“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called ac-cording to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28
The creek behind our backyard in Lexington, Ky., was where my older brother and I spent most of our time growing up. Our family of four did a lot together, and it was usually outdoors—playing sports, camping, boating and much more. My parents also took us to church, and when I was 12 years old I accepted Christ. Looking back, though, I didn’t live a life that professed Christ. What I said or did wasn’t always what my heart told me I should be saying or doing.
Soccer was always my sport of choice until the summer following my sophomore year of high school when I made a 45-yard field goal in a pickup game with some classmates, one of whom happened to be an assistant coach’s son. He told his dad about it and, sure enough, a couple weeks later the coach asked me to play football. I agreed, and had a lot of success, and eventually made it my goal to get an athletic scholarship. That came to fruition with the University of Louisville.
It was during my years as a Cardinal that I decided to make a deeper commitment to my faith, and that started with my tongue. I realized I couldn’t profess with my tongue certain things that contradicted what I was supposed to be portraying. That was the beginning of my spiritual journey to refine my walk and emulate Christ, rather than just professing Him.
Throughout my college career, I never dreamed of playing in the NFL. Some teams showed a little interest, but—like most kickers—I still went undrafted in 1997. I eventually signed a free agent contract, but was released. I was ready to quit, but my wife convinced me to stay with it for one more year. In 1998, I signed with the Washington Redskins and played in one game before being released. The next spring I kicked for NFL Europe’s Berlin Thunder and late in the season I was hospitalized with salmonella poisoning and lost 30 pounds. That was prior to my first training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles, who had claimed me off waivers from the Redskins.
I got healthy and made the Eagles’ roster out of training camp in 1999, which began my 12-year stay in Philly. I grew so much as an athlete and as a Christ-follower there through some great Christian guys on the team and our chaplains Pastor David Hoke and Herb Lusk. They were each very instrumental in helping me go deeper in my faith.
In 2009 and 2010, what proved to be my final years with the Eagles, I had a lot of ups and downs. Right after my wife and I committed to giving money to less fortunate families for the holidays, I was one of many investors who were deceived by a fraudulent financial entity, and lost a lot of money. After fasting and prayer, my wife and I agreed to follow through with our commitment, and ultimately it was such a blessing not only to the families who received it but also to us.
The final year of my contract arrived in 2010, and I knew it wasn’t a guarantee that I’d be back with the Eagles. I had a rough start to the season but bounced back by the time the playoffs rolled around. Before our opening-round game against the Packers, we took our daughter to the doctor and found out she had a malignant tumor.
I had an off game and missed a couple of field goals in a contest we eventually lost. That was the final time I wore an Eagles uniform.
When the lockout ended prior to the 2011 season, I signed with the San Francisco 49ers. I felt like the Lord was teaching me something by bringing me to northern California, where the fog is so thick you can’t see what’s in front of you. I kept thinking of Psalm 119:105 (NIV), “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” I didn’t know what He had in store, but He’d always shown me that He would be the light for my path.
Admittedly, there’s a lot of pressure in my job. I’m nervous when I’m playing, but I have faith that the Lord has put me in each situation for His purpose. I pray that I play to the best of the abilities that He’s given me.
I don’t want my legacy to be that I was great at making long field goals or filling up the stat sheet. I’d rather be known as a great husband and father, a good friend and teammate, a servant and someone who could be counted upon. I love my Heavenly Father and, like Ro-mans 8:28 says, I have a purpose in this life—to give glory to God in all things.
Editor’s Note: Akers’ daughter, Halley, is healthy and has had no further health issues.
Originally Published: January 2013
Photos courtesy of San Francisco 49ers