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A year ago I had a wonderful interview with  Tim Shaw, a linebacker for the Tennessee Titans. I recorded our conversation and also wrote down notes from it. The problem after we talked, my phone went on the berserk and I lost our conversation. So I want to apologize to Tim for this post because it doesn’t really share the full passion that Tim has for Christ in his life. This is my interview with Tim as he shared his heart with me about his faith, football and his passion for both.

Shaw was the 2001 Michigan Gatorade Player-of-the-Year while playing tailback and linebacker for coach Greg Hudkins at Clarenceville High School in Livonia, Michigan.

At the time of his graduation, he held the Michigan high school records for career rushing yards (7,611) and career touchdowns (131), records since surpassed by East Grand Rapids High School‘s Kevin Grady.

He earned 11 letters in football, basketball and track and field. He was the Michigan state 100-meter dash champion his junior year. n January 27, 2010, the USA Today announced that Shaw had made its All-Joe Team, honoring the NFL’s unsung and underrated players.

Tell me a little about yourself:

Tim: I was born in England and I still have family there. We moved to Michigan and I attended Penn State University. I attended Penn State and had the privilege to have Joe Paterno as my head coach. I chose to go to Penn State because it was different from the other colleges I visited on my recruiting trips. When I stepped on campus, the people were blue-collar and I just felt like I fit in there. He was drafted in 2007 in the 5th round by the Carolina Panthers.

Spiritual Journey In Life:

I was blessed to have a family who were very spiritual and Christ like. My grandparents set the example of Jesus who had a desire to follow God closely in their lives. That passion for Christ and to follow God was instilled in me at a young age and will be part of my life forever. Church camp and church was a big influence in my life as I started my own walk with Christ. The memories I have from them still inspire me today.

Went to college and made my own decision to go to church on Sunday mornings. No one told me I had to go to worship, I wanted to.

Who spiritually influenced you and influences you today:

My parents and grandparents influence my life spiritually. As a young person I was daily accountable for my actions and for my walk with Christ. I have had several spiritual mentors who helped me with my walk with Christ. Some of my amazing mentors are Tim McGill a chaplain who once  a week taught the bible to me and my teammates. Another guy who influenced me was Reggie Pleasant. I still meet with him today in Nashville, which is a Christ community.

The Titans have a team bible study and a chapel service the morning of every game.

Did you ever have to choose between faith and sports growing up:

I never had to choose between them because they went hand in hand with each other. I always had people around me encouraging me to give the glory to God for whatever I did in life.

Is it hard to be a Christian and play in the NFL:

There is defiantly plenty of temptations out there if you lose your focus. Like any other job it is hard to live that daily life. You can slip up by being as good as you want to be. You need to stand up to your peers and keep walking the walk.

Do your teammates know that you are a Christian:

I believe they do by the example I portray on and off the field.

How do you life your faith on the field:

The way I play at practice and in games by keeping guys in check, reading scripture, being a good teammate,showing good sportsmanship and by making an impact in their lives by encouraging them and helping out the young guys.

Are there other teammates who share your faith:

Absolutely! So far on every team I have been on there has been a solid group of guys who love Jesus. (Tim was on the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguar’s before coming to the Titans) I have some really good friends who have been good examples for me and others. Several of the Titans sever God with all their heart especially Matt Hasselbeck is a great leader and a strong believer.

Most powerful verse that has helped you with your walk:

Romans 10:9 – “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Other comments:

One story: My dream was to play in the NFL, that dream came true and I was drafted by the Panthers. I thought now I’m here  and it’s going to be great. I thought that now I can live life and get married but I was cut after my rookie season. I wasn’t picked up for 3 months and needed to trust and rely on God. It was a critical time in my life but God helped me through it and now it really worked out for me with the Titans.

He shared his heart with me during our conversation.  Tim is a godly man who shares his heart for Jesus and is very passionate about his walk with him. You can follow him on twitter or be his friend on facebook and you can see his love for Christ and for others. Tim has inspired me by his encouraging comments, thoughts and lifestyle. He is a great player for the Titans and even a greater man of God. Take some time next season to watch the Titans play and watch number 59 smile has he tackles an opposing player.

