Life on the Line – John Hannah G New England Patriots

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Patriots Hall Of Fame Offensive Lineman John Hannah

Last season, I started doing some throwback Thursday posts on historical NFL players. I really enjoyed looking into the stories of these players and how God used them and has been using them since the end of their careers. It is time to start the same series for this year and I will since New England is hosting tonights game, it seemed like a good place to start for the throwback Thursday series.

So tonight, we look at one of the greatest members in Patriots history (#2 on a bleacher report list). His list of accolades are impressive. In his 13 year career, he was a 10 time All-Pro, 9 time Pro-Bowl-er, 4 time Offensive Lineman of the Year.  He was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, as well as the All-Decade team for the 70s and 80s.  He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991 and has had his #73 jersey retired by the Patriots. In all, it is a very impressive list of accomplishments, one that would make anyone proud. However, as you can read in this article from sbNation.com when reflecting on his accomplished career, he says he would have changed one thing. “I’m glad I played… The difference is why I played football. That’s the key. The motivation was basically to glorify myself. I wish I had played realizing that I wanted to give the glory to God.

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Hannah wrote about his play and his coming to faith in God in his book “Offensive Conduct”

Hannah shares his thoughts and stories from his career in a book he co-wrote. Offensive Conduct : My Life on the Line.  According to Amazon, the book talks about Hannah “Reflecting on how his mind-set proved detrimental beyond his playing days—leading to the breakup of his first marriage, his estrangement from his children, and an egomaniacal approach in the business world, and he shares how he ultimately found God.

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Hannah was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991

At the close of his Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech, Hannah said “One other person that I can’t leave out that I met when I was playing football and that was my God and my Savior. And I want to make sure I haven’t forgot any of his benefits because he pardons all my wrongs, he heals are my diseases, he crowns my life with loving kindness and compassion, he satisfies my desires with good things and my strength is always renewed. Yes I thank God for football, for giving me the talent to play the greatest game that was ever created. I want to thank God for all the people who he has brought into my life and the lessons they taught. I want to thank God for a family which really understands the meaning of the family and tries to live their lives accordingly.

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Hannah’s college teammate John Croyle started the Big Oak Ranch in Alabama. Hannah helped Croyle start this ministry 42 years ago.

Also, check out this story of the Big Oak Ranch and how these amazing ranches for boys and girls got their start when John Croyle, a former Alabama football player, felt called by God to start these ranches but he needed some financial help to get it off the ground. Along came a college teammate, John Hannah, who gave Croyle his first NFL signing bonus to help fund the start of the ranch. Now, 42 years later, Big Oak Ranch has expanded to 3 facilities and has helped “meet the needs of hundreds of children by giving them a solid, Christian home and a chance to fulfill God’s plan for their lives.”

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After his career, Hannah has said that his one regret was playing for himself and not to glorify God

Here are my takeaways from Hannah’s story:

1- Life on the Line – This is a great phrase with double meaning. John Hannah is a hall of famer because of his life on the offensive line for the Patriots. But despite the accolades, he says he wished he had played for a different reason. He wanted to put his life on the line in living for God. That is what he is doing now, sharing his story with fans and kids and the importance of keeping God first. How about you?  Are you willing to put your life on the line for God?  Are you willing to make him the most important part of your life and share the story of what He is doing in your life every chance you get? I know that I feel challenged to live my life on the line for Him.

2-Why God? – Why should we live for God? I love the list that Hannah mentioned in his enshrinement speech. He said “he pardons all my wrongs, he heals are my diseases, he crowns my life with loving kindness and compassion, he satisfies my desires with good things and my strength is always renewed.   Have you experienced God in these ways? If so, he is worthy of our worship and adoration. If you have not, invite him into the deepest, darkest pain and hurt that you experience in your life and see how He comes through for you. He will! He will satisfy all desires and will renew your strength.

Super Bowl Preview – Faith at the Big Game

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There are some great story lines for Super Bowl 50.  Among them, it is the eleventh time in 50 Super Bowls that the number 1 ranked team from each conference made it to the Super Bowl.

Will it be Peyton Manning’s last game? Will Denver’s defense be able to stop the Panthers offense? Will the Broncos offense be able to score against the Panthers defense. So many question that will be answered 24 hours from now.

And if you are not actively a fan of either team and wondering who to cheer for, here is a video to CBN’s video featuring some of the men in the game that profess faith and belief in God and a desire to serve Him with their life.

