post,  that means in how we deal with failure and struggle, too.  I was challenged by this paragraph from the STV story.

“In a personal rock-bottom moment, experiencing deep physical and emotional pain, Colt McCoy met God where He was at work—not where McCoy thought He should be. Instead of praising Christ while holding a trophy like he’d hoped, the battered quarterback stood in front of a national TV audience in a postgame interview and told the nation, “God’s in control of my life and, if nothing else, I’m standing on the Rock.”

It is so easy to play the blame game when things go bad.  We say that this isn’t right, or thin that this can’t possibly be God’s will.  But in that moment, there wasn’t a hint of this in what he said.  He understood that this situation wasn’t more than God could handle.  He also knew that God was with Him and would be all that he needed.

2- God faithfully carried McCoy through to an NFL career.  Colt stepped in and took over the starting QB job in his rookie year.  He said
 “It was tough jumping into a huddle with guys who were older—who had families and kids. It was a challenge in and of itself telling them what play we were running and how we were going to do it, but to get on them when we weren’t doing well and praise them when we were was another thing.”
We’ve seen it before –  a young player steps into a role of leadership.  It requires great care, humility, and awareness of others, while at the same time, exuding confidence enough that others will follow your lead and buy into what you are saying. 
Timothy may have felt the same thing.  He was a young apprentice to Paul while Paul was travelling all over (when he was not in prison).  It is an inspiring story to see young Timothy grow into his leadership role and lead the churches (filled no doubt with people who were older than he) on their spiritual journey. 
But maybe, Timothy, like McCoy, found it hard to be in a position of leadership over these older men in the church.  Paul gives him great advice which is there to both encourage and challenge Timothy in his role.  1 Timothy 4.12 says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, life, love, faith and purity. 
What a call to action.  Paul is saying – God has put you in this place, and has equiped you to lead.  Stay true to what you know, remain humble, and lead confidently.  God is with you and will be glorified through your example. 

1 Timothy 4.12 is the theme verse for the 5th and 6th grade youth group I lead.  We desire to instill in these young people the confidence to be who God created them to be, and to live life for Him starting now.  Others will notice, and will be challenged to live their lives for Christ, too. 
Fifth and Sixth grade ministry is a passion of mine.  I will share more on working with this age in the future in this blog.  My hope and prayer for them is that they will grasp that living a life for Christ is a choice that they can make today, and live out for the rest of their lives.  God wants to use them to accomplish His goals.

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!

Faith in the Game!

If you have read the posts in this blog before then you know that, I was inspired to start sharing the stories of professional athletes that are Christ-followers and are living out their faith for all to see.  I have really enjoyed digging into the stories of these pro athletes and learning lessons from their lives.

If this is something that also interests you, then I want to share a great resource with you.  The web-site is called “Faith in the Game”  You can find them on facebook, too.  Search for them, it will be worth it!

It is a great site, started by former Major League catcher Ben Petrick, and writer/ high school coach Scott Brown.  Just a quick perusal of the site will find articles on players such as MLB’s Albert Pujols, Eric Chavez, Adrian Gonzalez, Clint Hurdle,  NFL’s Colt McCoy, NBA’s Mark Jackson, to name a few.  These are the stories of these men, in their own words.  Be encouraged!

And while you are at Faith in the Game, be encouraged by the story of Ben Petrick, you can also read it from the Portland Tribune story here.  He was a star catcher in the minors whose career was affected and eventually ended by Parkinson’s Disease.

He continues to live his life of faith for all to see, and is impacting lives on the web, and on the field (he is coaching high school baseball).

His is yet another story of God working through people who remain faithfully devoted to Him, even through the hard times of life.

This is a lesson that keeps surfacing in my life.  I come across people who face hard challenges and stay true to their relationship with God.

Today, at my work, I lead the chapel service, and was compelled to talk about the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as they faced Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace.  What great men of faith!
We know that God desires us to remain true to him, even in hardships of life, and they are a great example of that.  I have really enjoyed the study of faith that God has lead me on this summer.  It has helped my faith in Him and dependency on Him to grow.  Yet the words of these 3 young Israelite men still challenge me.  Facing a fiery furnace, they believed that God could deliver them, but look at these verses.  “But, even if He doesn’t we will not bow down to your statue.”
That boldness and strength of faith challenges me to live out my faith in the world I live in, and to be BOLD in my stand for Him.