Chansi Stuckey: A Free Agent Sold To Christ

Posted: June 18, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in Interviews, NFL

(Photo Credit: Sipkin/NY Daily News)

A few months ago, I had the pleasure to talk to my first athlete from the National Football League. He was not well known across the country, but definitely was well known in the state of New York where I am from. His name is Chansi Stuckey. The former New York Jet wide receiver is currently searching for a job in the NFL, but even through his hardships, that has not stopped him from pursuing Christ and knowing that God will provide for Him.

The 28-year-old wide receiver was a 7th round pick of the New York Jets back in 2008 out of Clemson, where he was a two-time all-ACC wideout. His career in New York was short-lived due to injuries, but he did catch Mark Sanchez’s first NFL touchdown pass. He has also spent some time with the Cleveland Browns and the Arizona Cardinals over his career.

Enjoy this Q+A I had with Chansi about his faith and even Tim Tebow’s publicity of his faith is brought up in this discussion:

1. How did you come to know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

C:  I came to know the Lord in college at Clemson.  I would fall back and forth for the next 4-5 years until I made up my mind two years ago to go full tilt. I got re-baptized at that time also. 

2. Who have been the influences in your life that have helped to encourage you on your walk with Christ?

C: Reggie Hodges, who is a punter for the Cleveland Browns and Brad cooper, who is a Youth leader at Newspring church in South Carolina.

3. You have played for three NFL teams so far in your career. How have these teams helped you in your walk. What are some faith based things that you do with other teammates?

C: It is the same format everywhere I go.  It is all about just dealing with different guys because all of our struggles are different.

4. If you could pick one verse to describe your life right now, what would it be and why?
C: There’s not one because I feel like life is so evolving and changing that it just has to be the entire Bible!

5. What is your take on the Tim Tebow story? A lot of people like Kurt Warner say that he should tone it down. Where do you stand on whether religion and sports can co-exist with each other?

C: God is creator of all.  It’s no accident Tim is where he is.  Anytime you’re doing something for the Lord there will be opposition.

I spoke with Chansi again last week as we talked about what was going on with his life. He sent me this direct message that encouraged me to say that with God, we should always have confidence!

“God has something, so he has me in the active patience mode, which is a great growing experience”

In turn, I shared with him this verse from the book of Hebrews that has taught me to always be confident with the Lord on my side.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” (Hebrews 10:35)

With that in mind, I exhort you today to keep your confidence up in tough times. Even though the plan from God may not be clear from you now, you need to exercise patience because the Lord knows what is best for us and His will will be put into motion at His time, not ours!

We at JesusNSports keep our thoughts and prayers with Mr. Stuckey and pray that God will keep him in that active patience mode!

You can follow Chansi on Twitter: @ChansiStuckey

Photo Credit: @RennieCurran53

Earlier this week, I called up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ linebacker Rennie Curran for an interview. I have to say it was a great experience to talk to Rennie and hear about his faith. Let me give you some background on Rennie.

Curran is 23 years old and played college at the University of Georgia. He was an All-American in 2008 and a first-team All-SEC linebacker in 2009. He was drafted in the third round by the Tennessee Titans in 2010 and now he is working with Tampa Bay this season. Now, the Bucs have a new man at the helm in former Rutgers’ head coach Greg Schiano. After last year’s disappointing season, the team is determined with their signing of Vincent Jackson at wide receiver to make an impact in the NFC South this year.

With that, here is my conversation with Rennie Curran. I hope you all are blessed from reading this conversation like I was listening to it:

1. How did you come to know the Lord?

R: I came to the Lord through a believing family. My mother went to church. When you grow up around it, it becomes important. It has and still is part of his morals and beliefs. There are things that I went through, but going to the Lord helps me to overcome them.

2. Who have been some of your role models that have helped to encourage you on your walk?

R: My family and my parents. They made something out of nothing. Their work ethic was crucial. My role models in the NFL today would be Ray Lewis and Justin Tuck. Also,  my little league football  coach was like the 2nd father to me. Finally, my teammates because of the encouragement they give me on and off the field .

3. If you had to pick a verse that has exemplified your walk with Christ, what would it be and why?
A. Phillippians 4:13. Whatever I go through good or bad, I know Jesus is always with me. It gives me a boost of strength whenever my body is tired or whenever something overwhelms me.

