Throwback Thursday -A Matter of Life and Death – Kevin Mawae – C Tennessee Titans


Former Titans center Kevin Mawae

How do you make decisions? I know that for me, I like to remain uncommitted for as long as possible as I process what is going on and figure out the best course of action. When there is a proverbial fork in the road, how long can I keep one foot on each path before I have to commit to following one way instead of another. That is my preferred method and it can drive the people around me crazy, especially if I am in a leadership position. But sometimes, I am not afforded that luxury. I need to make a choice and stick with it, regardless of what consequences that choice brings. And those consequences can be significant. Often we hear about important decisions being a “matter of life or death” But for Kevin Mawae, who finished his All-Pro career with the Tennessee Titans and thus earns the “Throwback Thursday” post ahead of tonights Titans-Jaguars game, the most important decision that he made in his life was brought on by life and death. I will explain a little later.


Throughout his career, Mawae’s teams would see more rushing yards and fewer in sacks allowed – a product of a great offensive line, anchored by Mawae.

First, about Mawae, who was a 2nd round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1994 NFL draft. He played for the Seahawks for four seasons before leaving via free agency to play for the New York Jets. With the Jets, Mawae would find stardom as a member of the line that blocked for Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin. He would also anchor the 2000 Jets offensive line that tied the NFL record for fewest sacks allowed in a season with 20. He would go on to play in 8 Pro Bowls, be named to 7 first team All-Pro lineups and be named a member of the 2000-2009 All Decade Team. He would join the Titans in 2006 and play the final 3 seasons of his career there, greatly improving their running game and lowering their sacks allowed.


Mawae was named to 8 Pro Bowl’s in his career. His final game as an NFL player was the 2008 Pro Bowl.

But like so many I have written about on this blog, Mawae had some unbearable hardships off the field. As mentioned earlier, the most important decision he made in his life was greatly influenced by death AND life. It was the death of his brother John in a car accident closely followed by the birth of his son that led Mawae to open a Bible and discover who Jesus is. You can read about it in this article from The Goal. Mawae says “Then, just before my third year in the league, my older brother John was suddenly killed in a car accident. He and I were best friends.(…) I was really crushed. Yet, about the same time, my wife Tracy was pregnant and gave birth to our son Kirkland. I couldn’t help but ask, “Why would God take a life away and then create a life?” I wasn’t angry with God, I just didn’t understand. On my own, I started reading from the Bible, starting with the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. My brother had just been baptized before he died, and in my reading I came to realize that God has a plan for everybody. We can ask why, but there are things that we’ll never know the answer to. That’s where faith comes in.”


Mawae is very open about his faith in God and sees football as a place where his voice can be heard by many

He continues saying “My questioning brought me to an understanding that what I needed was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We wanted our son to be brought up in a Godly home, so I committed my life to Christ. We know that God used John’s death and Kirkland’s birth to bring us to Himself – because He loves us.”

Mawae chose to follow God and that decision impacted not just his life and his family’s lives, but his teammates and fans, too. In this article from NY Times, we learn that Mawae sees football as a platform to share about Jesus with others. During his playing days, he would be very open about his belief in God. He says “‘I believe God puts people in places for a number of reasons. My No. 1 reason is we had three Christians on the team when I got here and it’s gone from 3 to 15 guys in our Bible study… It gives me a bigger platform to profess my faith in Christ. I take football as an opportunity to reach out to others, to show I can be a tough football player and a Christian. I feel I have a bigger influence spiritually than physically

Here are my takeaways from Mawae’s story:


Mawae is in the LSU athletics Hall of Fame. He continues to share his faith story in and around Baton Rouge.

1- Decision Making – I opened this post by talking about my own decision making process and how it can be flawed or frustrating to others (and honestly to myself sometimes). But one great thing about God is that He can show how amazing He is whether we are making good choices or not. I think of the story of Jonah in the Bible. Jonah made bad choices. He ran from God and did the exact opposite of what he knew God wanted him to do. And God was still with him and through an amazing string of events, took Jonah back to the right place and give him another chance. Was it scary, uncomfortable and/or awful for Jonah? I would imagine the answer is a resounding yes! But is it an awesome story of God’s grace and forgiveness? Absolutely. And through the story of Jonah, there are groups of secondary characters that also get to see and experience God’s power, forgiveness and mercy. (The fishermen and the people of Nineveh). Be encouraged to take a chance, commit to following God. And even if you make bad choices, God is still there and can lead you back to where He wants you.