Featured on the video are:

From the Denver Broncos:Denver_Broncos

Peyton Manning (click his name to read the post I wrote about him 2 weeks ago)

Emmanuel Sanders

Vernon Davis (featured in a post from Super Bowl 48)

DeMarcus Ware

From the Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton

Jonathan Stewart (read my post about him here)

Graham Gano (read my post about him here)

Thomas Davis (read my post about him from 2 weeks ago here)

Brad Nortman

Michael Oher (interviewed in the CBN video from Super Bowl 47)

57327_1280x720Here are the other players playing in the game that I have featured in blogposts here at Living Up to My Name!

Broncos

Britton Colquitt

Virgil Green (he is featured in the video in this post on Colin Kaepernick)

Panthers

Jared Allen

Jerricho Cotchery

trophy1And if you want even more stories to check out about the faith lives of more players playing in the game, check out TheIncrease.com.

There you will find stories about the following players and coaches:

Broncos:

Ray Jackson former player and coach, now director of player engagement

Jordon Norwood -Wide Reciever

Luther Elliss – Former player, now the Chaplain for the Broncos

Anthony Lomando – Strength and Conditioning Coach

Panthers:

J.J. Jansen – Long Snapper

Fernando Velasco – Offensive Lineman

Thomas Davis and Charles “Peanut” Tillman – Linebacker and Cornerback

And for fun, here is some interesting trivia about Super Bowl Sunday courtesy of ABC television

Enjoy the game everyone!

Game Changer – Marcus Cannon – New England Patriots Overcome – Marcus Cannon – New England Patriots

Texas Christian offensive lineman Marcus Cannon runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

OL Marcus Cannon at the Scouting Combine in 2011.

Each year, the NFL hosts a Scouting Combine. For those who do not know what that is, each year potential draftees into the NFL are invited to Indianapolis where they are tested for speed, strength and intelligence through a series of drills and tests. Teams use this time to help evaluate incoming talent and set up their wish list for the upcoming draft.

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Cannon was drafted in the 5th round while undergoing his first cancer treatment. He continued to work hard and made his debut later that season.

In 2011, Marcus Cannon was one of the players invited to the combine after an outstanding career at Texas Christian University. One of the standard tests that they do is a physical exam. During this exam, though, the excitement of being there and the expectation of things to come were derailed. Doctors had found an abnormal masses in his abdomen. You can read about it in this article from proplayerinsiders.  The diagnosis was non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  He began chemotherapy on the first day of the NFL draft. The next day, the Patriots drafted Cannon – expected to be 1st or 2nd round pick – in the fifth round of the draft. They placed him on injured reserve and his treatment continued. Cannon would make his debut later in that 2011 season. And the season would end up back at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis where the combine took place, this time as the Patriots played the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. As you can read in this article from Profootballtalk.com, it was a year of highs and lows, bookended by these trips to Indianapolis.

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A year that went from cancer diagnosis to Media day at the SuperBowl, the 2011 season was a crazy one for Cannon

And in the midst of the pomp and circumstance of Super Bowl week, Cannon was given a great chance to share his story and how he leaned on his faith in God through the cancer. Read about it here.  The article talks about Cannon’s story says  “after a few dark days, he put his faith in God to pull him through. “God has a plan for all of us,” he said. “I think the biggest thing (he could say to anyone dealing with cancer) is to have faith, have trust in God that everything is going to be all right. If I didn’t trust in Him that everything would be all right, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Cannon finished 2011 cancer free and with a story to share about depending on God and seeing amazing things happen. Even though the Patriots did not win the Super Bowl that year, Cannon was a member of the Championship winning team from last season. He was also the Patriots winner of the 2011 Ed Block Courage award. The award is given by each team to the member of the team who demonstrates inspiration, sportsmanship and courage. It is voted on by teammates.

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Cannon in action against the Bills

Here are my takeaways from Cannon’s story.

1- When Our Plans Fall Apart, What Then?– Cannon was expected to be a high draft pick and was in Indianapolis to win over potential teams at the scouting combine. When the results of his physical came back and cancer was found, it was a low point for Cannon. After a short time, Cannon leaned on God’s strength as he set out on the road to beat cancer. Where do you turn when things seem to be coming off the rails? What hard things have happened to you in your life and can you see how God has been at work? I promise that he is there in the midst of it all and His plans are even better than ours. I know that from experience. Let’s keep our eyes on Him and trust that He will work things out for his purposes.

