Originally Published: Oct. 2008
This may be hard to believe coming from an NFL wide receiver, but I’ve never really liked being in the public spotlight. I’ve never been one to like talking a lot. Whether it is to opponents on the field or to media off the field, I would definitely prefer to stay quiet and humble about things. Especially when it comes to football, I prefer to let my actions speak louder than my words.
Admittedly, though, there have been times when it has been hard to stay out of the spotlight. Take high school for example. There weren’t too many other 6’ 4” students in my class.
Given my size, sports came naturally to me in my hometown of Tyrone, Ga. My God-given height and football skills earned me quite a bit of recognition as a receiver on the Sandy Creek High School football team. Little did I know at the time that the plays I was making on the field would have an eternal impact on my life.
I was heavily recruited by Georgia Tech, and it was an easy choice for me to play for the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta, which was just minutes from my home. It allowed me to remain close to my family. Growing up, we went to church as a family, and we were still able to spend that time together even when I was in college.
In 2004, as a freshman, I tagged along with a bunch ofguys who were going over to our team chaplain’s house for a pool party. At that point, I hadn’t met the chaplain, FCA’s Derrick Moore, but we were introduced once I got there. We hit it off right away and developed a friendship throughout the season. Then, in the spring of 2005, I traveled with some teammates and other Tech athletes to an SEC athletes’ retreat in northern Georgia. It was on that trip, far away from our athletic fields, weight rooms and TV cameras, that I surrendered my life to Christ.
From that point on, Derrick took me under his wing. Being soft-spoken by nature, it was great to have him there as I took a leap of faith and began to grow spiritually. I attribute so much of that growth to him, the people he brought me around and the way he mentored me. He helped me remain humble about football but open about my faith.
Looking back on the experience, the Lord had a plan for me to be surrounded by those quality people while at Tech and then to move on to another place where I would again be surrounded by Christian men.
In 2007, I entered the NFL draft and was chosen as the second-overall pick by the Detroit Lions. My rookie season started well, but I was injured in our third game, and it nagged me for the rest of the season. Our team also had a tough second half of the season, but that didn’t stop me or my Christian teammates from remaining positive. Many times when a team is struggling, the last thing players want to hear is someone with an upbeat, positive message. But it was during those tough times that our faith and actions served as a powerful witness.
We have a strong group of Christian guys on the team. We aren’t able to go to church on Sundays, but we hold weekly Bible studies on Mondays. It is a growing group, and the study serves an important function to help us stay in the Word. In this line of work, we really have to. There is a lot of stuff that we see and experience that could make it easy to fall away. We have to do our best to stay tight and stay in the Book.
On our team, there’s no pressure to keep my faith a secret. And there shouldn’t be. I actually like to engage teammates in conversation because it is both a chance to witness and a chance for me to learn something I might not have known.
God has truly blessed my life. He’s given me great Christian people like Derrick, who I am still in contact with, and my Lions teammates to encourage me to step out even more in my faith. As NFL players, we have such a platform to spread the Word of God. And that is an area I don’t mind speaking out on at all. As far as talking about my football skills, however, I will let my actions speak for themselves.
Photos courtesy of Josh Gavin/Detroit Lions