2- You Story is Yours! Use it! – God is the author of countless amazing stories – including the one you are living right now. It is full of hard things, pain, heartbreak, bad choices and hard lessons. But it is also full of amazing things like love, grace, forgiveness and the Creator of all things actively offering guidance and challenges for us to follow. Don’t be afraid of your story. Don’t be afraid of your past or what you’ve been through. But don’t let that be the focus either. Instead, focus on the God who has been with you through it all, and has a plan to use your story to draw others to Him. We saw it with Mawae’s brother playing a role in leading Kevin to choose to follow God, and we see it in Kevin’s story as he shares so openly the importance God plays in his life. How can God use you and your story for His purposes. Let His path for you be the path you choose to follow!

Cannot Stay Silent – Justin Simmons – S- Denver Broncos


Justin Simmons was drafted by the Broncos in the 3rd round last spring

Last season, the Denver Broncos turned an amazing defense into a Super Bowl Championship. They had future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning under center, sure, but it was the defense that led this team to victory after victory and ultimately the Super Bowl. So then it must be exciting for a defensive player to be drafted by an elite defense. It would be great to join a top defense, but there may be somebody ahead of you on the depth chart that you will have to wait for or overtake to get a chance to play. The best you can do is try to impress and earn a shot.  That is what Justin Simmons did. He impressed, was drafted by a top defense and hoped to earn a chance to play some. As you can read in this article from Mile High Report, Simmons ranked tops in vertical and broad jump at the combine.  And while the starter for the Broncos return from last year, the thought at the start of the season was that Simmons would have add a lot to the defense, too.


Simmons posted top results at the combine in broad jump and vertical jump.

Simmons played outstanding defense in college too. With Boston College, he finished his career there with 9 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and over 200 tackles.  But Simmons had an impact on more that just the field during his time at BC. You can read this article from about how Simmons arrived in Boston from Florida and the transition to college was not easy. He said “It was tough because I didn’t play; I was getting knocked around on the scout team and school was hard… Everything about that time period was absolutely difficult. And that’s when I really needed to dig deep with my relationship with God and find it again.”  He had been a regular at church and bible study growing up in Florida. But with college, something was missing. That is when he, along with teammate decided they wanted to start an Athletes in Action group on campus. They worked through the campus ministries to get an AIA group started and recognized by the school.  Simmons continues “I think I just needed to step back and say, ‘Why did I even come here in the first place? Why did I even play sports?’ I wanted to glorify God’s name and everything he does, so if I quit, I’d be leaving a position that God put me in. I just had to refocus, stay patient and stay humble and have faith that good things will happen.

Aug 11, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Jacquizz Rodgers (35) is forced out of bounds by Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons (31) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Now Simmons is ready to join one of the top defenses in the NFL. 

In this article from Draftwire, Simmons shares the importance of his faith and God’s plan for his life. He says “I knew God beforehand, but I really found my relationship with Him on my own during that time, and really started to grow (in my faith). It was at that point in time that I realized I really needed to lean on Him and His promise for me, and even if its not football, that there is something greater for me.I just learned to be patient and trust in His will in my life.” He continues “My faith hasn’t just changed my life, it has saved my life, and that’s why I’m so outspoken about it. I just want other people to experience what I’ve experienced.”