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Cannon and the Patriots came out on top of the league last season

2- The Platform of Miracles – Marcus Cannon spent his rookie season recovering from Cancer treatment and then earning a spot on the Patriots roster. As the season reached its final moments – Super Bowl week – Cannon was given a place to speak and many interested ears to hear his story of recovery and courage. There he was quick to share his faith in God as the reason that he was there and had overcome cancer. I believe that God is still in the business of miracles and in the business of amazing timing. It reassures me that He is in complete control. Let’s be bold and share about the miracles that God has done in our lives and let’s share about them on whatever platform He puts us on.

Assurance – Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Peyton Manning

One of the Best Ever – Broncos QB Peyton Manning

I am not very musical but I do very much appreciate music. When it comes to church music, I enjoy a wide range of tunes and styles. There is something to be said about the old hymns that the church has been singing for generations.  One of the ones I remember most from my youth was written by Fanny Crosby. It is called “Blessed Assurance”. Here is the lyric for this song.

  1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
    Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
    Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
    Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

    • Refrain:
      This is my story, this is my song,
      Praising my Savior all the day long;
      This is my story, this is my song,
      Praising my Savior all the day long.
  2. Perfect submission, perfect delight,
    Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
    Angels, descending, bring from above
    Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
  3. Perfect submission, all is at rest,
    I in my Savior am happy and blest,
    Watching and waiting, looking above,
    Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
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Manning in Nationwide Commercial

Peyton Manning will be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee shortly after his retirement from football.  He has been considered one of the best of his generation if not one of the best ever since being drafted number 1 overall by the Colts in 1998. These days Peyton is known for his commercials a well as his play on the field.

Now as hard as I’ve tried, I can’t make the “Nationwide is on your Side” jingle fit those words, but the words of that hymn came to my mind when I read a couple excerpts from the book Manning co-authored by Peyton and his father, Archie.

Referenced in this Guideposts article, Manning writes

My faith has been number one since I was 13 years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: ‘If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you’d go to heaven?’” Manning writes in his book “Manning.”

“My heart was pounding,” he writes. “The minister invited those who would like that assurance through Jesus Christ to raise their hands, and I did. Then he invited us to come forward, to take a stand, and my heart really started pounding. And from where we sat, it looked like a mile to the front.

“But I got up and did it. I committed my life to Christ, and that faith has been the most important to me ever since.”

He goes on to sayMy faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago…I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you’re committed to God in that way.”

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 12: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos calls a play during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 12, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Manning talks about the decision he made to accept Christ as Savior when he was 13 years old

Here are my takeaways from Manning’s story:

1- Blessed Assurance –  The life that we live is filled with uncertainty. Things can come up out of nowhere and leave our lives filled with hardships and trials. But when we choose to live for Christ and make Him Lord of our Life, we can have assurance that we will spend eternity with Christ in Heaven. We will be with Him forever and have the joy of worshipping Him, knowing Him and experiencing no more tears, heartache, sorrow or pain. The pastor at the service where Manning made this decision asked the important question for all of us. If we die, do we know for certain that we will go to heaven. Do you believe that Jesus came to die for our sins and defeat death through his resurrection? Have you decided to make him the most important part of your life? If so, you too can rest assured that you will be with Him forever. If not, then I invite you to consider the truth of the Bible and ask God to show Himself to you. He is real, and He has made a way for our sins to be dealt with so we could join Him for eternity. What a Blessed Assurance this is!

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Manning knows that he is far from perfect, but his perfect God has forgiven him, and offers the same for each of us.

2- Not Perfect, Just Forgiven – When we make Jesus Lord of our Life, we are not instantly made perfect. We will still sin and hurt people and act selfishly and turn away from His best path for us. But we know that He is with us and will guide us when we ask Him. In Matthew 5.48, Jesus has just taught us to love our enemies. He finishes this thought by telling us to “be perfect as He is perfect”.  How can we do that when we are so flawed? We are made perfect my following Him and being “clothed with the robes of righteousness”(Isaiah 61.10)  It is not our perfection that saves us, it is Christ’s perfection that saves us. And He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion in the Day of Christ Jesus” We are a work in progress, but His righteousness forgives our sins and makes us unblemished to God.