4. Talk about the fellowship you have had with other Christians whether it be in the Buccaneers’ locker room or any locker room in the past.  Can religion and sports co-exist in today’s world?

R: Definitely, I just left church with one of my teammates. It keeps us encouraged in our sports and faith. You are going to go through trials and get beat down, but you have got to have your faith. You will have the bad day, but you have to realize not every day is going to be a good day. You need to know everything is alright and being with teammates who know the Lord helps you feel accountable. The chaplain helps us with that as well. It keeps you along that walk and helps to pick each other up.

5. If you met a person/teammate that was looking for Christ, what would you say to them?

R: I would invite him out to church, it’s the right mindset and that we have to push him towards that goal. I would also encourage him to learn about the faith and give him some Bible verses that helped to encourage me on my walk.

6. How have OTA’s been so far under new coach Greg Schiano?

R: They have been good. It’s been a learning process. It’s a process where you are getting evaluated every single day. I have just been trying to go out and show coaches why I am here and what I am capable of. Each day is a new challenge and you build that camaraderie in the right direction in every way. I have just been thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this organization.

7. What are you looking to improve on your game during these workouts?

R: Every aspect! You have to take care of the little things (technique, footwork, pass drops). Whatever aspects help the leadership of a football team and fix it both on the practice field and film room to have the playbook in the back of your head by the training camp.

8. What can we expect from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year?

R: We expect to be the best team in the NFL. Everyone is staying focused and OTA’s have been a good time. Everybody is serious and dedicated about it and hopefully it will pay dividends by training camp. Coach Schiano’s philosophy and principles of being accountable and having guys stretch together bring a new culture to the team that everyone is buying in. Hopefully, that will translate to wins.

We wish Rennie and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the best of luck in the 2012 NFL season!

You can also follow Rennie on Twitter: @RennieCurran53

 

The LORD Changes Our Culture

Posted: March 23, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in NFL

Image

Tebowmania is now in the Empire State! That’s right! On Wednesday night, quarterback Tim Tebow was traded to a new team, the New York Jets. The trade sends a 4th round and a 6th round pick to the Denver Broncos, although we will not see an official press conference until Monday. Even though I am a New England Patriots’ fan, I always cheer for Tim Tebow and I still will do that because as Christians, we have to support our fellow brother in Christ.

Head coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum have insisted repeatedly that Mark Sanchez will be the starting quarterback when the season begins in 2012. As for Tebow, well he will be the backup and be part of a special Wildcat package that offensive coordinator Tony Sparano ran when he was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. However, there’s a report in today’s New York Daily News that Tebow thinks he has a clear path to become the starter, which I think he will be by the time the 2012 season is over.

I was stunned when I heard that Tebow chose to go to the big city rather than go home to Jacksonville. But, then I thought to myself, maybe he does not care that much about going back home. Instead, you have to think about it more narrowly from an off-the-field perspective. The opportunity to spread the Gospel in one of the largest cities in the world is something that he could not pass up, especially when his goal in life is to bring people to Christ.

Think about where the Jets stand today. This is a team that last year finished 8-8 by losing its last three games. The locker room has been divided with the sole issue surrounding Sanchez and his number one wide receiver, Santonio Holmes. Their head coach, Rex Ryan admittedly lost control of the locker room and they are a team that cries Super Bowl, but they never seem to make it there. You have to think with all the rambunctious characters in that locker room (Holmes, Darelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie) that maybe it is time for a little change.

Now, in God’s eyes, everyone is a sinner and we cannot be saved unless we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. While on this earth, Jesus showed what his true purpose on the Earth was and that was to bring sinners to Him. As the story broke that the Jets were interested in Tebow on Monday night, I thought back to Jesus’ calling of Matthew in the Gospel of Matthew.

The context of the story comes from a group in Christ’s time called the Pharisees who taught that the Law was the only way to salvation and if you were any bit of a sinner, you are condemned in God’s eyes. The people in Galilee and the surrounding areas were waiting for the Messiah to come to redeem them both spiritually and from the Jewish authorities and Roman Empire.