Here are my takeaways from Simmons story:

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 27:  Free safety Justin Simmons #31 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Los Angeles Rams at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on August 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Simmons continues to be bold about his faith in God

1- Cannot Stay Silent – I really like the book of Acts. It is so encouraging to see how to early church grew and how that foundation is what the church today is built on. I am challenged by the boldness of Peter and John who after seeing Jesus killed and then encountering the risen Jesus, knew that He was the promised Messiah. They would share that message for the rest of their lives, regardless of the consequences that it may bring. Their boldness led them to be brought before the council for healing a lame man. They had been imprisoned and were being told not to tell anyone else about Jesus. But Peter and John remain bold with their answer in verses 19-20 “But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” I see this kind of boldness in Simmons’ story, too. When he arrived in college and found the connection with God suffering a little, he took steps to create the environment where he and others could study the bible, connect with God and encourage each other.  Have you seen and experienced the goodness of God? Has meeting Him changed your life? If so, it is impossible to stay silent. He is what life is all about and sharing about Him is the mission that He has given us. Let’s be bold and proclaim His greatness to the world around us.


Justin and Taryn Simmons endured a long-distance relationship. Now married, they know God has strengthened them and brought them together.

2- Finding a great partner – On April 1, 2016, Justin Simmons married his High School sweetheart. A couple of the articles that I read talked about their relationship and the long-distance challenge he and Taryn faced when he was in Boston and she was not. This connected with me because my wife and I met at a training program that lasted from September to December. We got engaged in April and married the following December.  In the 12 months between the end of our program and our wedding day, we were in the same place for 5 months. The rest of the time, we were separated by thousands of miles and as many as 6 time zones. And that time that we had apart really forced us to work on the friendship part of our dating relationship. And it was good. It was hard, there were times when it would have been great to go on a date or hang out together with family or friends, but God used that time to build a foundation of friendship that now, almost 13 years into our marriage, continues to support and strengthen our marriage. Justin and his bride saw God’s faithfulness and grace carry them through their engagement has set them up for married life. I wish them the best and pray that God will continue to be a strong presence in their life together.

TBT – The Ultimate Reward – Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila – DE – Green Bay Packers


Former Packers Defensive End Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila

This week, “Throwback Thursday” brings me to a sort of “necessary evil”. I am stationed in Vikings Country here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and so as I aim to write about a player from each team (past or present) that means that at some point, I will need to share a positive, inspirational story about a member of the Green Bay Packers. That always seems to put a chill in the air with the die-hard fans of the “purple” that are all around. Maybe with the great season the Vikings are having, more grace will be granted as I write about a former member of the Vikings “cheesy” neighbors.  As I looked into the stories of some of the historical Packers, the faith journey of former Packers Defensive End Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila caught my attention. I am excited to share some of his story with you here.

His numbers are very impressive. He played in 1 Pro-Bowl and led the NFC in sacks in 2004. He was enshrined in the Packers Hall of Fame in 2013. But most impressive is the fact that he is the all-time Packers sack leader.

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, known in his playing career as “KGB: was born in Los Angeles, California in 1977. His parents had moved from Nigeria and were both Muslim. His mother, however, converted to Christianity shortly after arriving from Nigeria. So Kabeer was brought up in the middle of a battle of religions. As you can learn in this video from “The Increase” much of KGB’s faith and beliefs echoed his dad’s beliefs that Christians, when pressed, would not be able to give answers about God or why they believed Jesus was the Savior.


Gbaja-Biamila is the all time sack leader for the Packers

When he met with Gil Byrd, the director of player development for the Packers at the time, he posed his usual questions about Jesus to Byrd, but Byrd was able to answer them and started Gbaja-Biamila searching the Bible for more truth. You can read more about the exchange in this article from Samaritan Ministries. The truth that KGB learned was that he was a sinner and that all of a sudden, Jesus made sense. He realized that his sin made things seem hopeless at first, but the hope that Jesus brings is real. His willingness to take our place and pay the penalty is a life-changing.  Kabeer prayed, admittedly uncertain to which God he was praying, asking that he would be able to find these contradictions in the Bible. Instead, he found the truth of the Bible and decided that he would choose to accept Jesus and live life for Him.

