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.


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