3- On Your Side – Manning these days is just as known for his Nationwide Insurance commercials as he is for his football.  The slogan for Nationwide is “Nationwide is on your side”. As I was thinking about Manning and putting this article together, that jingle stayed at or near the forefront of my mind. And as a summary for Manning’s story and how it connected with me, I was reminded again that “Jesus Christ is on my side”. It is a truth that all who follow Him can know for certain. He fights for us, he comforts us and snatches us to victory from the jaws of our defeat. May that song echo in your mind longer than the Insurance company. “Jesus Christ is On your side”

 

Wide Left – Chandler Catanzaro – Arizona Cardinals

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Chandler Catanzaro – PK – Arizona Cardinals

Imagine the scene. September 18, 2010. A redshirt freshman placekicker steps into place, ready for a chance to tie a rival team and force another overtime. The snap is great, the spot is good. The blocking is effective and the kick is true. It splits the upright but there is a flag on the play. A re-kick is needed and this time, it is wide left and the game is over. That is the story of the early part of Chandler Catanzaro’s college career. Clemson loses to Auburn who would go on to win the National Championship. Catanzaro would go on to make only 14 of 22 Field Goal attempts. Interesting note-  the QB for Auburn that day??? Cam Newton – the same Cam Newton that will lead that Panthers against the Cardinals this weekend.

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Catanzaro hit his first 17 consecutive FGs, tying a rookie record for start of career.

Fast forward to 2014. Catanzaro, who would go on to put up some great numbers in the rest of his college career (he would miss only 1 field goal in each of his final 2 seasons at Clemson) gets an invitation as an undrafted free agent to try out with the Arizona Cardinals.  There he would compete against Jay Feely who had been with the Cardinals for 4 seasons and an NFL kicker for 13 years. I blogged about Jay Feely in 2012 when he kicked for the Cardinals. Catanzaro won the job and tied a record for most successful field goals to start a career with 16.  In his 2 seasons with the Cardinals, he has made 57 of 64 career attempts and has been named Special Teams player of the Week 3 times.

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Catanzaro (foreground) misses a FG and Clemson loses to eventual National Champs Auburn in Sept. 2010 (Current Panthers QB Cam Newton is #2 in the background)

Along the journey from that first miss to success with Arizona, Catanzaro said that the miss against Auburn really rattled him and ultimately strengthened his faith in God. You can read about it in this article from the Clemson Insider.   He says “I just play for Him. (Former punter) Dawson Zimmerman put it in a great way; he says he plays for an audience of one. And that’s what I have been doing. I have been playing for God and for His glory. It’s been fun…That’s my motivation. You have to play for something bigger than yourself, especially at this level.

In this article from Christ Church Episcopal School, where Catanzaro, an alumni, was a guest chapel speaker. He went on to say “I know that God has been with me during my greatest successes and my lowest failures… there will be more ups and downs in my life, but my confidence comes from faith, knowing that God will be at my side.”

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Catanzaro (back center) was guest speaker at chapel at Christ Church Episcopal School – his alma mater

Here are my takeaways from Catanzaro’s story

1- Missing the Mark – One of the words that is translated in the Bible as sin is an archery term which means “to miss the mark” or to “miss the target”. That is each of us. We all fall short of the perfection and blamelessness that God requires. Catanzaro missed the mark with his kick and it cost his team the game. Our sin means we miss the mark at it costs us life. But God, in his graciousness, has made a way for our sins to be forgiven – not because of anything that we have done, but only because of what He has done.

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Catanzaro said that the failure to hit that FG against Auburn drove him to draw closer to God and learn to depend on Him at all times.

2- Adversity draws us closer to God – Catanzaro says about the miss against Auburn “That never really happened to me before. I took it pretty hard.” He also says “Little did I know that this adversity would bring me closer to God.” That is how it works for all of us. When things are easy, we tend to trust ourself and our own strength. We naively think that our success is because of our work or efforts. And then when we fail at something, we wonder what went wrong and what should we do to make it right. What we wind up learning, hopefully sooner than later, is that true success is depending on God in all circumstances.  What hard things are you going through in your life? How can you draw closer to God in the midst of this adversity.

3- Never be satisfied, try to get better every day – This is a motto that Catanzaro holds to, and in the sports world I believe that it is a valid mantra. But in the grand picture of life, only Christ satisfies, only He can provide all that we need. And the best way to “get better every day” is to draw closer to Him. When His Spirit is alive and active in our life, we will see His character and attributes start to show up more in our life, so I would re-write it like this – Never be satisfied with anything except Christ, He will help you be more like Him!”