Green Bay Packers Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila against Chicago Bears Brian Griese, John Tait at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. on Dec. 31, 2006. The Packers won 26-7. MANDATORY CREDIT:(Jay Drowns/Sporting News) DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPH

KGB spent years trying to disprove Christianity, but ultimately found that he could not do it. Instead, he accepted Jesus as Savior

And KCB grew in his faith and God has guided him to be a strong witness to his team, to the community of Green Bay and to the world at large. Check out this story from jcsuperstars where we see more of Gbaja-Biamila’s heart for serving God. He says about playing in the NFL, “I pray for protection for me and my teammates, but ultimately I wrap it up by saying that, ‘God, I just pray you’re glorified through this whole thing, and ultimately, let Your will be done. If that means losing a game, so be it. If it means winning a game, so be it. If it means being hurt, so be it.

And he practiced what he preached, too. Read about when he was demoted from starter to Pass Rush specialist in this article from jsonline, he at first was upset but ultimately he said “But because of my faith, I said this is not (general manager) Ted Thompson’s decision. This is not (coach) Mike McCarthy’s decision. I said, ‘God is in control of everything. If this is your will for me, so be it. I will do it.”

That faith and trust in God’s plan has been important in the highs and lows that life has brought along. Later in the Samaritan’s Ministries article we learn about the day when his first child was born – a day filled with joy and excitement turned into a day of sorrow and sadness hours later when Kabeer’s mother was killed in a car accident. He said “I can’t fool myself. What happened on that single day, it’s going to affect me for a long time. But I know I’m going to be able to carry on because I know that’s what my mom would want of me, and I know God is going to give me strength.

Here are my takeaways from Gbaja-Biamila’s story


For almost a decade, KGB tormented NFL quarterbacks for the Packers

1- The Search for Truth – Gbaja-Biamila sought out Christians to try and tear down their faith. He wanted to prove that their belief in God was misguided and that Christianity was not true. But when he started to read the Bible for himself, he realized that it was true and that Jesus was real and was really God. John 8.33 says that the truth will set you free. That is what happened for KGB. It can happen for each of us, too.  Give the Bible a read and ask God to show you what you can learn from it. God is enough. We don’t need special gimmicks to convince people to look to Him. He is enough. He is always relevant and his love and the truth of the gift of life that he offers is enough to win over even the coldest, hardest of hearts.

2- The Challenge is Issued –  Gbaja-Biamila says in the video and the articles that he had a “go-to” challenge where he would ask Christians where Jesus said He was God, and many could not provide that answer. It is a good challenge. Do you know enough about your faith in God and the words of the Bible to answer the questions that opponents of your faith may have for you. I am challenged to study the Bible daily and grow in my understanding of the Word so I can be ready to answer these types of questions. Interestingly enough, I am in a weekly Bible study that is studying the book of John, and just this week, a couple days before reading Gbaja-Biamila’s story, I was studying John 4, where Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. In John 4.25, the Samaritan woman says that she knows that the Messiah is coming and he will explain everything to the people. Jesus replies in verse 26 “I, the one speaking to you- I am he.”  Jesus was the Messiah, and He knew it and declared it. You can know it too, and be confident that if you ask Him to, He will reveal Himself to you.


Gbaja-Biamila was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2013. Despite the success on the Field, KGB is more excited to talk about Jesus.

3- Ultimate Reward – Gbaja-Biamila had a great career with many accolades and successes. There would be lots of reasons that he would have to brag. But that is not what KGB is all about. He says “If I’m going to be doing any bragging, I’m going to be bragging about Your Son, and what Your Son did for me.’ I’m just blessed to be a part of anything that He’s got going on.” We can get so caught up in our status or achievements which will all rust, or fade away. But what Jesus did for us, that is never ending. It will not fade away. It is the ultimate reward, mostly because it is not something we did anything to win or deserve. His gift of love and life is worth celebrating and bragging about. Let’s tell everyone what an amazing God we serve and what a great Savior Jesus is.  He offers this gift to all who would believe in Him. Let’s spread the news.


Methodical Approach – Ryan Quigley – P – Arizona Cardinals


Cardinals punter Ryan Quigley

Ryan Quigley knows punting. He excelled at it in High School and in college. Eight years of excelling on the football field but as you can read in this Sports Spectrum article, there he was, out of football for the first time in almost a decade. He had been invited as an undrafted free-agent to the Chicago Bears camp, and made the roster out of camp to start the 2012 season, but he was waived early in the season without appearing in a game.