So please, go find this blog, check back often, like them on facebook and pray for the sphere of their influence to grow as these men seek to impact the world for Christ.

Play Ball Trystan Magnuson!

This is the 25th installment in my series on Christian Baseball Players.  As I have been re-reading some of my earlier posts, I realized that I kind of skipped the Oakland A’s.  The focus of my post for the A’s was a guy who now plays for the Yankees.  In an effort to fix that, let’s go back to the Bay area and meet an up-and-coming pitcher – Right handed pitcher Trystan Magnuson.  I gotta bring attention to my fellow Canadians, too!

I have been leading a day camp this week  for 4th-6th graders and our theme verses are Hebrews 12.1-3.  Part of this passage talks about  and running with perseverance the race that is  marked out for us.  I’ve been thinking about the word “persevere” a lot as I’ve been preparing my lessons.  I have seen perseverance demonstrated in many of the stories that I have shared in this series, too.  Trystan Magnuson is yet another example of a young man pressing on when a door seems to be closing, only to see God work it out and give him a chance to live his dream.

Magnuson was cut from his high school baseball team on two occasions before finally sticking around when he decided to be a pitcher.  He then pitched well enough to earn a scholarship to Louisville, but was at the end of the bench on his college team.  He worked hard to improve his pitching, listened to coaches input, and turned himself into a star reliever – with a lot of practice, diligent work and persistence.  He caught enough attention that he was drafted 56th overall in the 2007 draft.  He achieved this success through his willingness to see a need for improvement and then having the desire and the stick-to-it-ive-ness to make the changes effectively.

Yet the rough times were not all finished.  His first pro season, he posted an 0-9 record – a rough start to a career.  He fought through that set back and improved greatly through the rest of his minor league career.

And through it all, he has carried great perspective on what life as a professional baseball player promises – not much as far as longevity goes, and how important it is for him to take every chance to honor God with the time that he does have in the baseball spotlight.

From the Southeast Outlook Online Newspaper article you can read here,
“I’ve been praying recently that I remember why I’m here,” Magnuson said. “Good baseball players come and go. The turnover is incredible. My purpose for baseball is for those times I’m
signing cards for fans and they ask about the verse I write down, what it means to me, what Jesus has done for me. It is for those times I get to serve my teammates. It is for those times I get
to go to speaking engagements and talk to people I’ve never met before. Maybe, just maybe, they might get the briefest glimpse of a heart that in some small way demonstrates the heart of
God, and they will praise Him because there is something different about this guy that can’t be anything other than that.”

Later on in the article, he answers this question.  
Q. What advice would you give a ballplayer who aspires to follow in your footsteps?
A. In the baseball world, it is so important to make adjustments and improve. When you stop improving, that’s when you’re on your way out. You are going to lose, but if you make adjustments to improve, you’re going to win more than you’ll lose.

This is a good lesson for our Christian walk, too.  As we fix our eyes on Christ, and live for Him, he will bring to light some things that may need to change,  so the quality of our relationship with God can improve.  I’ve heard it said that the only way to coast is downhill.  When we stop going all out for Christ, things do indeed start to go downhill.  I know that I can speak from experience that coasting in my relationship with God never goes well.  Plus, as we look at Hebrews 12.3, and think through all He went through for us, we should never consider coasting. 

Hebrews 12 talks about fixing our eyes on Christ.  When we set our purposes to align with the purposes of God for our life, He will give us opportunities to show us more about Him, and also to give others  glimpses into His heart.  Magnuson’s heart is to take this time that he has as a baseball player, brief as it may be, and impact lives for eternity.  

Let us all cast aside whatever hinders us from living our life for God’s purposes, fix our eyes on Him and press on to run the race laid out for us.

Thank you Trystan Magnuson, for your story and for emphasizing what God has been teaching me recently.  God bless you as you move forward, eyes fixed on Christ!