In this story, Jesus reclines at Matthew’s house, who is deemed a bad person in society because of his job as a tax collector. The Pharisees view him as unclean because of this. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11).

This led Jesus to show what his true mission was on the Earth and how He shows great mercy to all of us sinners. But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

When we come to Christ, we need that culture change! The LORD takes our old life and changes us into a person that’s sole purpose on Earth is to serve HIM! In biblical times, particularly in Old Testament times, we see that sacrifice is not the de facto way to please God, but it’s the meaning behind the sacrificethat is seen in God’s eyes. (ex: Cain and Abel – Genesis  4)

Am I suggesting that Tim Tebow is going to save the Jets in the same way? No, not at all! What I am saying is that I praise God that Tebow may look at Jesus as an example of how we can change the culture of people’s lives and show them that the Lord is the only way to eternal life.

I live in New York and I am glad that Tim Tebow is here and the next few months should be great to see the impact he has both on the field and in the New York community as well.

Today, I exhort you to reach out to a friend and try to show them how Jesus changed the culture of your life. I pray today that I can do the same for somebody because especially in New York or anywhere around the world, there is that temptation to just keep Jesus to ourselves. No, we need to share the love of Christ with everyone around us! There will be people that think they do enough good deeds for heaven, but the lost will be found when they look to the cross!

PERSECUTION

Posted: February 1, 2012 by John D. Hayden in NFL, Sports Devotionals

TEBOWING (Photo: Spreadshirt.com)

            “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets who were before me.” Matthew 5:10-12

 

Persecution has been around since the beginning of time. The word persecution comes from the word persecute which means to harass or oppress someone with ill-treatment because of their race, gender, religion or set of beliefs. Jesus in this passage talks about a specific type of persecution, to be persecuted for living for Christ and showing that faith wherever we go.

There are those around the world who every day are persecuted for being a Christian, for worshipping God, for studying the bible and for standing up for Jesus. There are those who risk their lives every day for righteousness. There even some countries that bible is not allowed and if someone gets caught with one they can be severely punished even killed. There are those who stand up for Christ even knowing that they might be killed.

It interesting to note that there are those who walk miles to go to worship and others who are so eager to learn about Christ that they will do anything it takes to do that. That’s the world around us, but how about here in America? Are we persecuted for what we believe in and for being Christians? We can study the bible anytime we want; it’s even on our phones. We can worship without being killed and we have cars to get us to worship. So why don’t we have this same passion as others who are persecuted do? Do we stand up for what we believe in knowing that there will be others laughing, mocking and asking us to stop? That might just be our friends.

This week there is a growing phenomenon that people everywhere are doing, it’s called Tebowing. Tebowing is named after Tim Tebow and it means to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.  Some are mocking Tebow for his example of faith by doing this but Tebow was taking the description at face value. “It is serious, for me,” Tebow said. “At least it’s being talked about, and that’s a cool thing. If I can help be an example of that, then I look at that as a blessing.”

Are we willing to have that same type of attitude about Christ in our lives? Are we willing to be the ones who stand up for Christ when everyone around us is doing something completely different even if it means we will be persecuted? There is a reward for those who are persecuted, to Rejoice because great is your reward in heaven.

~John D. Hayden

WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU?

Posted: February 1, 2012 by John D. Hayden in NFL, Sports Devotionals, Uncategorized

80 Yard Touchdown (Photo: Washington Post)

A few days ago, professional football fans saw one of the most exciting, improbable victories in its history climaxed by the stunning first play from scrimmage in overtime when Tebow hit Thomas for a playoff, overtime record 80 yards in a playoff, overtime record 11 seconds. Local play-by-play man Dave Logan’s call, which will likely go down in Bronco lore, captures how monumental it was for the underdog Denver team. If you watch ESPN, there will be several highlights of passes, runs, and defensive plays. However, without a doubt, the best play of the day happened up in the stands, almost on the front row in the seats at the 15 yard line. The game was tied, 23-23, and it was about 5:45 P.M. The outcome was completely unknown and very much in doubt. The last minute of regulation, alone, was a pins and needles affair. It was right about then that a Christian husband and father, a deacon in this congregation, told his son, “It’s time for us to go.” The son, a huge Tim Tebow and Broncos fan, was curious as to why. His dad explained, “We’ve got something more important to do.”