Jul 26, 2012; Bourbonnais, IL, USA; Chicago Bears punter Ryan Quigley walks to the practice field during the opening day of training camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

Quigley was signed as a free agent by the Bears in 2012, but didn’t appear in a regular season game for them.

So what did Quigley do when life didn’t go as he hoped? He put all his effort into getting better. He had a strict workout regiment that he followed closely.  Along the way there was the ongoing debate – “‘Will I get that shot? Do I even deserve that shot?’ For me, it was all about being ready when that call comes, if it comes.”

He did work hard to keep himself ready and hoped for another chance – one that would not come for the entire season. In the midst of this year, Quigley also found a connection with God. He began attending a Bible Study with Josh McCown who had also been cut by the Bears around the same time. (and whose brother Luke, I blogged about a couple weeks ago).  So as he worked out to keep himself fit and ready, he also dived into reading his Bible and growing in his faith.  He says “I was finally able to sit back and be like, this is me right now. I’m going to try to improve my game, and try to figure out my faith…That was really where God kind of entered my life. Took away all the pressure, all the stress. Just gave me peace and security. Living in the moment, rather than thinking so far ahead into the future, knowing that He has a planI’m still trying to figure it out, and I don’t think I’ll ever figure it all out. But that’s how great God’s love and grace is, impossible to fully understand. It’s a good feeling.


Quigley signed with the Jets and spent 3 seasons with them.

His chance at football would come. The Jets signed him, taking him away from his final weeks of school before finishing his degree. You can read here about his call to the Jets and finishing his degree. He would appear in 14 games for the Jets in 2013 and played 2 more seasons with them as well.  But they didn’t bring him back after last season. He signed with the Eagles in the off-season, but was cut a month later. He signed with the Jaguars and went through training camp with them before being cut at the end of camp.

And with Drew Butler on the shelf for a few weeks Quigley has a chance to play for the Cardinals. Quigley is hoping to make the most of his chance with the Cardinals and looking to either stretch this chance longer or catch on with another team. Either way, he is trusting God to lead and confident that God is with him.

Here are my takeaways from Quigley’s story:


After off-season stints with the Jaguars and the Eagles, Quigley signed with the Cardinals at the end of September.

1- Methodical Training – Quigley was out of football for a year after the Bears cut him. He settled in Charlotte to work out and keep himself ready for another chance. But in this time, he also sought to grow in his faith in God. I love the picture of Quigley growing in his game and in his faith at the same time. I like it because faith is like a muscle.  The more you work in it, the stronger it gets. God gives us lots of chances to trust him when our plans don’t seem to be working out. As we trust him and our faith is put into action, we will see that He is faithful all the time. And our faith in Him will grow. Quigley was very methodical in his workouts and in his time spent with God. That is a challenge for each of us as well. Let’s make spending time with God a priority and allow Him to grow our faith as we see Him prove faithful

2- Impossible to Completely Understand – Quigley shared that as his faith grew, he knew that there were things about God that he didn’t understand, but that didn’t deter him. Instead, it gave him a desire to know more. We will never understand everything about God and that is comforting. If little old me could figure out God, then He would not be very impressive. But He is a mystery and works things out in His perfect way every time. And while we won’t completely understand God, it is great getting to know Him more and more and seeing the ways that He shows up in our circumstances will encourage us to keep seeking Him.

TBT – Bundle of Joy – LaDainian Tomlinson – RB- San Diego Chargers


A photo of my 4 daughters from this past summer.

For today’s post, I am going to share a little more of my family’s story and how God has been gracious to us through pain and sorrow bringing us joy and peace along the way. To do so, allow me to introduce you to the newest love of my life. Her name is Isabella Virginia Page and she was born on the 3rd of May 2016. She is our 4th daughter and in her first 5 months of life, she has brought immeasurable joy to our family. I am a proud dad, that is to be sure, and all 4 of our daughters are so special. My heart is overflowing with love for them.


Former Chargers star running back LaDainian Tomlinson

With Isabella (Ella) though, the experience of the pregnancy was different than it was with the other 3 girls. You see, in December of 2014, we learned that my wife was pregnant. We were excited for this new addition, but in March, at a routine ultrasound, we learned that the baby had died. My wife delivered our child, stillborn, the day after the ultrasound. We named the child Ilya. I had never experienced grief and heartache like that before. I shared a little about the story in this blog post this past summer. God was present and comforted us through the grief and pain. Just over a year later, He allowed us to have another baby. The experience was different this time as there were weekly ultrasounds to make sure that all OK. All of the landmark moments that a pregnancy brings (hearing the heartbeat, feeling the baby kick, seeing the baby at the ultrasound) were not moments of joy this time as much as they were moments of relief that things were OK.  Even after Ella was born, there have been panicked moments where my wife or I will feel like something has happened to her and rush to check on her, only to find out that she is sleeping peacefully and that everything is fine. We hug all our kids a little tighter, tell them we love them and are proud of them a little more frequently and enjoy time together as a family more after going through the loss of Ilya.


LaTorsha and LaDainian Tomlinson and their son Daylen

Former NFL MVP and future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson and his wife LaTorsha also had the experience of losing a baby during pregnancy. You can read here about the heartbreak they went through, and the joy that they have in the birth of their son Daylen. It is a story that again reminds us that there is more to life for pro athletes than what happens on the field. There are events and circumstances that they go through that bring pain and sadness. Tomlinson’s story is more than what we could see on the field.

Although the things that he accomplished on the field were pretty special. He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with in the first round on the 2001 draft with the number 5 overall pick. He had become a star at TCU as an All-American in 2000. He was also a 2 time WAC offensive player of the year in college. In the NFL, he was 2 time rushing leader, 5 time Pro Bowl selection, and a member of the “All-Decade team” for the 2000’s. He was a league MVP and his #21 has been retired by the Chargers. He owns or shares the NFL record for consecutive games with a TD (18); rushing TD’s in a season (28) and total offensive touchdowns in a season (31).  It was an impressive career for Tomlinson, and the expectation is that when the 2017 Hall of Fame class is announced, Tomlinson will be on the list of new inductees. Tomlinson is quick to share the important role that his relationship with Jesus plays in his life. You can read more about it in this article from CBN.


Tomlinson and Drew Brees were taken by the Chargers in the same draft.

I have long appreciated LaDainian Tomlinson. He was easy to cheer for because of his skill and his humble attitude. As I learn about this part of his story, I am an even bigger fan. When I hear about how he leans on his faith in God, then I want to share that part of the story with others, too – so that the way God has been with him in good times and hardships can encourage all of us as we battle through our own lives. In an interview with Chad Bonham, Tomlinson says “My job is to let everybody know what I stand for and to let my light shine. I want to show others the way I live so that hopefully they follow. I can also tell about my experiences as a Christian so that I may help bring others to Christ.”

Here are my takeaways from Tomlinson’s story:


Tomlinson was arguable the best running back in the league for much of his career. He holds the NFL record for touchdowns in a season.

1- Joy Exceeds Pain – The Tomlinsons’ story of heartbreak at the loss of their unborn baby is tragic and sad. It connected with me as my wife and went through that too. But as we struggled through the grief, God’s presence was strong and evident. And with the birth of Ella, the joy that we have felt from having her join our family, holding her, seeing her smile, hearing her laugh and all the other joyous moments of parenthood are so much sweeter than we could have imagined. God has given us this beautiful baby to love. The joy that she brings to us exceed the pain that we felt.The pain was real and deep-reaching, but so much more is the joy that God has granted through Ella. This is a small picture of the ultimate result of a life lived for Him.  There will be hardship, pain and heartache over and over in our time on this planet. But there is more to come – in fact the best is yet to come. We are invited to be with God in a place where there is no pain, agony, tears or sorrow. The joy that is to come far exceeds the pain that we feel here.

He is with us in the hardest of times and His presence and His love is all that we need to get us through the pains of this life. He does not answer each situation we face in the same way but He does answer in the perfect way. Trust Him and lean on Him in the midst of whatever hard things come your way.