Wait a minute. What is more important than seeing on the biggest sports moments in this town in years? That father knew that the saints were assembling at 6:00 P.M., and he wanted his son to know that worshipping God was the highest priority. Here is a father who is raising his son to enjoy and appreciate those normal “guy things” that will be a source of entertainment for this young man for decades to come. But, he is also teaching him something infinitely more important! Those earthly diversions and entertainments are subordinate to “kingdom matters” (Mat. 6:33). This father was showing his son Who reigns on the throne of his heart. I pray that this man’s example will influence us all to remember what really matters most in the end.

Thanks, Dean! What a great “play”! by Neal Pollard

This article inspired me and made me ask myself the question, what is really important to me in my life? This father reminded me that worshipping God is more important than anything else I can do on a Sunday or Wednesday. There are so many times that we make everything else more important than our relationship with Christ. Here this father did the right thing even if they missed the best play in the game; he showed his son that God was so much more important than watching the Broncos win.

Is God reigning on the throne of our hearts or is success, money, sports, or anything else that we make more important reign there? What is really important to you? Is your salvation? Is your relationship with Christ? Is Worship, is bible class, is praying, and is studying God’s word important to you? We need to be examples to our kids and show them what should be important in our lives-Christ. This year let’s make Bible Class, Worship and our relationship with Christ more important than anything else we do. ~ John D. Hayden

Be Careful What You Say

Posted: February 1, 2012 by Ricky Keeler in NFL

(Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/AP)

With the New York Giants and New England Patriots getting ready to kick off Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, the media hype surrounding this week is starting to take full circle. Today, one of the events that took place was anticipated as one of the best places to get an interview. Yes, I am talking about Media Day!

I love Media Day because it is a great opportunity to hear from EVERY single player. Not only do you hear from Tom Brady, Eli Manning, or the big name players, but even the offensive lines, the kickers, and the punters get some love in this game. We always wait for the most hilarious comments and most random questions. For example, did somebody expect the reporter from the Mexican Television network to propose to Tom Brady in a wedding dress at the last Patriots-Giants Super Bowl? Probably not!

Even though it is only Tuesday, words from players and coaches are already being dissected. I am a Patriots’ writer and I live in the New York City area, so I had to hear constantly about the comments that Brady gave during New England’s pep rally talking about hopefully we will have more people at our victory rally next week. Each word is criticized to the point where it is tough to say any comment without providing “bulletin board material” for the other team.

As Christians, we need to avoid saying “bulletin board material” so that people can see that we bring glory to God in everything that we say and do. When we talk to someone about the Gospel, our tongues can be used for good, but as James suggests in his book, it can be used for evil as well.

“But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” (James 3:8-10)

Sometimes, we may want to say things that are not godly because we become overfilled with emotion. As a sports fan, when your team goes through a tough moment you may say things that you might regret. .  Let us rather heed the exhortation of Ephesians 4:29, which says:

“ Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

People will know we our Christians by seeing us share the love of Christ with others and big part of that display is by the way we speak. We need to remember it is just a game regardless of the hype and to remain humble in victory or defeat!

Speaking of humbleness, one of the players in the NFL who has been tested in that aspect this year is Patriots’ wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Ocho was a guy who was never afraid to speak his mind with the Bengals and use his mouth for trash talking. Now, he is an afterthought with the Patriots with just fifteen catches. I was watching his interview with Deion Sanders and these quotes Ocho gave him to NFL Network stood out to me:

“If it was tough on me, emotionally draining, I think I would have spoke out as I did in the past. I took this as a challenge, as a lesson. I think it was a test from you-know-who upstairs. Will he be able to handle himself the right way in different circumstances when he’s not that guy, the main focal point? I think I did extremely well regardless of what everyone might say.”

From a Christian perspective, our tongues are extremely important. People will know we our Christians by seeing us share the love of Christ with others. Today, I exhort you to pray and pray diligently that the Holy Spirit give you the strength to use your voice and your tongue to glorify God! Chad talked about using Twitter as his podium in the interview. When we talk to others about the Lord, we are at the podium as a representative of the Body of Jesus Christ. Share the love with others while at the podium and speak the true Gospel message!